World of Contributions

Published on: 
Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2020 Essay Book, Volume 1,

"Whereas scientific and organizational developments have been landmarks for Dr. Hirsch, his care for patients has always been in the center and, as a cancer survivor himself, he will always have patient care at the forefront."

Dr. Fred R. Hirsch, who was born in a small town in Norway called Trondheim, always knew he wanted to become a doctor. He moved to Denmark to study medicine at the University of Copenhagen. During his studies, he became interested in research. Due to family circumstances, he became involved in lung cancer research and, while a medical student, he was mentored by Dr. Heine Høi Hansen, one of the pioneers of chemotherapy development for solid tumors, who had just returned to Denmark after five years at the National Cancer Institute. Together, they focused on the development of therapy for small cell lung cancer, and Dr. Hirsch became first author of a large clinical study evaluating etoposide for small cell lung cancer, which led to the drug’s approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that treatment.

After completing medical school in 1977, Dr. Hirsch was recommended to go to the National Cancer Institute. His doctoral work, “Metastatic Pattern and Tumor Heterogeneity of Small Cell Lung Cancer,” was done under the supervision of Drs. John Minna, Paul Bunn, Adi Gazdar and Mary Matthews. Dr. Hirsch then defended his Ph.D. at the University of Copenhagen in 1982. After a career as a medical oncologist (also trained in pathology), he focused on lung cancer treatment and translational research in Denmark. Dr. Hirsch was invited to the University of Colorado in 2000. There he continued translational research with a focus on developing biomarkers for new targeted therapies in lung cancer, with a particular focus on EGFR inhibition. Among numerous scientific studies on EGFR biomarkers, both tyrosine kinase inhibitors and antibodies, Dr. Hirsch led patents on EGFR gene copy number and proteins for prediction of EGFR inhibition. These studies also included Dr. Hirsch as co-principal researcher for the clinical development of Portrazza (necitumumab), which led to its approval by the FDA for treating squamous lung cancer.

Dr. Hirsch has published more than 420 peer-reviewed scientific articles, mainly on lung cancer. Although the science of developing treatments for lung cancer has been his focus, Dr. Hirsch for more than 40 years also has been instrumental in global collaborations, education and scientific exchanges through the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). After having served in many leadership capacities within IASLC, he became CEO in 2013. During his tenure as CEO, IASLC more than doubled its membership and saw a tremendous growth of its Journal of Thoracic Oncology. He changed the World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) from biannual to successful annual meetings with approximately 8,000 participants. The organization’s staff grew from five to 23 during his tenure. Many other activities were initiated during his tenure as CEO, including the start of the Lung Ambition Alliance, a collaboration with IASLC, AstraZeneca and several patient advocate organizations with the goal of doubling the survival rate for lung cancer by 2025.

For many years, Dr. Hirsch has served as a co-principal researcher for the translational medicine committee in the SWOG Lung Cancer Group. For the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Hirsch has served in many leadership roles, including chair of the IDEA Program for career development of younger researchers and chairman of the scientific lung cancer program for the group’s annual meeting. Dr. Hirsch moved to The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai in November 2018 with a new goal of developing a world-class multidisciplinary lung cancer program. Dr. Hirsch has received several awards, including the IASLC Mary Matthews Distinguished Award, AACR‐Waun Ki Hong Lecture Award and Japan Lung Cancer Society Merit Award, and was recently recognized by the IASLC with the inauguration of the Fred R. Hirsch Lectureship Award for Translational Research, which will be given annually at the WCLC.

Whereas scientific and organizational developments have been landmarks for Dr. Hirsch, his care for patients has always been in the center and, as a cancer survivor himself, he will always have patient care at the forefront. At Mount Sinai, Dr. Hirsch plans to develop a lung cancer survivorship program in conjunction with the other cancer survivor- ship programs within The Tisch Cancer Institute. He also is leading development of survivorship programs for industry partners. Dr. Hirsch has trained many international fellows in his laboratory. Several are now key opinion leaders in the field, including Professor Benjamin Solomon (Australia), Dr. Federico Cappuzzo (Italy), Dr. Rafal Dziadziuszko (Poland) and Dr. Nir Peled (Israel).

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