Q&A with Dr. Dane Dickson

Ground-breaking cancer research strategy makes headway in Idaho Falls

Published online: Apr 02, 2020 Articles Emily FitzPatrick
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Cancer. It’s a big scary word, representing the disease that takes thousands of lives every year. Most of us know someone that has suffered from it and most of us have lost loved ones. At times, battling cancer can feel like a constant uphill battle, but progress is being made in our corner of the world, right here in eastern Idaho.

IFM staff sat down to speak with Dr. Dane Dickson from Teton Cancer Institute about the headway his research is making and the hope that his future collaborative efforts bring.

IFM: What region does your work as an oncologist cover?

DD: We see people from Blackfoot all the way up to the Montana border. And so that's about 20,000 square miles. I have to tell people that a lot of that is Teton National Park. It really amazes people just how vast the spaces are out here.


IFM: How will your research help the world to work toward a cure for cancer?

DD: We think of cancer as this big complicated mural. You've got people that are painting everywhere, a pharmaceutical company over here and a university painting in another area. Everyone is doing something, but you have no idea what they're doing. 

The problem is when you try to hook it all together. What we said in the paper we recently published is this, “Here is the way to build, not not to paint the mural, but to take the mural and collect the information that would allow us to turn it into a paint-by-number”

We don't know the individual section that has to be painted, but we know that that section has to be painted. Unless we build this ability to pull everyone together, we're never going to be able to solve and cure cancer. 


IFM: How does your new research development work?

DD: We start by going through and collecting test treatment outcomes. We put it in a big database and then as time goes on, we add another layer to that and we put that in the database. Then as time goes on, we add another layer and another. 

As people start understanding what happens at this layer, then they can start to learn, now what do I need to do in the next layer? So, by us coming together and building this master registry of oncology outcomes associated with testing and treatment. 


IFM: What do you need from the community? Financial backing?

DD: We haven't spent a lot of money and we've done this project independently of any other group because we know that it's got to be people that understand the power of building something together. We need to find financing for doing less. We need to find the appropriate financial partners that can help us take what we've done already forward.

I hope that we can come together to build something that has lasting benefit for humanity.


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