Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann – Cancer Warrior

13 Apr

Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann was profiled in the Sunday, April 11, 2010 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The story was featured on the front page. It  provides a personal look at what drives the new leader of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I was fortunate to have worked with Dr. Desmond-Hellmann while at UCSF. For me, she is a role model.

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Dr. Desmond-Hellmann is credited with helping to create an industry powerhouse (Genentech) and bringing the world’s most successful anti-cancer drug treatments to market.  These include Rituxan, the first drug to use monoclonal antibodies, which works by attacking specific types of cancer cells; Herceptin, the seminal drug which opened the doorway to personalized medicine by targeting the HER2 gene, which defines a specific subtype of breast cancer; and Avastin, the first angiogenesis inhibitor to stop tumors by preventing the formation of new blood vessels.

In the article, Bob Cohen, a senior Genentech executive best describes Desmond-Hellmann: “(she has a) sense of obligation that runs deep…I think she has always loved UCSF, and she also has deep spiritual beliefs. She’s also brilliant. A quick study. And she never disappoints…She used all she knew to develop a portfolio of oncology drugs…She was a gifted manager of people and resources, and she bet on the right horses and was able to get them to the finish line.”

“What’s possible for patients” has been a  consistent theme throughout Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s career. She sums it up in the article: “It’s a life-changing moment for someone to be told they
have cancer,” she said. “So I’ve always felt this incredible commitment
to being a part of something that can help them.”

Desmond-Hellmann has been both a champion of and game changing pioneer in oncology translational research – taking the basic understanding of biology, science and technology and using that deep understanding for the direct benefit of patients. She helped fundamentally transform the way we research and treat cancer, and improved and helped extend millions of lives worldwide.

Today, as Chancellor of UCSF, she is taking her experience to the next level and applying it to finding treatments and cures for  an even broader array of the world’s most devastating and unsolvable diseases. The future of this great institution is in good hands.

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