BY Andrew J. Roth
From left to right: Tony and Bonnie Addario; Fred Hirsch; program directors Roy S. Herbst and David R. Gandara; and Phil Talamo, vice president, Independent Medical Education & Operations, PER.
Fred R. Hirsch was honored by The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) on July 31 for his leadership, excellence in practice, and research to improve lung cancer treatment.
Bonnie J. Addario presented Hirsch with the 2015 Addario Lectureship Award at the 16th Annual International Lung Cancer Congress (ILCC) in Huntington Beach, CA.
“The award means a lot. This is recognition — not only from peers, which is very important, but also from a patient advocacy organization, which I appreciate very much,” Hirsch says. “It is [worth all the struggles] when you get recognized like this.”
The award, which was first given in 2008, recognizes the brightest, best and hardest working people in lung cancer treatment and research, Addario said in an interview with CURE
Lung cancer is a global epidemic that requires a global effort, Addario said during the presentation, and Hirsch is on the forefront of that effort.
Paul A. Bunn, Jr., the first winner of the lectureship and a colleague of Hirsch’s at the University of Colorado, echoed Addario’s high praise.
“He is unique in that he has training in both medical oncology and pathology,” Bunn says. “He’s used that training to transform the field — especially in the area of biomarkers.”
Hirsch’s uncommon path doesn’t stop there.
“Besides having two specialties […] he also is from two continents,” Bunn says. “He basically trained in Europe and, over the last couple decades, has been working in the States.”
As lung cancer research has expanded in Asia more recently, Hirsch has followed suit and become involved in educational programs to train young physicians.
Though Hirsch’s career spans several decades, one event in particular, may have helped elevate his career to an entirely new level — his own cancer diagnosis.
When Hirsch was diagnosed with lymphoma, he had been practicing medical oncology for 20 years. Before that moment, Hirsch admits, he thought he knew everything about cancer and cancer treatment. Then, new perspectives came flooding in.
When Hirsch is in the laboratory, looking into a microscope, Addario says, he’s not seeing what every other researcher is seeing.
“He’s not seeing just a piece of tissue or a drop of blood — he’s seeing a patient that wants to live.”
Hirsch has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career, including the Mary J. Matthews Distinguished Scientific Award from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), the Japanese Lung Cancer Society Merit Award and the Lung Cancer Foundation of America Young Investigator Award. He has also authored four books and hundreds of peer-reviewed papers.
Hirsch’s passions and goals extend far beyond his own research, though.
In 2013, Hirsch was named CEO of the IASLC, an organization he was involved with for 36 years prior.
“He has a passion for IASLC that is unparalleled,” Bunn says. “Certainly, he and his wife Pia — one could argue that IASLC would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the two of them.”
Though he has accomplished a lot, his work is far from over. Hirsch wants to continue to develop better biomarkers for all types of lung cancer with his team at the University of Colorado and accelerate the development of IASLC in both the U.S. and abroad.
“I have a lot of work to do,” Hirsch says with a laugh. I’m not thinking of retirement or even vacations, actually.”
“I love my work.”