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OKLAHOMA CITY – Private gifts and grants are providing significant funding to recruit medical specialists and cancer research scientists to the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center, University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren announced Wednesday at the regular meeting of the OU Board of Regents. The early funding success has put OU ahead of pace with a five-year plan to attract 31 cancer physicians and 20 research scientists, he said.
“We are raising the standard of cancer care and improving our knowledge of the disease that affects far too many Oklahomans,” Boren said. “With financial support from private donors, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the National Institutes of Health, OU Medical Center and the University Hospitals Authority and Trust, we are ahead of our recruiting goals and are bringing specialists from across the nation to work in our clinics and laboratories.”
OU Medical Center and the University Hospitals Authority and Trust are providing the Cancer Center with funds to recruit cancer physicians. Private donors and other organizations are providing resources to recruit research scientists. In November of 2011, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust joined Boren to announce that it was providing the Stephenson Cancer Center with $30 million over five years. A substantial amount of that funding is used to recruit laboratory scientists who have well-established cancer research programs. In September, Boren announced a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. This five-year grant provides research infrastructure and resources to benefit young cancer investigators.
Physicians who joined the staff at the Stephenson Cancer Center in the past 12 months include five medical oncologists, four surgical oncologists and one radiation oncologist. Among the surgeons is Michael Sughrue, M.D., a neurosurgeon who is helping bring minimally invasive brain surgery to cancer patients in the United States. He completed a surgical fellowship in Sydney, Australia, at the Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery.
“Specialists like Dr. Sughrue are rare and have been difficult to bring to Oklahoma in the past,” said Robert Mannel, M.D., director of the Stephenson Cancer Center. “One of our responsibilities as Oklahoma’s academic cancer center is to bring specialists to the state to be a resource in disciplines where there are none. No one else in Oklahoma has the training and experience that Dr. Sughrue has, and not only will brain cancer patients directly benefit from his care, but future generations will benefit from OU College of Medicine students who will train under him as a faculty member.”
Other physicians who have joined the Stephenson Cancer Center in the past year include:
- Mohammad Razaq, M.D. - Hematology-Oncology, head and neck cancers. Fellowship at Maimonides Medical Center (NYC)
- Wajeeha Razaq, M.D. - Hematology-Oncology, breast cancers. Fellowship at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital (NYC)
- Sindhu Singh, M.D. - Hematology-Oncology, breast and urologic cancers. Fellowship at Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center (Morgantown, W.Va.)
- Carrie Yuen, M.D. - Hematology-Oncology, liquid cancers in teens and young adults. Fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston)
- Joel Slaton, M.D. - Surgical Oncology, urologic cancers. Fellowship at MD Anderson (Houston)
- Steven Carter, M.D. - Surgical Oncology, colorectal cancers. Residency at Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas)
- Chance Mattheisen, M.D. - Radiation Oncology, head and neck cancers. Residency at Stephenson Cancer Center (Oklahoma City)
Stephenson Cancer Center officials also anticipate the arrival of two new recruits this summer who, like Sughrue, bring new specialties to Oklahoma, Mannel said. The physicians are:
- James Batiste, M.D. - NeuroOncology, brain tumors. Fellowship at the University of Texas-Southwestern, coming from UT-Southwestern (Dallas)
- Subrato J. Deb, M.D. - Surgical Oncology, lung cancers. Residency at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Medicine, coming from National Naval Medical Center (Bethesda, Md.)
The Stephenson Cancer Center also has made progress in bringing experienced and externally funded scientists to Oklahoma. Six nationally noted cancer scientists are scheduled to join the Stephenson Cancer Center this summer. Four of them have one prestigious R01 research grant, and two of them have two R01 grants. R01 grants are awarded by the National Institutes of Health, including the National Cancer Institute, and they are considered the gold standard in federal research grants. While grants vary in amounts, they can range from $1 million to $1.85 million over five years.
Four scientists with R01 grants who brought their labs to the Stephenson Cancer Center in the past two years, which initially launched the five-year recruiting plan, include:
- Mark Doescher, M.D., M.S.P.H. - Health disparities. Came from the University of Washington. 1 NCI R01 grant
- Rajagopol Ramesh, Ph.D. - Developmental Therapeutics. Came from MD Anderson Cancer Center. 2 NCI R01 grants
- Ted Wagener, Ph.D. - Health Disparities. Came from Brown University. 1 NCI R01 grant
- Xin Zhang, MD, Ph.D. - Physiology. Came from Harvard University. 1 NCI R01 grant
Ramesh, who was awarded his second R01 grant after joining the Stephenson Cancer Center, holds the Jim and Christy Everest Endowed Chair in Cancer Developmental Therapeutics Research. Endowed chairs are established by donors who wish to assist the university in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty. The Stephenson Cancer Center benefits from endowed chairs totaling nearly $28 million, with the value of the chairs averaging $1.5 million. Endowments are permanent funds that provide income from investing the principal, while never spending the principal.
Six experienced laboratory scientists will join the Stephenson Cancer Center this summer, including four whose labs will be at the OU Health Sciences Center, one at the Norman OU campus and one at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City. In addition to the OMRF scientist, they include:
- Resham Bhattacharya, Ph.D. - Chemotherapy resistance and angiogenesis. Coming from Mayo Clinic. 1 NCI R01 grant. (OUHSC)
- Hari Koul, Ph.D. - Developmental physiology. Coming from the University of Colorado. 1 NCI R01 grant and 1 NIH R01 grant. (OUHSC)
- Priyabrata Mukherjee, Ph.D. - Nanomedicine. Coming from Mayo Clinic. 2 NCI R01 grants. (OUHSC)
- Takemi Tanaka, Ph.D. - Drug development. Coming from Thomas Jefferson University. 1 NCI R01 grant. (OUHSC)
- Bin Zheng, Ph.D. - Bio-engineering and medical imaging. Coming from the University of Pittsburgh. 2 NCI R01 grants. (OU Norman)
Koul will hold the Clayton and Louise Bennett Chair in Cancer, and Mukherjee will hold the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Chair in Cancer Laboratory Research.
Established as a response to the Oklahoma Legislature’s directive in 2001, the Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s only academic cancer center. Its mission includes cancer prevention, research, treatment, outreach and education. A new, 210,000 square-foot clinical facility opened at the Health Sciences Center in July of 2011, where clinical research is integrated into patient care. Patients are treated through multidisciplinary clinics, where all of their physicians develop a coordinated approach to a treatment program prior to treatment beginning. The Stephenson Cancer Center offers the only Phase I Clinical Trials program in Oklahoma, offering late-stage patients access to new drugs and protocols. A wide range of supportive services is available, as well, to meet the medical, emotional, financial and social needs of cancer patients and their families. For more information, visit www.StephensonCancerCenter.org.