George Calin celebrated for excellence in research

Rogers Award honors recipient’s expertise in Experimental Therapeutics

MD Anderson News Release 09/04/13

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

The $10,000 award, which rotates annually among the institution’s areas of education, prevention, administration, patient care and research, recognizes employees who consistently demonstrate excellence in their work and dedication to MD Anderson’s mission of eliminating cancer. Calin will receive the award at a 2 p.m. ceremony Sept. 27 at the George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building, 6767 Bertner Ave., in the Onstead Auditorium.

Calin arrived at MD Anderson 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 and clinicians,” Calin said. “I feel compelled more than ever to continue to discover and keep moving the science in my lab toward unchartered territories of the human genome.”

Following his passion for collaboration, Calin shares his talents with many divisions across MD Anderson. In 2009, he was named co-director of the newly created 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 said. “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 born, 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 scientists and researchers from around the world who are interested in his work. He’s trained more than 20 students from undergraduate to Ph.D. levels to date.

“I was fortunate to learn from three mentors, Drs. Dragos Stefanescu, Massimo Negrini and Carlo Croce, who shaped my way of thinking, so I understand the significance of mentorship,” Calin said. “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,” said 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.”

Rogers family maintains longstanding commitment to MD Anderson

Regina Rogers, a senior member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors, established the award in 1987 in honor of her parents, the late Julie and Ben Rogers, and in appreciation for the treatment her brother and her mother received at the institution. Ben Rogers served on the Board of Visitors from 1978 until his death in 1994, when his daughter and wife established the Julie & Ben Rogers Breast Diagnostic Clinic in his memory. Julie Rogers died in 1998.

“MD Anderson employees continue to inspire me with their tremendous dedication, exceptional capabilities and exemplary service,” said Rogers. “With deep appreciation for their commitment, I’m honored to present this recognition in honor of my dear parents, who I’m confident are smiling with happiness and pride from above.”

Rogers added that her family’s 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,” said Rogers. “Then, in 1987, our mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her recovery was good and served to reinforce our family’s commitment to 
MD Anderson. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue this award and to recognize excellence at an institution that’s played such an important role in eliminating cancer as a major health threat.”