MD Anderson Brain Metastasis Expert to Lead UC Molecular Therapeutics Program’s Scientific Advisory Board

CINCINNATI - Isaiah Fidler, DVM, PhD, one of the world’s leading experts in brain metastasis, has been recruited to head the University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Molecular Therapeutics Program’s new Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr. Fidler is the Distinguished Chair in Cell Biology and Head of the Metastasis Research Laboratory in the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He will serve as an external advisor to the Molecular Therapeutics Program, which was established in March 2011 with a $2 million gift from the Harold C. Schott Foundation and an additional $4.5 million in funding from UC. The Molecular Therapeutics Program is a collaboration between the UC Cancer Institute and the UC Neuroscience Institute and is a close affiliate of the Mayfield Clinic.

Dr. Fidler will be on the UC Academic Health Center campus Nov. 2-3 to lecture about brain metastasis, to evaluate grant presentations by UC researchers, and to offer insight into future research strategies and recruitments.

“Dr. Fidler is likely the world’s No. 1 expert on metastasis,” said Olivier Rixe, MD, PhD, Director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and Professor of Medicine in UC’s Division of Hematology-Oncology. “In the 1980s he discovered all the key mechanisms to explain how a primary tumor can metastasize to another organ. More recently, he has focused on brain metastasis and has put forth explanations for why brain metastases are more difficult to treat and how they develop drug resistance.”

“We are fortunate to have Dr. Fidler visit to help us set our new Molecular Therapeutics Program on the right path,” said George Atweh, MD, Director of the UC Cancer Institute and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology. “We look forward to interacting with him and using his expertise to bring our program to the next level.

“In addition to establishing the Scientific Advisory Board,” Dr. Atweh continued, “we are in the process of recruiting three new scientists who will focus their research on brain metastasis to complement the existing strengths in our institution in this field of research.”

Each year more than 170,000 Americans experience brain metastasis, the spread of cancer from its point of origin to the brain, according to the National Cancer Institute. The UC-based Molecular Therapeutics Program, which is dedicated exclusively to tackling the growing problem of brain metastasis, is believed to be the first comprehensive brain metastasis-specific translational research program in the United States. Translational research is the process of converting laboratory research into therapies that can benefit human beings.

Specifically, the Molecular Therapeutics Program seeks to translate laboratory findings about brain metastasis into original clinical trials for patients whose tumors have metastasized to the brain from tumors of the breast, lung, colon or skin (melanoma).

“By asking prominent researchers like Dr. Fidler to become external advisors who evaluate and sometimes guide our research, we hope to accelerate our efforts and improve our ability to help patients who suffer brain metastasis,” said Ronald E. Warnick, MD, Medical Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center and Chairman of the Mayfield Clinic.

Other members of the Scientific Advisory Board are:

  • Drs. Atweh, Rixe and Warnick
  • John Breneman, MD, Associate Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center and the Charles M. Barrett Professor of Radiation Oncology
  • Jean-Yves Blay, MD, PhD, President, European Organisation for Research & Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
  • L. Thomas Hiltz, Trustee, the Harold C. Schott Foundation
  • Roger Stupp, MD, Vice President, European Organisation for Research & Treatment of Cancer (EORTC)
  • Bin Tean Teh, MD, PhD, Professor of the Center for Cancer Genomics and Computational Biology at the Van Andel Institute, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director, UC Neuroscience Institute and Mayfield Clinic neurosurgeon
  • George Thomas, PhD, Scientific Director of UC’s Metabolic Disease Institute and the John and Gladys Strauss Professor in Cancer Research

Dr. Fidler, a native of Jerusalem, chaired the Department of Cancer Biology at MD Anderson from 1983 to 2008. Prior to joining MD Anderson he served as head of the Biology of Metastasis Section at the National Cancer Institute’s Frederick Cancer Research Facility in Maryland. He earned his doctorate in human pathology at the University of Pennsylvania.

He has authored or co-authored more than 795 scientific publications and has won numerous national and international awards, including the World Health Organization Medal for Biological Science, the American Cancer Society Distinguished Service Award, and the Nature Publishing Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Fidler is the creator of the “seed and soil hypothesis”

“You need a perfect seed in a perfect soil to develop metastasis,” Dr. Rixe explained. “The cancer cells are important, but the micro-environment of the surrounding tissues is also important to the development of metastasis, and especially brain metastasis. It turns out that the micro-environment in the brain is different from that of other organs.”

The difference, Dr. Fidler has hypothesized, can be attributed to cells – astrocytes -- that exist only in the brain and that play a critical role in brain metastasis. Like double-agents in a spy novel, these astrocytes communicate with the enemy cancer cells and then turn against their homeland (the brain) by making the enemy cells resistant to chemotherapy.

“When these astrocytes in the brain’s micro-environment interact with the metastatic cells, they can cause the metastatic cells to become drug resistant,” Dr. Rixe said. “They induce something bad for the patient. This is a new hypothesis. The tumor blood brain barrier, quite possibly, does not exist.”

During his visit to UC, Dr. Fidler will present the inaugural scientific lecture for the UC Brain Tumor Molecular Therapeutics Program. The presentation, titled, "The Biology and Therapy of Brain Metastasis: Targeting the Astrocytes," will take place at 12 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, in the Medical Sciences Building, Room 4051, on the UC Academic Health Center campus.


The Mayfield Clinic is recognized as one of the nation's leading physician organizations for clinical care, education, and research of the spine and brain. Supported by 21 neurosurgeons, six neurointensivists, an interventional radiologist, six physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, and a pain specialist, the Clinic treats 25,000 patients from 35 states and 13 countries in a typical year. Mayfield's physicians have pioneered surgical procedures and instrumentation that have revolutionized the medical art of neurosurgery for brain tumors and neurovascular diseases and disorders.

Isaiah Fidler, DVM, PhD

Isaiah Fidler, DVM, PhD


October 27, 2011

Cliff Peale
Communications Department