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Dr. Eugenie S. Kleinerman Appointed Division Head of Pediatrics

Dr. Eugenie S. Kleinerman Appointed Division Head of Pediatrics
M. D. Anderson News Release 03/06/01

Dr. Eugenie S. Kleinerman, professor of cancer biology and pediatrics, has been appointed head of the Division of Pediatrics at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, effective March 1.

As the first woman division head at M. D. Anderson, Dr. Kleinerman brings energy, creativity and a keen understanding of the patient care and clinical research challenges that confront the Division of Pediatrics.

One of her primary strengths is a long-standing productive research collaboration with basic science and clinician colleagues. Dr. Kleinerman plans to continue her research in the Department of Cancer Biology, where she has had an appointment – in addition to her pediatric appointment – since joining the M. D. Anderson faculty in 1984. She was promoted to professor in both departments in 1993.

Dr. Kleinerman’s vision for M. D. Anderson’s pediatric programs is simple: “I want excellence in clinical care, research, education and administration,” she said. In the coming months, she will develop several task forces – staffed by pediatric faculty and those outside the division – to determine the future direction of pediatrics in patient care and research.

“It’s important that everyone gets involved in the decision-making process, and helps to set short- and long-term goals for the division,” Dr. Kleinerman said.

Some issues under discussion include:

The need for a step-down critical care unit to meet the unique needs of pediatric patients. Currently, patients receive post-operative care on the adult unit. Dr. Kleinerman and Dr. Thomas W. Feeley, head of the Division of Anesthesiology, Critical and Palliative Care, are working together to make this a reality.

Increasing awareness of M. D. Anderson’s pediatric services among referring physicians and managed care companies. The Child and Adolescent Center is one of the few facilities in the nation devoted exclusively to treating all childhood and adolescent cancers from the rarest to most common. Patients have access to the latest diagnostic and surgical technology, current therapies and clinical trials, many of which provide new therapies to individuals before they are available elsewhere.

Developing novel approaches to pediatric cancer therapy, including immunotherapy and biologic therapy. “While chemotherapy has been a mainstay of all cancer treatments and has been highly effective, there have been significant advances in basic science research – such as the use of stem cells to treat certain cancers – that are affording us new and more targeted opportunities to treat cancer in children and adolescents,” Dr. Kleinerman said.

Encouraging pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs in children at the same time they are studied in adults. According to Dr. Kleinerman, most of these companies open drug trials only to patients 18 years and older. “Most of the new agents tested in clinical trials for pediatric patients have been conducted by national cooperative groups. They have done a great job, but we need to get these cancer drugs to children faster. Approaching the pharmaceutical companies is one way to achieve this goal,” she said.

Increasing collaboration between M. D. Anderson, The University of Texas-Houston Medical School and pediatric oncologists at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Kleinerman cites the recent partnership with Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine to establish the Childhood Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Center as an important example of what collaboration is possible.

Dr. Kleinerman also plans to enhance existing M. D. Anderson pediatric services. In fiscal year 2000, there were 459 new patient registrations and approximately 12,500 clinic visits. The majority of pediatric patients receiving treatment have been diagnosed with either leukemia, non-neural solid tumors or brain tumors.

At M. D. Anderson, a multidisciplinary team of pediatric oncologists provides the most comprehensive medical and nursing care to patients and ensures that their physical, developmental, psychosocial and educational needs are met, she said. The Adolescent and Young Adult Program, which was implemented in fiscal year 2000, is another unique program that addresses the special needs of cancer patients ages 13 to 21.

Under her direction, Dr. Kleinerman will foster and support ongoing basic science and translational research activities in pediatric oncology at M. D. Anderson.  Currently, researchers are investigating the molecular mechanisms involved in cancer development, metastasis and progression, drug resistance, tumor recurrence and the effects of immunotherapy in treating certain cancers, among other initiatives. Collaboration among clinicians and researchers has led to the development of newer, less toxic and more targeted therapies.

After earning her medical degree from Duke University in 1974, Dr. Kleinerman completed postgraduate training at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the National Cancer Institute. She was a senior investigator for three years in the Biological Response Modifiers Program at the National Cancer Institute-Frederick Cancer Research Facility before moving to M. D. Anderson. She is board-certified in pediatrics.

Over the past 15 years, Dr. Kleinerman has conducted landmark clinical research which led to development of a technique to treat osteosarcoma that has metastasized to the lungs. Her group’s liposomal muramyl tripeptide therapy activates the body’s immune system to destroy drug-resistant cancer cells and now is being coupled with combination chemotherapy as a first-line treatment for newly diagnosed osteosarcoma patients. The efficacy of this novel therapy was demonstrated in a nationwide randomized clinical trial. 03/06/01

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center