In 2009, the University of Utah announced a remarkable gift—the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professorships in Cancer Research, made possible by a generous donation from Jon M. and Karen Huntsman to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI).

The awards honor individuals for both their outstanding scholarship in cancer research and their contributions to HCI’s mission, vision, and goals. The Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Presidential Professorships in Cancer Research will provide annual funds to each recipient equal to that of a Presidential Endowed Chair, one of the most highly coveted recognitions at the University of Utah.


The gift supports the cancer research of five HCI investigators:

  • Bradley Cairns, PhD, a world leader in understanding control of gene expression, studies the earliest cellular changes that lead to cancer
  • Anita Kinney, PhD, is an epidemiologist and national leader in the study of cancer prevention in diverse populations
  • Stephen Lessnick, MD, PhD, is a clinician-scientist who specializes in Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer afflicting children and young adults
  • Leigh Neumayer, MD, is a breast cancer surgeon whose research has made significant contributions to the study of quality-of-life outcomes and risk reduction for breast cancer patients
  • Sunil Sharma, MD, is a physician and world leader in the field of experimental therapeutics and co-director of HCI’s Center for Investigational Therapeutics

“Each of these individuals is a world-class cancer researcher and scholar, representing the breadth of research at HCI—basic science, translational research, clinical research, and population science,” says Mary Beckerle, PhD, Executive Director of HCI. “Each awardee has also been a leader in developing HCI’s research programs, contributing to our scientific rigor, collaboration, and impact.”

“I was surprised and honored to be named as a recipient,” says Brad Cairns, PhD. Cairns says this gift will support innovative projects which are often challenging to fund. “These professorships reflect the Huntsman family’s continuing commitment to the mission of HCI. It shows their interest in putting their money to work in innovative and collaborative areas.”