Division of Hematology-Oncology, UCLA
CLASS OF 1970
Dr. Dennis Slamon is a master of multi-tasking. An internationally recognized breast cancer researcher, a professor of medicine, a fundraiser, and an administrator, Slamon is one of the busiest men in Los Angeles. At the University of California, Los Angeles, he currently holds positions as professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology, director of Clinical/Translational Research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program, and executive vice chair for research for the Department of Medicine. Slamon also serves as director of the medical advisory board for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.
Slamon is best known for the research he conducted that led to the development of Herceptin, a breast cancer drug that targets a specific genetic alteration found in about 30 percent of breast cancer patients. Slamon's work marked a shift in cancer treatment from a one size fits all approach to killing tumors to a study of the genetics of specific cancers. This research, which has occupied Slamon for the past 20 years, has earned him numerous national and international awards including the Medal of Honor from the American Cancer Society, the top award bestowed by the organization.
Slamon's first foray into serious biology research was made at W&J. The son of a West Virginia coal miner, he came to W&J because of its strong reputation for pre-medical education. After W&J, Slamon continued his education at the University of Chicago , earning both a doctorate in cell biology and a medical degree. When he first arrived at Chicago , he was concerned that he might not be able to compete in that prestigious program, but he says that W&J had prepared him well to succeed there and through the rest of his life.
Slamon remembers Dr. Homer Porter, professor of biology, as the man who was most influential on his career. He never rushed, says Slamon. When you went to talk to him, he was all there, all concentrated on you. That's what makes a small college so special. Given this strong influence, it is little wonder that Slamon continues to work in an academic setting where he mentors young researchers, including several graduates of W&J.