March 18, 2005

M.D. Anderson chief set to deliver Ingram Lecture

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M.D. Anderson chief set to deliver Ingram Lecture

The Orrin H. Ingram Lecture Series at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center will continue March 24 with a presentation by John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, about the lessons learned in research to inhibit the EGF receptor.

Mendelsohn's research has focused on understanding how growth factors regulate proliferation of cancer cells by activating receptors on the surface of cells. He is the developer of Erbitux, a monoclonal antibody that blocks activity of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFr). Erbitux was approved a little more than a year ago for use in patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

The signal pathway involving EGFr remains the focus of much research, at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and elsewhere, as a promising target for cancer treatment. A number of agents, including Iressa and Tarceva, which have been approved by the FDA for patients with lung cancer, are in various stages of development and clinical trials.

Mendelsohn's lecture, “Translation of Science Into Clinical Practice: Lessons from Research of EGF Receptor Inhibitors,” will begin at noon in 208 Light Hall.

A Cincinnati native, Mendelsohn earned his bachelor's degree in biochemical sciences at Harvard University, where he studied with James Watson, who later won the Nobel Prize for identifying the structure of DNA. He also completed medical school at Harvard, his residency at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, and a hematology-oncology fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis.

Mendelsohn spent 15 years on the faculty at the University of California-San Diego, where he played a significant role in establishing UCSD's National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, which he led as director from 1976 until 1985, when he went to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. There, he continued his research to clarify at the molecular level how monoclonal antibodies can prevent the activation of growth signals turned on by EGF receptors. He also chaired the Department of Medicine, helped lead the Program in Molecular Pharmacology, and held the Winthrop Rockefeller Chair in Molecular Oncology, among other accomplishments.

In 1996 he became the third full-time president at M.D. Anderson, based in Houston.