A major building on MD Anderson’s campus now bears the name of John Mendelsohn, M.D., honoring his leadership of the nation’s largest cancer center over 15 years. Signs for the John Mendelsohn Faculty Center were installed in February.
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 tenure, MD Anderson marked a number of milestones, including the launch and early completion of the $1.2 billion fundraising campaign, the most ambitious in MD Anderson’s history.
Following a sabbatical at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to hone his research skills, Mendelsohn returned to MD Anderson in March as co-director of the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy.
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.
“My greatest joy as president of this great institution was getting to know and work with the unsurpassed employees and volunteers who contribute to the MD Anderson mission. To be honored in this way is indeed humbling and gratifying,” says Mendelsohn.
Mendelsohn led MD Anderson as it quadrupled in budget and tripled in space. The institution’s work force and number of patients served doubled, and private philanthropy increased almost tenfold.
“John Mendelsohn is one of the preeminent leaders in modern cancer medicine,” says 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’s fitting that the John Mendelsohn Faculty Center will bear his name in honor of his myriad contributions not only to our institution but also to the field of oncology and, ultimately, to cancer patients and their families everywhere.”
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. That monoclonal antibody, now marketed as Erbitux®, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat colon cancer and head and neck cancers.
“This naming opportunity is a small token of appreciation to the man whose dedication, commitment and accomplishments embody the words ‘Making Cancer History®,’ ” says Francisco Cigarroa, Ph.D., chancellor of The University of Texas System.
The John Mendelsohn Faculty Center, 1400 Holcombe Blvd., opened in the fall of 2000. The 13-story, 225,000-square-foot building provides space for nearly 1,500 faculty and staff representing more than 30 departments, plus ancillary and support functions.