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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital appoints new chair of Department of Radiation Oncology

Memphis, Tennessee, March 17, 2015


Thomas Merchant, D.O., Ph.D., to oversee radiotherapy programs for the treatment of childhood cancer.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has named Thomas E. Merchant, D.O., Ph.D., as chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. In this position, he will oversee the institution’s programs that use radiation therapy to treat childhood cancer.

The appointment comes as St. Jude takes steps to bolster radiotherapy programs that maximize cures and minimize long-term treatment complications. Radiation therapy, used alone or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy, is an integral component for successfully managing and treating pediatric tumors. Merchant will hold the Baddia J. Rashid Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology.

“Dr. Merchant is a proven leader in pediatric radiotherapy and will be instrumental in helping St. Jude define the next generation of treatments that hold the best hope for improved outcomes and better long-term quality of life for children with brain and solid tumors,” said James R. Downing, M.D., St. Jude president and chief executive officer.

Since joining St. Jude in 1996, Merchant helped pioneer new radiotherapy treatments that serve as standards in the field. His work with conformal radiation therapy for central nervous system tumors is the basis for guidelines used in most of the national cooperative group pediatric brain tumor trials, and he has led the development of treatment guidelines for intensity-modulated radiation therapy and proton therapy in all types of pediatric brain and solid tumors.

Merchant also played a key role in creating the St. Jude Proton Therapy Center, the world’s first proton therapy center designed for and dedicated solely to the treatment of children. Proton therapy allows doctors to administer targeted, high-dose radiation while sparing surrounding healthy tissue from exposure.

Merchant becomes chair of a department that was previously a division of St. Jude Radiological Sciences. As operations have grown in complexity, resources and space, St. Jude divided its radiological sciences area into two departments—Radiation Oncology and Diagnostic Imaging. Larry Kun, M.D., St. Jude clinical director and executive vice president, will head Diagnostic Imaging until a chair is appointed. Diagnostic Imaging faculty and staff provide St. Jude patients with leading-edge diagnostic and therapeutic imaging-based assessments and therapies.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80% since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. To learn more, visit or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.