Hutch News

Eric Holland to head Fred Hutch’s Human Biology Division, build preeminent brain cancer programs in Seattle

Internationally renowned neurosurgeon and brain cancer researcher will also lead University of Washington's Alvord Brain Tumor Center

April 1, 2013
Dr. Eric Holland, Human Biology Division

Dr. Eric Holland, Human Biology Division

Dr. Eric Holland, an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and brain cancer researcher from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, this summer will become senior vice president and director of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology Division. Holland will work to establish world-class research programs on brain and other solid-tumor cancers at both Fred Hutch, where he will base his research laboratory, and the University of Washington.

Holland will replace Human Biology's interim Director Dr. Denise Galloway, who assumed the role in May 2011 upon the retirement of former division Director Dr. Barbara Trask.

"As a practicing neurosurgeon with an outstanding track record in molecular biology and genetics, Eric is at the forefront of translating laboratory advances into advanced molecular therapeutics-expertise that will be instrumental in catalyzing our efforts to build strength in clinical molecular diagnostics and precision oncology," said Dr. Larry Corey, president and director of Fred Hutch. "I am confident that Eric will help us apply the strategies he has developed and used so successfully for brain tumors to many other types of solid-tumor cancers. His recruitment will catalyze numerous opportunities of this kind for our institutions," he said.

With advances in genomics increasingly playing an important role in solid-tumor oncology, Holland's expertise will provide strong leadership in this area, strengthening Seattle's reputation in translational, solid-tumor research.

At Fred Hutch, Holland will oversee the recruitment of new laboratory-based investigators who are at the forefront of solid-tumor translational research in areas such as breast, prostate, gastrointestinal and other cancers.

At UW Medicine, Holland will be a professor of neurological surgery, hold the Chap and Eve Alvord and Elias Alvord Chair in Neuro-oncology and will direct the Nancy and Buster Alvord Brain Tumor Center. The Alvord Center was established in 2009 to promote, develop and coordinate outstanding interdisciplinary brain tumor care and research among physicians and scientists in a variety of fields ranging from neurology to radiation oncology.

Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and SCCA are working to bridge laboratory sciences and patient care.

Building on Fred Hutch's 'solid foundation'

Holland said he is looking forward to the challenge of developing a world-class brain cancer and solid-tumor program in Seattle to build on the Hutchinson Center's pioneering, Nobel Prize-winning work in bone-marrow transplantation to treat leukemia and other blood cancers and to collaborate with the outstanding genome scientists at UW Medicine.

"I am thrilled at the prospect of working with the world's leading experts in genome sciences, computational biology and those involved in the development of novel platforms for delivering innovative therapies to cancer patients," Holland said. "The highly collaborative, multidisciplinary nature of cancer research at Fred Hutch and UW Medicine provides a solid foundation to build on."

Holland is currently the Emily Tow Jackson Chair in Oncology and the founding director of the Brain Tumor Center at Sloan-Kettering, where he has built one of the nation's most successful brain cancer research and clinical programs. He specializes in the research and treatment of glioma-the most common brain cancer in adults-and metastatic brain tumors.

New approaches to treating brain tumors

Throughout his career Holland has worked at the intersection of multiple disciplines to address the molecular basis of brain tumors and develop new approaches to their treatment. His research focuses on developing mouse models of brain cancer that mimic the behavior of the disease in patients. His work with mouse models has led to clinical trials in glioma patients. He also has developed imaging strategies to follow mouse brain tumors as they develop-a powerful system that is used to test promising new drugs with potential benefit for patients.

Among Holland's discoveries:

  • He was the first to use a system of postnatal gene transfer to study brain cancer formation in mice, providing a model for the development of gliomas and medulloblastomas.
  • His laboratory was the first to demonstrate that stem cells are more sensitive to changes that can lead to cancer, providing clues to cancer development and its ability to evade treatment.
  • He was the first to demonstrate that the activity of a protein called Akt is elevated in human glioblastomas-a finding that provided major insights into the development of this cancer.

Holland received his medical degree from Stanford University and his doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Chicago. His postdoctoral training included work with two Nobel laureates: Dr. Paul Berg, a pioneer of recombinant DNA technology at Stanford University; and Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Cancer Institute and former director of the National Institutes of Health. Prior to Holland's arrival at Sloan-Kettering in 2001 he conducted brain surgery and basic research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences' prestigious Institute of Medicine.

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