History

The Division of Hematology and Oncology, originally two separate sections within the Department of Internal Medicine, has grown tremendously in the areas of research, education and training, and faculty and staff. Our history and highlights are outlined below.

1970s

  • Until 1978, faculty belonged to the Sections of Hematology and Medical Oncology, which were led by Dr. Chris Zarafonetis and Dr. Frances E. Bull, respectively. Faculty members in the two sections consisted primarily of physician-scientists with laboratories in the Simpson Memorial Institute Building.
  • Physician clinical activity was conducted in the outpatient clinic in the Med Inn Building and also served as attending physicians on the general medicine service in the Old Main Hospital.
  • In 1978, the Sections of Hematology and Medical Oncology were combined into the Division of Hematology and Oncology under the leadership of Dr. Albert LoBuglio. Faculty serving in the division at that time included Dr. William Ensminger (active emeritus) and Dr. “Red” Roland Hiss.

1980s

  • 1980 - Dr. Max Wicha joined the division after completing his fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. His initial research laboratory in the Simpson Memorial Institute Building was actually a converted women’s lavatory, with a sign that said ‘Women Only’ on the door. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, for during this time, Dr. Wicha initiated his fruitful research career in the field of women’s cancers.
  • 1982 - Dr. LoBuglio left to become director of the Lorelei Wallace Cancer Center at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Beverly Mitchell (Director, Stanford Cancer Institute) assumed the role of acting director for a brief period into 1983.
  • 1983 - The Department of Internal Medicine was under the leadership of Dr. William Kelley, a visionary with a goal to make the Department the “Harvard of the Midwest”. With the departure of Dr. LoBuglio, Dr. Kelley asked Dr. Wicha to lead the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Just three years out of fellowship, Dr. Wicha accepted, providing that Dr. Kelley serve as a mentor and advisor to him. Dr. Wicha served as Division Chief from 1983-1992. 
  • Early 1980s - The Division had approximately 15 faculty members. In addition to Drs. Wicha and Mitchell, other key researchers at the time included Drs. Stephen Weiss (Professor, Molecular Medicine & Genetics and the Life Sciences Institute, U-M), George Weiner (a fellow at the time, and now Director, University of Iowa Comprehensive Cancer Center), Michael Clarke (Professor, Stanford University), Craig Thompson (President and CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center), and Donald Miller (Director, James Graham Brown Cancer in Louisville, Kentucky).
  • Mid-1980s - It was an exciting time for recruitment of the highest quality physician-scientists. Dr. Wicha’s first major recruit was Dr. David Ginsburg from Harvard. Among the other faculty that joined the Division in the 1980s are Drs. Andrew Feinberg (Chief, Division of Molecular Medicine, Johns Hopkins) and Stephen Emerson (Director, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center/Columbia University Medical Center). 
  • 1985 - Dr. Robert Todd III joined the Division of Hematology and Oncology from Harvard Medical School. At this time, the Division’s clinical fellowship program had approximately 10 fellows and was supported in part by the new Oncology Research Training Program T32 award from the NIH.
  • 1986 - Under the leadership of Dr. Wicha, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMCCC) was established by the U-M Board of Regents. The UMCCC administrative offices were located in two portable trailers behind the Simpson Building.
  • 1986 - The Division’s outpatient care was conducted in a combined clinic in the Med Inn building before moving to the Taubman Center Building in the mid-1980s. The infusion center consisted of a small room with five infusion chairs; many patients received their chemotherapy as inpatients. Because there were no electronic records, patient charts were stacked high keeping track of the multiple cycles of chemotherapy. Physicians attended on the oncology and hematology inpatient services in the Old Main Hospital until 1986 when it was replaced by the new 11-story, 550-bed University Hospital.
  • Research funding (direct and indirect dollars) doubled in the 1980s, from less than $3M to more than $6M. Research during the 1980s included major advancements in regional chemotherapy, radioimmunotherapy, apoptosis mechanisms, and early genetics studies.

1990s

  • 1993 - Dr. Wicha stepped down as division chief to focus his efforts as the Director of the UMCCC. Dr. Ginsburg assumed the role as Chief of the Division of Molecular Medicine & Genetics and switched his primary appointment out of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
  • 1993 - Dr. Robert Todd III was appointed as Chief of the Hematology and Oncology Division. His research focused on the functional characterization of membrane receptor gylcoproteins expressed by human inflammatory and neoplastic cells. He served as Division Chief for 14 years and was responsible for the recruitment of over 40 faculty. Dr. Todd was integral to increasing the division’s focus on clinical research, including the recruitment of Dr. Laurence Baker from Wayne State University to serve as Deputy Director and Associate Director of Clinical Research Programs in the UMCCC. Dr. Baker recruited colleagues from Wayne State University and other academic centers including Brigham and Women’s, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and John Hopkins, who had a shared focus on clinical research and patient care. Dr. Baker established a rotation of attending physicians on the inpatient service with a strong interest in patient care and education, thereby enhancing the pool of residents interested in pursuing hematology/oncology as a subspecialty. Dr. Kemp Cease was the Director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program, which had 10 fellows in the mid-90s and grew to 13 fellows by 2000.
  • 1994 - Dr. Mark Roth, a graduate of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program and young faculty member in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, passed away. The Mark Roth Memorial Award was established in his honor to recognize a fellowship trainee demonstrating the greatest commitment and potential to a career in academic Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Anne Schott was the first recipient of this award.
  • 1995 - The division added a 16-bed Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit and a Medicine Chemotherapy Service for the treatment of patients on scheduled chemotherapy needing additional clinical coverage. Total inpatient admissions for the division was more than 1700. 
  • 1997 - The UMCCC administrative offices had been housed in two portable trailers behind the Simpson Building until the new state-of-the-art Cancer Center Building was completed in 1997. In the new building, clinical teams were established to align resources around individual disease areas. With a substantially larger infusion unit, they were better suited to manage the treatment needs of patients. Dr. Baker established a clinical research program in the UMCCC that was able to meet the growing needs of clinical investigators, including the establishment of the Clinical Trials Office and the formation of the Protocol Review Committee. 
  • Advances in research include:
    • Dr. Kaminski and Dr. Rich Wahl report in the NEJM that treatment of chemotherapy-refractory B-cell lymphoma patients with radiolabeled anti-CD20 antibodies results in high response rates and durable complete remissions, and later, invention of tositumomab, a monoclonal antibody which was efficacious in the treatment of patients with follicular lymphoma. 
    • The demonstration of significant long term efficacy of hepatic artery fluorodeoxyuridine  and conformal radiation therapy for the treatment of hepatobiliary and colorectal cancers (Dr. Ensminger).
    • Significant molecular and genetic advancements (e.g. BRCA2, Bcl-x, p53) related to breast cancer (Drs. Clarke, Merajver, and Wicha), prostate cancer (Drs. Cooney and Pienta), and hematology (Drs. Gitlin, Petruzzelli, Schmaier, Silver, Uberti, and Todd). 
    • Clinical trial advancements in prostate (Drs. Smith, Pienta, and Redman), laryngeal cancer (Dr. Urba), renal cell carcinoma (Dr. Redman), and sarcoma (Dr. Baker). 
    • Advances in chemoprevention related to colorectal cancer (Dr. Brenner).

2000s

  • 2003 - The FDA approved the use of BEXXAR for the treatment of patients with low-intermediate grade non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (Drs. Kaminski and Wahl).
  • 2005 - Dr. Baker became the Group Chair of the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). The principal SWOG grants transferred to the U-M and became the largest award ever received by the U-M.
  • 2006 - Dr. Todd continued to serve as Division Chief into 2006, when he assumed the role of Interim Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Kathleen Cooney was asked to serve as Interim Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.
  • 2007 - Dr. Todd was recruited to Baylor University to serve as the Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Cooney was named Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Her research focused on identifying genetic defects in hereditary prostate cancer.
  • 2008 - The Ravitz Center Phase I/Translational Research Center opened providing a dedicated resource for evaluating novel cancer therapies at the earliest stage. SWOG administration was located at Dominos Farms. The division had research laboratories spread among several buildings including the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Life Sciences Institute, Medical Sciences Research Building, and the new Biomedical Science Research Building. Clinical activities nearly doubled in the 2000s, from approximately 27,000 outpatient visits in FY00 to 46,000 visits in FY10.
  • Research grew in the 2000s. $10.4M in total funding (direct and indirect dollars) in FY01 to $51M in FY10, the latter included $29M in funding from SWOG. Advances in research include:
    • Molecular and genetic discoveries, as well as further understanding of biomarkers, related to colorectal cancer (Dr. Brenner), breast cancer (Dr. Hayes, Merajver, and Wicha), prostate cancer (Dr. Cooney and Pienta), and hematology (Dr. Clarke).
    • Identification of circulating tumor cells as an important biomarker of disease progression and survival in patients with metastatic breast cancer (Dr. Hayes). 
    • Advancement of therapeutic clinical trials for the treatment of genitourinary cancers (Drs. Hussain, Redman, and Smith), gastrointestinal cancers (Dr. Zalupski), and head and neck cancers (Dr. Urba).
    • Establishment of anti-cancer drug discovery program with a team of computational and medicinal chemists, biochemists, structural biologists, and cell and tumor biologists with the goal of creating ‘designer drugs’ to target aberrant signaling pathways in cancer cells (Dr. Wang).
    • Major advancements in the identification and characterization of stem cells with the target of molecular profiling and therapeutic interventions (Drs. Clarke and Wicha).
    • Paradigm shift in the field of bone marrow transplant immunology by the characterization of the molecular pathogenesis of acute graft-versus-host disease (Drs. Ferrara and Reddy).
    • Advances in chemoprevention research including the development of novel therapeutic strategies to prevent colorectal, cervical, and esophageal cancer (Dr. Brenner).

2010s

  • 2010 - Dr. Wicha’s researchers are among the first to relocate their laboratories to the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC), former site of Pfizer, Inc. The first GI SPORE Grant is awarded to the GI Team.
  • 2011 - Adult and Pediatric BMT teams and the Pediatric Cancer Group move into the new C&W Hospitals.
  • 2012 - Translational Oncology Program is created, speeding the translation into clinical trials, and providing new treatment opportunities for patients. The program is housed at the NCRC. 
  • 2013 - After 27 years and six NCI core grants, Dr. Wicha announces his intention to step down as the Comprehensive Cancer Center director to focus more of his time on translational research - clinical trials targeting cancer stem cells.
  • 2014 - Dr. Shaomeng Wang moves his lab and researchers to the NCRC.
  • 2016 - Dr. Pavan Reddy is appointed Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.