Head of MD Anderson stepping down
HOUSTON Mendelsohn, 74, said he'll remain a faculty member at the center and become co-director of its new Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, which tests therapies that target abnormal genes and gene products found in individual patient's cancer in the hope of revolutionizing treatment. "I thought the time was right," Mendelsohn said. "Things have been going very well. We've really increased our excellence in everything we do. We've grown tremendously in almost every parameter. I thought it was the right time for someone else to take charge." Mendelsohn said that during his tenure the number of faculty and patients has doubled, the space and facilities tripled and the operating budget quadrupled. MD Anderson currently employs almost 18,000 people, serves 100,000 patients a year and had a budget this year of more than $3.2 billion. Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, UT system chancellor, said he expects the first search committee meeting to be in January. "We've been pretty good at being able to recruit successors in six months," he said. Cigarroa said Mendelsohn's stepping down comes with "with mixed emotions because he's one of the most spectacular presidents the University of Texas system has ever had," but he's also pleased that Mendelsohn will be continuing to work in cancer research. Before coming to MD Anderson, Mendelsohn was founding director of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center at the University of California, San Diego. He also had chaired the department of medicine and co-chaired the program in pharmacology at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was known for his research on how the binding of protein chemicals called growth factors and receptors regulate cell function. Since Mendelsohn joined the center in 1996, MD Anderson has seen such developments as the opening of a building that houses nearly 70 laboratories studying topics including molecular genetics and brain cancer, an institute to find ways to predict and reduce cancer risk and an expanding of the nation's largest program of clinical trials with experimental cancer therapies. The center said in a news release that during Mendelsohn's tenure it has earned more competitive research grants and grant money from the NCI than any other U.S. center or university. Private philanthropy has increased to an average of $200 million a year and a $1 billion capital campaign has been completed. Mendelsohn said he's excited about his new work at the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. "I believe that in five years, this will become standard of therapy for any patient with cancer," he said.