Daniel Theodorescu

Focus will be personalized medicine; new era of Colorado cancer research and patient care will enhance survival rates

AURORA, Colo. (August 2, 2010) – The University of Colorado Cancer Center’s (UCCC) new director wants to reinvent how cancer research is done in Colorado.

On July 1, Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, an urologist and bladder cancer researcher, became the leader of the UCCC consortium and coordinator of the UCCC’s $139 million research funding portfolio. Theodorescu holds the Paul Bunn Chair in Cancer Research, named after the lung cancer pioneer who in 1988 founded UCCC, the Rocky Mountain region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

“We need to make new connections, cross classical disciplinary lines to reinvent how we do cancer research and care to take advantages of strengths here in Colorado in multidisciplinary research,” Theodorescu said. “That’s how we’ll make a difference in cancer.”

He has already started on this ambitious goal by initiating conversation with partners such as Nobel Laureate Tom Cech, PhD, a UCCC member who is head of CU-Boulder’s Colorado Initiative for Molecular Biotechnology (CIMB), University of Colorado Hospital president and CEO Bruce Schroffel, and Rod Page, DVM, new director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, also a UCCC member.

“After practicing medicine and taking research and translating it into care for patients, it became obvious to me that I wanted to make a contribution in building programs and providing the vision to expand the impact of cancer care through research beyond what my lab could do,” said Theodorescu. “By directing an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, I can contribute broadly in a way I’ve not been able to before.”

Theodorescu was recruited from his post as director of the Mellon Urologic Cancer Institute at the University of Virginia. As a bladder cancer expert, he focused his research on looking for biomarkers and new drugs that can lead to customized, targeted treatments for patients with bladder cancer.

He believes UCCC will become the number one destination for all patients with cancer in Colorado and neighboring states. “If we leverage the unique collaborative spirit of our members across Colorado with the Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Denver’s Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, we will create an integrated cancer care and research enterprise. This will allow us to create ground-breaking models for the nation in patient service, translational research from cell to bedside, teaching and outreach to the community.”

One critical challenge is the state funding situation. UCCC, located at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, gets no direct funding from the state of Colorado. Yet, for every state dollar spent on cancer in Colorado, much more is returned in the form of care and economic benefits to the state.

“We’re all excited about Dr. Theodorescu’s arrival because he brings new ideas, new enthusiasm and new resources to the Cancer Center,” said Paul Bunn, MD, UCCC board president. “Dr. Theodorescu has plans for new recruitments and plans to develop a center of excellence in bladder cancer. He will meet the challenge presented by renewing UCCC’s NCI grant with the assistance of fantastic staff, outstanding senior leaders and a new administrator. He also has a vision for raising new philanthropic funds from patients and families, which will help patients now and in the future.”

“The arrival of Dr. Theodorescu launches another great chapter for the Cancer Center,” said Richard D. Krugman, MD, vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We already provide outstanding care. His vision, energy and skill will take us to the next level of teaching, research and health care. Colorado, the region and, in fact, the entire country will benefit from this recruitment over the next decade.”

Theodorescu wants to help UCCC continue to develop national and international leadership in several areas: personalized care delivery including using markers and imaging to find the best treatment for each patient and doing population risk assessment for specific treatments; discovery and delivery of new cancer drugs and predicting therapeutic response of those drugs; and regenerative medicine and stem cell biology. He also looks forward to training the next generation of translational cancer scientists and physicians for the 21st Century. His top priorities include:

• Identifying genes that drive cancer to spread to other organs (metastasis)
• Cancer stem cell and regenerative medicine research and engineering
• Personalized medicine for predicting cancer outcome as well as response to therapy
• Promoting the early phase clinical trials program at UCCC

“We work hard to maintain a leadership position among cancer centers throughout the United States, and the appointment of Dr. Theodorescu will help us elevate our aspirations,” said Bruce Schroffel, president and CEO of University of Colorado Hospital. “He will lead our researchers in their efforts to prevent cancer or find it early and to successfully treat cancer with personalized medicine, ultimately improving the quality of life for cancer survivors.”

Theodorescu will limit his clinical practice to bladder cancer surgery at University of Colorado Hospital so he can grow his own research program and collaborate to develop program projects and other large multidisciplinary projects with members.

The University of Colorado Hospital recently ranked 44th in the cancer specialty category of the U.S. News & World Report’s 2010-11 Best Hospitals edition.

About the University of Colorado Cancer Center
The University of Colorado Cancer Center is the Rocky Mountain region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. NCI has given only 40 cancer centers this designation, deeming membership as “the best of the best.” Headquartered on the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, UCCC is a consortium of three state universities (Colorado State University, University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Colorado Denver) and five institutions (The Children’s Hospital, Denver Health, Denver VA Medical Center, National Jewish Health and University of Colorado Hospital). Together, our 400+ members are working to ease the cancer burden through cancer care, research, education and prevention and control. Learn more at www.uccc.info.

Contact: Caitlin Jenney, 303.315.6376, [email protected]