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David L. Bartlett, M.D.

David L. Bartlett, M.D.
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Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.

Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.
Biography
 

Bernard Fisher, M.D., Honored With Lecture And Portrait Unveiling At University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine

PITTSBURGH, May 10, 2005 — Bernard Fisher, M.D., a pioneer in the biology and treatment of breast cancer, was honored by the University of Pittsburgh with a special lecture and portrait unveiling. The 2005 Bernard Fisher Lecture was presented by Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., a leading scientist who discovered the first genetic link to breast cancer.

“It was an honor to give Bernard Fisher the acknowledgement he truly deserves for his seminal research and the contributions his research has made to the health of all women,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences, and dean of the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.

“It is entirely fitting that one pioneer in breast cancer research be invited to recognize the work of another,” said David L. Bartlett, M.D., chief of the division of surgical oncology and director, David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center at UPMC Cancer Centers. “I cannot think of a more appropriate tribute to Bernard Fisher and his legacy than to hear from Mary-Claire King.”

A 1943 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Fisher now serves as distinguished service professor of surgery at the University and scientific director of the Pittsburgh-based National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, the research consortium he chaired from 1967 to 1994.

Dr. Fisher is known for overturning the prevailing paradigm that breast cancer metastasizes in an orderly and sequential fashion. Instead, he proposed that breast cancer is a systemic disease that metastasizes unpredictably, and would best be treated with conservative local treatment plus systemic chemotherapy.

“His work changed the course of treatment, the rate of survival and the quality of life for women with breast cancer,” said Dr. Levine. “At a time when radical mastectomy was the standard treatment for breast cancer, Dr. Fisher’s landmark research found that less extensive and less disfiguring procedures were just as effective. His findings set a revolutionary new course for the treatment not only of breast cancer but other types of cancer as well.”

Consequently, Dr. Fisher and his research team demonstrated the superiority of lumpectomy combined with adjuvant chemotherapy as a treatment for breast cancer. His later studies showed that the drug tamoxifen can substantially reduce the risk of breast cancer in high-risk women who have not yet developed this disease.

Dr. King, who presented the Fisher Lecture on March 29, is best known for discovering that mutations in a single gene known as BRCA1 can cause hereditary breast cancer. Prior to her work, the popular view was that unknown genes and environmental factors caused breast cancer. Dr. King changed this thinking by finding a genetic marker for the existence of BRCA1. This, in turn, made it possible for the gene’s location to be found and led to the development of breast cancer testing, screening and prophylactic procedures, while providing new insights into the nature of cancer-causing genetic mutations.

Dr. King earned her doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she taught from 1976 until 1995 before moving to the University of Washington, where she is now the American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences at the school of medicine. She has recently been awarded the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Genetics Prize, the Marion Spencer Fay Award from the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The portrait of Dr. Fisher is part of a dedicated gallery of research and clinical innovators in University of Pittsburgh history, located in the University of Pittsburgh’s Biomedical Science Tower. Other portraits installed include those of noted biochemist Klaus Hofmann, Ph.D.; enzyme researcher Maud Menten, M.D.; Nobel Laureate Philip S. Hench, M.D., Ph.D.; polio pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D.; resuscitation researcher Peter Safar, M.D.; transplant surgeon Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D.; and pioneering virologist, Julius Youngner, Sc.D.

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