Meet the visionary leader of Pediatrics who’s on a ‘research and destroy’ mission
After his own diagnosis at age 13, Richard Gorlick, M.D., set out on a lifelong journey to end cancer in children.
Along the way, he has focused his clinical and research studies on sarcomas — tumors that grow in connective tissues including the bones, muscles, tendons and cartilage. These are the same tumors that interrupted his teenage years.
Now, the physician-scientist’s journey has brought him to MD Anderson Cancer Center, where, as division head and chair of Pediatrics, he’ll use his pediatric oncology expertise and experience as an educator, clinician, scientist and cancer survivor to help children, adolescents and young adults treated at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
“Research, clinical care and education are all important priorities,” says Gorlick. “Providing multi-disciplinary care, minimizing the burden to patients and families, and developing a global model for treating young cancer patients are all important to me.”
Gorlick’s MD Anderson laboratory focuses on targeted therapies, new drugs for childhood cancers, and understanding the mechanisms behind the development and progression of osteosarcoma, the most common form of childhood bone cancer.
Gorlick, whose research resulted in the establishment of the world’s largest osteosarcoma tissue bank, leads the Bone Tumor Disease Committee for the Children’s Oncology Group, a collaborative clinical trials system and the largest organization focused exclusively on pediatric cancer research. He is drawing on that spirit of teamwork to forge collaborations with MD Anderson colleagues who’ve seen success using adult therapies such as immunotherapy and genetic profiling, which can ensure the right drugs get to the right patients.
“Therapies developed for adults don’t become effective therapies for children as quickly as they should,” says Gorlick. “Children aren’t simply small adults, they are unique, and we must acknowledge and study their uniqueness. That includes pursuing funding to support childhood cancer research, which is often lacking.”
Therapies developed for adults don’t become effective therapies for children as quickly as they should.