Cancer specialists honored for excellence in patient care and research

MD Anderson clinicians, researchers recognized for dedication, innovation

Nearly 50 faculty members at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center were honored for their exceptional efforts in the fight against cancer at the institution’s 3rd Annual President’s Recognition for Faculty Excellence Awards ceremony Feb. 22. Among those honorees, four received prestigious awards established through the generosity of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV).

Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Systems Biology; Ehab Hanna, M.D., professor, Head and Neck Surgery; Eugene Koay, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Radiation Oncology; and Jeannelyn S. Estrella, M.D., assistant professor, Pathology, each received a cash prize and commemorative plaque in recognition of their extraordinary efforts to transform cancer care. The awards were established in 2015 by the following BOV members: William Finneran (New York), Jack Randall (Houston), Regina Rogers (Beaumont) and Gary Stein (Houston).

“This celebration honors the excellence, dedication and expertise of our faculty, which is made up of the best and brightest minds in cancer care and research,” said Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “We’re also extremely fortunate to have generous Board of Visitors members who support our faculty and have the foresight to help us make significant strides in our fight to end cancer.”

The Finneran Family Prize in Translational Research
Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Systems Biology, is the 2016 recipient of the Finneran Family Prize in Translational Research. Mills holds several leadershippositions across the institution, including co-director of the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy and co-leader of the Breast and Ovarian Cancers Moon Shot, a component of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, the institution’s comprehensive plan to rapidly and dramatically reduce mortality and suffering in cancer.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for career achievement by my colleagues and peers with The Finneran Family Prize in Translational Research,” said Mills. “I am thankful for the vision of the Finneran family and for the dedication of my research team, who come together in this award, to support our efforts to transform outcomes for cancer patients everywhere.”

The Finneran Family Prize is a cash award given annually to a deserving faculty member through the Finneran Family Endowment in Translational Research at MD Anderson. It was established with a surprise gift presented at the institution’s Making Cancer History® Award Gala in Palm Beach, Fla. in December 2013. The endowment honors leading faculty members who conduct translational cancer research, which translates laboratory findings into clinical treatments benefiting patients. BOV member Bill Finneran created the award to honor the extraordinary achievements of MD Anderson faculty.

The Jack and Beverly Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Treatment
Ehab Hanna, M.D., professor and vice chair, Head and Neck Surgery, was awarded the 2016 Jack and Beverly Randall Prize for Excellence in Cancer Treatment. Hanna is an internationally recognized head and neck surgeon and an expert in treating patients with skull base tumors and head and neck cancers.

“This award is particularly meaningful to me because it celebrates excellence in clinical care, which I regard as my highest goal every day I come to work. I consider it the greatest privilege when patients entrust us with their care at one of their most vulnerable moments – facing the fight against cancer,” said Hanna. “I’d like to thank Jack and Beverly Randall for their generous gift and for having the foresight to rotate this award between research and clinical care. All of our groundbreaking discoveries in basic, translational and clinical research ultimately focus on one goal – improving the lives of our patients.”

The Jack and Beverly Randall Prize was established by BOV member Jack Randall and his wife, Beverly, to encourage innovative ideas and the type of novel thinking necessary to successfully treat and eliminate cancer. The annual cash prize honors faculty members who demonstrate uncommon foresight, ingenuity and dedication to excellence in the fight against cancer, with the focus rotating annually between the research and clinical setting.

The Shirley Stein Scientific Endowed Research Award
Eugene Koay, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Radiation Oncology, and Jeannelyn S. Estrella, M.D., assistant professor, Pathology, are the 2016 recipients of the Shirley Stein Scientific Endowed Research Award. Koay’s research focuses on developing a new method of characterizing pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas using routine CT scans while Estrella’s focuses on developing novel biomarkers which will identify patients with metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, who are more likely to progress and need intense, focused treatment through clinical trials.

“Our results will help us make progress in pancreatic cancer by identifying patients who will respond to current treatments and emerging therapies. The research was possible because we had a great team of scientists and physicians working together,” said Koay. “This honor is a recognition for our entire team. We’re extremely grateful to the Stein family and Ms. Rogers for providing us with this opportunity to further this crucial work.”

“I sincerely thank the Stein family and Ms. Rogers for their generosity and the committee for recognizing the important contributions of young faculty members in Pathology,” said Estrella. “It is traditionally difficult for us in the Pathology department to receive philanthropic funding, as we are generally behind the scenes in patient care. The Stein Award, and other philanthropic funds, make it possible for us to contribute to MD Anderson’s research mission in an even more meaningful way.”

Gary Stein, a member of the BOV, along with his family and longtime friend Regina Rogers, a long-serving member of the BOV, established the Shirley Stein Scientific Research Award in memory of Gary’s mother, Shirley Stein, who died in October 2013. Funds from the endowment will support two cash awards each year to recognize exceptional clinical research performed by faculty members with limited project resources.