SEATTLE – Eric Holland, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned neurosurgeon and brain cancer researcher, has been recruited from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington to establish world-class research programs on brain and other solid-tumor cancers in Seattle. He will arrive this summer.
At Fred Hutch, where Holland’s research laboratory will be based, he will be senior vice president and director of the Human Biology Division, an interdisciplinary program that encourages collaboration among faculty with a broad range of expertise – from molecular and cellular biology to genetics and clinical research. This unique structure fosters laboratory-based, computational and clinical research that yields discoveries which can be rapidly translated into treatments for cancer patients.
He will replace Denise Galloway, Ph.D., interim director and member of the Human Biology Division, who assumed that role in May 2011 upon the retirement of former division Director Barbara Trask, Ph.D.
“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 Larry Corey, M.D., 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.
As director of the Alvord Brain Tumor Center, one of Holland’s first priorities will be to recruit a team of internationally renowned brain cancer investigators to implement the vision of the late Ellsworth “Buster” Alvord, a Seattle philanthropist and former head of the UW Department of Neuropathology. Alvord and his family funded five endowed chairs in five different UW Medicine departments to create a multidisciplinary research center to focus on brain cancer.
“Eric Holland is exceptionally well qualified to lead the Alvord Brain Tumor Center, and I am confident that he will recruit outstanding researchers and clinicians to establish the Alvord Center as the best in the world,” said Paul G. Ramsey, M.D., CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine. “Under Dr. Holland’s leadership, we will be able to fulfill the vision for brain cancer research and clinical care established by Buster Alvord when he and his family made their extraordinarily generous commitment to establish the Alvord Center. I am delighted to welcome Eric Holland to UW Medicine.”
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.
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: Paul Berg, Ph.D., a pioneer of recombinant DNA technology at Stanford University; and Harold Varmus, M.D., 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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At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home to three Nobel laureates, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists seek new and innovative ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation led to the development of immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer with minimal side effects. An independent, nonprofit research institute based in Seattle, Fred Hutch houses the nation’s first and largest cancer prevention research program, as well as the clinical coordinating center of the Women’s Health Initiative and the international headquarters of the HIV Vaccine Trials Network. Private contributions are essential for enabling Fred Hutch scientists to explore novel research opportunities that lead to important medical breakthroughs. For more information visit www.fredhutch.org or follow Fred Hutch on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
About UW Medicine
UW Medicine includes: Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital & Medical Center, Valley Medical Center, UW Medical Center, UW Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians, UW School of Medicine and Airlift Northwest. UW Medicine has major academic and service affiliations with Seattle Children’s Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the Veteran’s Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, and the VA Hospital in Boise, Idaho. The UW School of Medicine is the top public institution for receipt of biomedical research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and second among all institutions for NIH funding, public and private. UW Medicine’s 2,000 full-time faculty and nearly 5,000 clinical faculty across its five-state WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) include three living Nobel Prize winners (five in its history), 32 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 35 members of the Institute of Medicine, and 13 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. For more information, visit UW Medicine. Follow us on Twitter – @UWMedicineNews
Kristen Woodward, Fred Hutch
Clare LeFond, UW Medicine