William E. Evans, PharmD

    New chairs will help boost cancer research in key areas

    The appointment of three nationally renowned investigators to major faculty positions will significantly bolster research aimed at increasing survival rates of children with cancer while reducing treatment toxicity, according to Director and CEO William Evans, PharmD. 

    Immunology chair Douglas Green, PhD, will head a new initiative for integrating immune system research into the institution’s ongoing efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment of childhood catastrophic diseases. Rodney Kiplin Guy, PhD, will head a new department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics and lead an important new initiative for studying the molecular basis of childhood catastrophic diseases and developing new drugs to treat them. And Leslie Robison, PhD, will head the new department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control. This new department will significantly increase the ability of St. Jude to include preventive medicine in its overall goal to reduce the deaths from childhood cancer; it will also enhance the institution’s ability to do epidemiologic studies into the causes of childhood cancers.

    “Over the past decade, major advances in the field of molecular biology and genetics, coupled with the development of powerful new research technologies, have made possible very productive multi-disciplinary approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of catastrophic diseases of children,” Evans said. “The appointments of Doug Green, Kip Guy and Les Robison are part of our own multidisciplinary strategy for not only staying on the cutting edge of research, but also defining the cutting edge.” 

    Green is a leader in the field of apoptosis and how a breakdown in this process can trigger cancer in lymphocytes and other types of cells. The Institute of Scientific Information has named him one of the most highly cited investigators in science. He most recently led the division of cellular immunology at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, a position he held for 15 years.

    New investigators recruited by Green will include those focused on how the immune system is altered in cancer, how the immune response can fight cancer and infectious disease and how the same types of normally protective responses can cause autoimmune disease. These programs will be important to a wide range of treatment and research programs at St. Jude.

    Guy is one of the nation’s leading experts in chemical biology and synthetic organic chemistry. He was involved in the original synthesis of the cancer drug taxol at Scripps Research Institute and  led the Center for Chemical Diversity at the University of California in San Francisco. As Chemical Biology chair, he will be a key investigator in efforts to identify molecules that hold promise as tools for studying childhood cancers and synthesizing novel molecules designed to offer more effective and less toxic treatments than are currently available.

    “St. Jude has a unique environment with its close working relationship between clinical and basic researchers, its strong focus on catastrophic pediatric disease and its track record in implementing new therapies.” Guy said. “I’m excited to be adding the element of focused chemical research to this mix.”

    Robison, a pediatric cancer epidemiologist, has been the principal investigator of the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, a multi-institutional consortium— which will now be anchored at St. Jude—that evaluated a cohort of more than 20,000 five-year survivors of childhood cancer. He is currently associate director of the University of Minnesota Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate chair of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). COG is a national network of institutions and investigators who care for children with cancer.  Robison’s work at St. Jude will complement and expand the work of the After Completion of Therapy clinic, which follows more than 4,000 childhood cancer survivors.

    “I’m very excited about the opportunity to build upon the remarkable existing strengths of the institution in establishing St. Jude as the internationally recognized leader in childhood cancer prevention and control,” Robison said.

    Last update: August 2005