University of Pittsburgh
January 29, 2006

2006 Bernard Fisher Lecture To Feature Larry Norton, M.D., Oncologist Known for Innovative Cancer Drug Strategies

David Bartlett to Become Inaugural Bernard Fisher Professor of Surgery
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH–Larry Norton, a medical oncologist renowned as a leader in the development of chemotherapeutic regimens for breast cancer, will deliver the 2006 Bernard Fisher Lecture in honor of the University of Pittsburgh's own pioneering breast cancer researcher, Bernard Fisher, M.D., on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

Dr. Norton, who is deputy physician-in-chief for breast cancer programs at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will speak at 3:30 p.m. in Scaife Hall, Auditorium 6. His topic will be "The Scientific Method and Progress Against Breast Cancer: Continuing the Fisherian Revolution." A reception will follow in Scaife Hall, Room 1105.

In conjunction with this year's Fisher Lecture, which is open to the entire health sciences community, David L. Bartlett, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at the School of Medicine, will be installed as the inaugural Dr. Bernard Fisher Professor of Surgery. Dr. Bartlett, who also directs the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center, specializes in regional therapeutics—the delivery of chemotherapy or biological therapeutic agents directly to the blood vessels leading to a tumor. His expertise is the management of advanced, complex abdominal cancers; a particular research interest of his is tumor-directed gene therapy for cancer. Prior to coming to Pittsburgh in 2001, Dr. Bartlett was a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research.

"I'm especially pleased to welcome Dr. Larry Norton, a remarkably talented oncologist and cancer researcher, to campus, and to congratulate Dr. David Bartlett, one of our own leading oncologists, on his selection for the Fisher Chair," said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. "Bernard Fisher has truly achieved iconic stature for his contributions to the contemporary understanding of cancer and the metastatic process, and I hope that the entire medical community, especially those involved in the field of oncology, will join us in recognizing him on this special occasion."

Dr. Norton is particularly known for the strategy of using sequential combinations of drugs to counter differences in drug sensitivities among the cells in a tumor. His therapeutic approach called "dose density" or "sequential dose density" uses anticancer drugs based on a mathematical model to maximize the death of cancer cells while minimizing toxicity. The Norton-Simon Model, which he co-developed, explores how growth characteristics of cancers affect their response to therapy. New anticancer therapies and new approaches to chemotherapy and hormonal therapy have resulted from his research.

Dr. Norton holds the Norna S. Sarofim Chair in Clinical Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He also is a professor of medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. He received his medical degree from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and did residency training at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed by a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. Among the many roles he has filled on various committees and professional organizations over the years, Dr. Norton serves as scientific director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and has chaired its Medical Advisory Board since 1993. He is past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a former presidential appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board.

"I can think of no more fitting tribute to Bernard Fisher and his legacy than to provide this opportunity for everyone here in the field of oncology—researcher and clinician alike—to hear first-hand from someone as eminent as Larry Norton," said Timothy R. Billiar, M.D., George V. Foster Professor of Surgery and chair of the Department of Surgery, which sponsors the Fisher Lecture. "It's also fitting that we have this opportunity to honor the accomplishments of Dr. David Bartlett, one of the nation's leading surgical oncologists, by recognizing him as the inaugural Dr. Bernard Fisher Professor of Surgery."

Dr. Fisher, a 1943 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and now a distinguished service professor of surgery, is past chairman and scientific director of the Pittsburgh-based research consortium known as the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project.

Among the many achievements in his distinguished career, Dr. Fisher is best known for overturning the prevailing paradigm that breast cancer metastasizes in an orderly and sequential fashion, from the breast to neighboring lymph nodes before any further spread—a paradigm that had led to radical mastectomy as standard treatment for this disease. Instead, he proposed that breast cancer is a systemic disease that metastasizes unpredictably. Using randomized clinical trials, Dr. Fisher and his research team found that radical mastectomy was no more effective than total mastectomy and, in turn, that total mastectomy was no more effective than lumpectomy in treating breast cancer. Dr. Fisher's group went on to show the effectiveness of adjuvant chemotherapy and hormonal therapy (tamoxifen) in treating breast cancer as a systemic disease, not one that could be cured by surgery alone. In subsequent studies, he found that tamoxifen can also substantially reduce the incidence of breast cancer in high-risk women, thus providing evidence that breast cancer can not only be treated but also prevented. "Individually, these advances made by Dr. Fisher stand out as highly significant; collectively, they are nothing less than profound and one of the most important contributions ever made to the health of women," Dr. Levine said.

Dr. Fisher's many honors and awards include the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award, the General Motors Cancer Research Foundation's Kettering Prize, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Distinguished Achievement in Cancer Research, the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor, and the American Surgical Association Medallion for Scientific Achievement.

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