UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Winter 2018 2018 Volume XXXIII Number 3 - Page 6

Expert in the Field focus on cancer because “I knew I wanted to work with patients who really needed help.” Upon completing his residency, he entered a medical oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland working on the molecular genetics of lung cancer. Q: How did you get into gynecologic oncology from lung cancer? A: It’s a funny story. I was in lung cancer research when I first became a faculty member at the NCI, and the way most departments work is that when a new job comes up and nobody wants it, it always falls to the youngest faculty member. The GynOnc tumor board has to have a medical oncologist on it, and someone had to fill this position. I was the youngest faculty member so they sent me over there. I had trained a little bit on ovarian cancer, but other than that, I had not really seen other gynecologic cancers at all. But I was fascinated by the tumor spectrum and the types of clinical presentations that were very broad. It is a very rich biologic and clinical field. 4 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R Outside of his parents, who were his greatest personal influence, Bob Young and Bob Ozols at NCI — both fathers of platinum use in ovarian cancer — made a strong and lasting professional impression on him. After 20 years at NCI, during which he held numerous leadership positions, Dr. Birrer headed back to Boston to take prestigious positions at MGH, Harvard’s teaching hospital, integrating clinical practice with innovative research. His major research interests include the molecular origins of gynecologic cancers, as well as the identification and characterization of aberrations in oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in these cancers. His lab has a long history of determining the genomic characteristics of ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers and using the data to form the basis for early detection assays, prevention strategies, and novel therapies.