John Mendelsohn Faculty Center Pays Tribute to Institution's Third Full-Time President

John Mendelsohn Faculty Center Pays Tribute to Institution's Third Full-Time President

MD Anderson News Release 02/08/12

A major building on the campus of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center today takes on the name of John Mendelsohn, M.D., to honor his leadership of the nation's largest cancer center over 15 years.

Mendelsohn, a pioneer in the field of personalized cancer therapy, served as the institution's third full-time president from 1996 to 2011. During his 15-year tenure, MD Anderson marked a number of milestones, including the launch and early completion of a $1.2 billion fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in MD Anderson's history.

Following a six-month sabbatical at Harvard and MIT to re-immerse in research, Mendelsohn returns to MD Anderson in March as co-director of the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. In this position, he will continue the clinical and translational research he started more than 30 years ago. In addition, he joins Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy as the L.E. and Virginia Simmons senior fellow in health and technology policy.

"One of my greatest joys as president of this institution has been getting to know and work with the unsurpassed faculty, staff and volunteers who contribute to the MD Anderson mission. To be honored in this way is indeed humbling and gratifying," said Mendelsohn.

The John Mendelsohn Faculty Center, 1400 Holcombe Blvd., opened in the fall of 2000 as the institution's first building dedicated to serving faculty. Construction of the 13-story, 225,000-square-foot professional office building allowed the institution to relocate faculty out of existing clinics and expand exam and treatment room capacity. Today, it provides space for nearly 1,500 faculty and staff representing more than 30 departments plus ancillary and support functions.

Mendelsohn led MD Anderson as it quadrupled in budget and tripled in space. The institution's work force and number of patients served doubled during his presidency, and private philanthropy increased almost tenfold.

"John Mendelsohn is one of the preeminent leaders in modern cancer medicine," said Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. "Thanks to his vision and leadership, MD Anderson is the place with the best hope for cure. It is fitting that the John Mendelsohn Faculty Center will bear his name in honor of the countless contributions he has made not only to our institution but also to the field of oncology and, ultimately, to cancer patients and their families everywhere."

Among significant developments during Mendelsohn's tenure, MD Anderson:

  • Expanded clinical care activities by opening a 320-bed, nine-floor hospital addition; an outpatient center, a proton therapy center; and a 126-room expansion to the Jesse H. Jones Rotary House International hotel serving MD Anderson patients.
  • Opened the George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building, which houses nearly 70 laboratories studying molecular genetics, epidemiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and brain cancer research.
  • Promoted growth, excellence and collaboration in research by organizing five new institutes, each uniting academic departments and centers of excellence that share research objectives.
  • Greatly expanded the nation's largest clinical trials program for experimental cancer therapies, with 10,000 registrants participating annually.
  • Expanded degree-granting programs, awarding bachelor's degrees and certificates in eight allied health disciplines and jointly awarding Ph.D.s in biomedical sciences with The University of Texas Health Science Center.
  • Earned more competitive research grants and grant dollars from the National Cancer Institute than any other U.S. cancer center or university.
  • Built a worldwide collaborative network of more than 20 sister institutions; opened four regional care centers in the greater Houston area and clinical centers bearing MD Anderson's name in Orlando, Fla.; Madrid, Spain; Albuquerque, N.M.; Istanbul, Turkey; and Gilbert, Ariz.

Mendelsohn and his colleagues developed a monoclonal antibody that could find, bind to and block the activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor, which is known to stimulate cancer. After many years of painstaking research, that monoclonal antibody, now marketed as Erbitux®, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of colon cancer and cancers of the head and neck.

"It is MD Anderson's great fortune that John Mendelsohn is returning to the lab, armed with the advances of the past few decades and an even greater drive because of the promise the future holds in the area of personalized cancer care," said Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., chancellor of The University of Texas System. "This naming opportunity is a small token of appreciation to the man whose dedication, commitment and accomplishments embody the words "Making Cancer History®."