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George Calin celebrated for research excellence

Rogers Award honors expertise in Experimental Therapeutics


 Regina Rogers and George Calin, M.D., Ph.D., celebrate Calin's research at the Sept. 27 Rogers Award ceremony. Photo by Barry Smith

By Miriam Smith

George Calin, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Experimental Therapeutics and Leukemia at MD Anderson, is the recipient of the 2013 Julie and Ben Rogers Award for excellence in research.

Calin arrived at the institution in 2007 with a goal of translating his existing scientific discoveries into clinical applications. His lab explores new therapeutic options for cancer patients and studies the role of microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs in cancer’s initiation, progression and metastasis.

“It’s a great honor to be selected among such a fine field of scientists,” Calin says. “I feel compelled more than ever to continue to keep discoveries in my lab moving toward unchartered territories of the human genome.”

A team player

Following his passion for collaboration, Calin shares his talents with many divisions across MD Anderson. In 2009, he was named co-director of the Center for RNA Interference and Non-Coding RNAs. In 2011, he started a joint appointment as an associate professor of Leukemia. Calin also works with four of MD Anderson’s moon shot teams, conducting research to reduce cancer deaths.   

“Collaboration’s the key to making successful discoveries,” Calin says. “In an institution such as MD Anderson that’s full of outstanding researchers, collaboration comes naturally and highly enhances the quality of my research.”

As a native of Romania who was raised and educated under communist rule, Calin holds the freedom to work together close to his heart.

“I know what it’s like to conduct research in a closed totalitarian society, so I realize how blessed I am and prize the outstanding collaborative opportunities here all the more.”

Calin also strongly believes in the importance of mentorship. He opens his lab to young researchers from around the world who are interested in his work. He’s trained more than 20 students from undergraduate to Ph.D. levels.

“I was fortunate to learn from mentors who shaped my way of thinking, so I understand the significance of mentorship,” Calin says. “My lab is full of bright and hard-working students who believe in the power of risky science and understand that major discoveries come from thinking years ahead of the current state of scientific knowledge."

Colleagues admire Calin’s positive attitude, boundless energy and inclusive leadership style.

“George has made enormous individual contributions to the understanding of basic cancer biology,” says Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D., professor and chair ad interim of Experimental Therapeutics. “His ability to continually express new directions for research amazes me, and his enthusiasm energizes his colleagues.”

The $10,000 award rotates annually among the areas of education, prevention, administration, patient care and research. Regina Rogers, a senior member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors from Beaumont, Texas, established the award in 1987 to honor her parents and show appreciation for the treatment her brother and mother received at the institution. She says she’s thrilled with this year’s selection.

Excellence personified

“George is an extraordinary, world-renowned scientist,” Rogers says. “His innovative prevention and early-detection focused research is truly amazing and will absolutely save lives. I’m honored to recognize him as this year’s recipient.”

Rogers’ relationship with MD Anderson dates to 1960, when her brother, Arvey Rogers, M.D., was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 25.

“After a lengthy and successful surgery, he was able to continue leading a normal life,” Rogers says. “Then, in 1987, our mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her recovery reinforced our family’s commitment to MD Anderson. I’m grateful for the opportunity to recognize excellence at an institution that plays such an important role in eliminating cancer as a major health threat.”

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center