Emory Report

January 10, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 16

Winship names head

Jonathan Simons, director of the Molecular Pharmacology Program and Cancer Gene Therapy Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, has been named director of the Winship Cancer Institute effective Feb. 1.

A highly acclaimed physician-scientist in translational cancer research, Simons is the first investigator to successfully use human gene therapy to create clinically measurable immune responses against metastatic prostate cancer. Simons, 41, an associate professor of oncology and urology at Hopkins, is internationally recognized as a leader in the molecular oncology and gene therapy of prostate cancer.

"This is an enormously important appointment for Emory," said Thomas Lawley, dean of the School of Medicine. "The Winship Cancer Institute has not yet realized its great potential. But it stands poised to become one of the nation's top centers for cancer care, research, prevention and education, and we have found a director with the vision, energy and ability to make that happen. We are impressed by Dr. Simons' own research, which has opened a new door to the development of treatments for prostate cancer and other cancers, and we believe he brings to Emory an understanding of how to focus, coordinate and expand the considerable resources available to our cancer programs."

Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs, was the medical dean at Hopkins when Simons began his teaching and research career. "At Hopkins, Jonathan took hold of the program that translates cancer research from the laboratory to the bedside and led it to new heights," Johns said. "I have known him and watched his career for the past decade. He has all the qualities and the many skills to lead the Winship Cancer Institute into a new era of world-class research and patient care."

The name change from Winship Cancer Center to the Winship Cancer Institute, approved by the Board of Trustees in 1999, is meant to better reflect the diversity of Emory's work in cancer and to represent plans for a marked expansion of cancer programs. Winship remains the coordinating center for cancer patient care at Emory, including medical, surgical and radiation oncology, diagnostic imaging, and the subspecialties of cancer care.

Simons' arrival also means that Emory can move ahead on a $56 million, 226,000-square-foot comprehensive cancer building. Roughly four floors will be devoted to outpatient clinical care and three for research. This new building is in addition to existing space in the clinic and other areas across campus.

A native of Washington, D.C., and raised in Ithaca, N.Y., Simons is a graduate of Princeton University (1980) and received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1984. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, then began his career in cancer as a clinical fellow in medical oncology and a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center.

After several months of visiting Emory, Simons will arrive with the outline of a vision and strategic plan for the next 10 years. "Frankly," he said, "I found the possibilities and institutional commitment at Emory to be breathtaking. My family and I are honored beyond words to be coming to a place such as this."

In describing briefly his vision for what the institute should be, Simons said, "One in four adult Americans is forecast to be diagnosed with cancer in his or her lifetime. This is utterly unacceptable, particularly with our new genetic understanding of cancer and new possibilities for gene-based strategies to prevent, detect and ultimately cure currently intractable cancers.

"The sense of mission was palpable in the leadership at Emory--that its faculty can and should be making discoveries critical to eradicating the problem of cancer. In the face of managed care, Emory University is affirming what our patients already know: there are now more great ideas to test urgently than there are great cancer centers to test them."

--Sylvia Wrobel

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