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Pioneering Cancer Researcher Will Lead the New Duke Cancer Institute

Pioneering Cancer Researcher Will Lead the New Duke Cancer Institute
Pioneering Cancer Researcher Will Lead the New Duke Cancer Institute


Duke Health News Duke Health News

Michael B. Kastan, MD, PhD, a renowned cancer scientist and director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, has been named the executive director of the Duke Cancer Institute.

"Dr. Kastan's achievements as the director and driving force behind one of the world's preeminent cancer centers, as well as his widely recognized accomplishments in basic and clinical research, make him the ideal person to lead our newly launched Duke Cancer Institute and to implement a novel model of integrated cancer care and research," said Victor Dzau, MD, Duke University Chancellor for Health Affairs.

Kastan has directed St. Jude's cancer center since 2004 and led efforts that resulted in it becoming the only pediatric hospital designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"I'm enthusiastically looking forward to joining the Duke community," Kastan said. "It's a place with a great history and great people and I look forward to becoming a part of that tradition and making a contribution to advancing Duke's excellence in cancer."

A pioneer in describing molecular and cellular events that cause cancer and its progression, Kastan has garnered a national reputation as a visionary leader in cancer research and care.

"Mike Kastan stands out as one of the most thoughtful and important leaders of his generation of cancer physician-researchers," said Richard D. Klausner, MD, the former director of the National Cancer Institute, past executive director for global health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and current member of the Duke University Health System board of directors.

"The Duke Cancer Institute is an innovative and groundbreaking commitment to the future of cancer research and cancer care," Klausner said. "Its success is not only important for Duke but for cancer patients and their families everywhere."

"Dr. Kastan's appointment as its first director represents a key event in fulfilling Duke's ambitious vision of the future of cancer care and progress against all cancer."

Margaret Foti, MD, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research, noted that Kastan enjoys an international reputation for scientific achievement and leadership.

"He has very high standards both scientifically and ethically, and his passion for accelerating advances in cancer research is extraordinary," Foti said. "I'm very happy for Duke. He will be able to utilize these exceptional skills for the good of the institution and also for the cancer research world. He is a spectacular individual."

Kastan is eager to help shape the new Duke Cancer Institute (DCI), which he believes will become a national model for the way cancer programs should be structured. The institute, which was launched in November 2010, brings together education, cancer research, and patient care into a seamless and unified venture.

"It is exactly what cancer medicine should be about," Kastan said. "It's the merging and strategic oversight of a seamless structure, including everything from basic research to patient care, all coordinated as part of a continuum."

In addition to the DCI's organizational structure, Kastan said, the cancer program will benefit from a new, seven-story facility that is currently under construction at the heart of the medical center campus.

Slated to open in February, 2012, the facility has been designed to provide multidisciplinary patient care.

Kastan said he will also work to further develop the clinical research mission within DCI, collaborating with faculty and clinical research staff to achieve even greater levels of excellence in designing, implementing, monitoring, and reporting clinical research.

Kastan said an additional goal is to engage the expertise of university scientists outside the typical cancer disciplines.

"Dr. Kastan is exceptionally qualified for this role. A pediatrician and an accomplished laboratory scientist, he has become a leading expert on the role of abnormal DNA repair mechanisms in human cancer," said John Mendelsohn, MD, president of MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

"I would characterize him a 'quadruple threat' with exceptional skills and accomplishments in patient care, research, education, and administration."

In the 1990s, Kastan published a series of papers describing the p53 protein, the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer, and its role in cellular repair and responses to damage. These findings launched discoveries that have provided a greater understanding into the causes of cancer and new approaches to treatment.

"I have followed Mike Kastan's spectacular career for years, and I'm delighted that he will be the inaugural executive director of the DCI," said Nancy Andrews, MD, PhD, dean of the Duke University School of Medicine.

"He is very highly regarded and, importantly, he values all of our missions -- patient care, innovation based on science, and training of the next generation of leaders."

Kastan grew up in Charlotte, NC, and earned a degree in chemistry in 1977 as a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. He won the prestigious Venable Medal in UNC's Department of Chemistry in 1977.

He then graduated from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO, and trained in pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. He remained at Johns Hopkins until 1998, when he joined St. Jude as chairman of the department of hematology/oncology.

Kastan was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in 2009. Among numerous other honors, he was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation (1995); was named a Stohlman Scholar by The Leukemia Society of America (1999); was elected to the Association of American Physicians (2003); and won the AACR-G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award (2007) for outstanding contributions to basic cancer research.

Duke was one of the NCI's original eight designated comprehensive cancer centers.

Consistently top-ranked for cancer care in the United States, Duke's cancer program offers scientific and clinical expertise in a broad range of areas, including breast and ovarian cancer; neuro-oncology; radiation oncology; prevention, detection, and control of cancer; cell signaling; and genetics and genomics.

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