Druker Named OHSU Cancer Institute Director

04/02/11  Portland, Ore.

Brian Druker, M.D., the world-renowned cancer specialist who helped develop the cancer pill Gleevec, which revolutionized the way cancer is treated, will be the new director of the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute, it was announced today by President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., and School of Medicine Dean Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., MSc.B.

"Dr. Druker is uniquely positioned to lead the OHSU Cancer Institute. His discoveries establish the power of translating laboratory research at OHSU into life-sustaining patient care. His vision defines excellence,” said Robertson.

After 15 years as the founding director of the OHSU Cancer Institute, Grover Bagby, M.D. is retiring June 30. He will continue to focus on conducting research in his laboratory and on teaching.

“I feel very grateful to the university for its support in allowing me to build this institute,” said Bagby, "and to the clinicians and scientists who actually did the heavy lifting. In the hands of my friend Brian Druker, this institute will soon set new standards for cancer centers nationwide."

“Dr. Grover Bagby's outstanding leadership in cancer care and research resulted in the creation of the OHSU Cancer Institute - an NIH recognized cancer center - and he has been instrumental in improving cancer care everywhere," said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean, OHSU School of Medicine.  

Druker wants to make cancer a statewide priority and has already started talking with Oregon leaders.  

“If we work together, we could make Oregon’s mortality rate from cancer the lowest in the nation,” Druker said. “Let’s eliminate the suffering from this disease through better prevention, better screening and research that delivers more effective cancer treatments. Backed by what the OHSU Cancer Institute has accomplished under the directorship of Dr. Bagby, and by reaching out to the community, I know we can reach this goal.”

Gov. Ted Kulongoski congratulated both the incoming and outgoing leadership of the Cancer Institute for their service to Oregon and our country and agreed that cancer prevention and treatment is a statewide priority.   "Focusing on screening, early intervention and prevention is what we're trying to do throughout the entire health care system,” Gov. Kulongoski said, “and by bringing in a renowned expert in the field of cancer, we have an opportunity to accelerate our efforts in the area of breast cancer - where Oregon has the second highest incidence of breast cancer in the nation. This new leadership at OHSU will not only provide invaluable research and evidence-based medicine to primary care practitioners, but it will help save the lives of women in Oregon and throughout the nation."

Oregon’s cancer mortality rates are about in the middle of the pack in the country, but for women, Oregon ranks 39th.

“Research is critically important to this effort. The more we understand about cancer the faster we will create better therapies,” Druker said.  

Druker said he also will focus on cancer patients and their care. “The OHSU Cancer Institute needs to offer our patients compassion and hope, and the most advanced treatments available, delivered by nationally recognized experts.”

Because of the complexity of cancer, patients are treated at the OHSU Cancer Institute by a multidisciplinary team that can include surgeons, radiation oncologists, pharmacists, nutritionists and others.

“This multidisciplinary approach will help drive excellence in care for each of our patients,” Druker said.

Druker’s goal is to attract nationally recognized researchers and clinicians to the OHSU Cancer Institute, which has 138 members and more than 200 clinical trials underway at any one time.

Druker is one of the world's leading scientists and clinicians and was recently elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. He was the first to prove the principle that molecularly targeted therapy works. Gleevec has shown unprecedented success in stopping chronic myeloid leukemia, a previously deadly form of cancer. His work has spurred further cancer drug development for an array of cancers and revolutionized cancer treatment. Druker said he will continue his research to identify targets in leukemia.

Druker holds the JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research at the OHSU Cancer Institute. He is an investigator with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of medicine (hematology and medical oncology), cell and developmental biology, and biochemistry and molecular biology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Under Bagby's leadership, the OHSU Cancer Institute has earned a place in the National Cancer Institute’s Innovative Centers Program. Bagby first came to OHSU in 1970 to complete his residency and fellowships in hematology/oncology. In 1976, he returned to OHSU as an assistant professor. He also served as a professor of medicine in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics. Bagby will continue his work with the OHSU Cancer Institute after his retirement. He will focus on leukemia and cancer research programs with a special emphasis on Fanconi anemia and continue to mentor younger researchers.

In his research, Bagby completed landmark investigations into cancers of the blood and the lymphatic system. His discovery of hormonal signals controlling the production of white blood cells in bone marrow led to the identification of molecular abnormalities in cells from children with the preleukemic syndrome Fanconi anemia.

The OHSU Cancer Institute conducts basic scientific research into cancer and translates findings from the laboratory bench to clinical applications. The development of Gleevec is an example of the pioneering work conducted at the institute. More than 100,000 people around the world are alive today because of Gleevec and other discoveries made at the OHSU Cancer Institute.

The exciting advances in molecular biology, proteomics, and structural and functional genomics have allowed OHSU Cancer Institute researchers and clinicians to find cancers earlier, to screen people at high risk and to develop reliable strategies to prevent cancer.

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The OHSU Cancer Institute is the only cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute center between Sacramento and Seattle. It comprises some 120 clinical researchers, basic scientists and population scientists who work together to translate scientific discoveries into longer and better lives for Oregon's cancer patients. In the lab, basic scientists examine cancer cells and normal cells to uncover molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. This basic science informs more than 200 clinical trials conducted at the OHSU Cancer Institute.