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Noted GI cancer expert named to chair

The first woman appointed as a Centers of Economic Excellence (CoEE) endowed chair is Melanie Thomas, M.D., a leading expert in gastrointestinal cancers, who will lead research in Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnostics at the Hollings Cancer Center (HCC).
Dr. Melanie Thomas

Thomas will hold the Grace E. DeWolff Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology at MUSC. This position initially was proposed by HCC and Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System under the leadership of Carolyn Reed, M.D., HCC associate director for medical affairs.
The highly-touted recruit came from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas where she worked in the Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology. Thomas will be an associate professor of medicine in MUSC’s Division of Hematology and Oncology.
“We are very excited that Dr. Thomas has decided to become a part of the CoEE program and our strong and growing research community in South Carolina,” said Paula Harper Bethea, CoEE Review Board chair. “The CoEE program is already impacting South Carolina’s economy and enhancing quality of life. Dr. Thomas’ work can have a positive impact on the health of our citizens and help South Carolina become a national leader in cancer research and clinical trials.”
In addition to her position as a CoEE endowed chair, Thomas will also serve as associate director of clinical investigations for HCC. In this role, she will expand HCC’s clinical trials portfolio across all tumor types and ensure that more cancer patients have access to high-quality clinical trials.
“There is tremendous energy focused on leveraging the talent and expertise available at MUSC and Hollings Cancer Center to become known as a strong regional and national center for cancer care and clinical cancer research,” Thomas said. “The talent, energy and dedication available at MUSC and Hollings Cancer Center are a big draw for me.” 
Through her chair, Thomas will lead research to help develop diagnosis, treatments and cures for gastrointestinal (GI) malignancies, or cancers, including those of the stomach, liver, pancreas, colon and elsewhere in the GI tract.
Specifically, research will include searching for new targets (proteins that play a role in the disease process and are the intended sites of drug activity) for GI cancer treatment, and identifying new ways to screen for GI cancer.
Thomas also will develop a clinical trials program for liver cancer and will work with others in developing a robust research portfolio and clinical trials in other GI cancers within the CoEE. Currently, she is the principal investigator for 17 clinical trials, several of which are international.
“Dr. Thomas is an active and accomplished teacher and mentor, a highly committed and talented physician and a scholar who is interested in translating basic molecular discoveries into clinical therapies,” said MUSC provost John Raymond, M.D., vice president for Academic Affairs.
Thomas received her medical degree from Boston University and completed her residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, also in Boston. In addition, she completed an oncology fellowship at M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston. She received a master’s degree in engineering from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Boston College.

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008
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