Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD: Director, University of Colorado Cancer Center (effective 7.1.10) Professor of Surgery and Pharmacology, University of Colorado School of Medicine Paul Bunn Chair of Cancer Research Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, will become director of the University of Colorado Cancer Center on July 1, 2010. A prostate and bladder cancer surgeon and scientist, he is leaving his post as director of the Mellon Urologic Cancer Institute at the University of Virginia.
C3: Why did you want to become director of a NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center?
Theodorescu: When I was 11, I somewhat naively got it in my head that I wanted to be a doctor and do cancer research. This was triggered by seeing my favorite aunt struggle with and then die of cancer, a problem that I have sought to address since then.
After practicing medicine and doing translational cancer research, it became obvious to me that I wanted to make a contribution in building programs and providing the vision to expand the impact of cancer care through research beyond what my lab could do.
By directing an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, I can contribute broadly in a way I’ve not been able to before.
C3: What made you want to lead CU Cancer Center specifically?
Theodorescu: I am so impressed by the collaborative nature of CU Cancer Center’s members and leaders. It’s a culture that many centers strive for but is often tricky to achieve.
Also, Colorado has world-class basic research, innovative clinical research, robust clinical volume and an enlightened senior administrative leadership at the University of Colorado and University of Colorado Hospital.
I am excited about the entire enterprise. I hope to bring these entities into closer synchrony to achieve the tremendous synergies I see possible for program development and fundraising, with the ultimate goal of impacting the care of patients.
C3: What is your vision for CU Cancer Center?
Theodorescu: If we leverage the unique collaborative spirit of our members across Colorado, with the Anschutz Medical Campus and UC Denver’s Clinical and Translational Science Award program, we will create an integrated cancer care and research enterprise.
This enterprise will allow us to create ground-breaking models for the nation in patient service, translational research from cell to bedside, teaching and outreach to the community.
I believe when we implement these models, we will gain significant local and regional clinical recognition, and the research and clinical breakthroughs will make CU Cancer Center a top 20 cancer center as assessed by peer recognition of excellence. We want to be the “go-to” place for all patients with cancer in Colorado and adjacent states.
C3: What are your top priorities?
Theodorescu: I want to help CU Cancer Center continue to develop national and international leadership in several areas:
- personalized care delivery, including using markers and imaging to find the best treatment for each patient and doing population risk assessment for specific treatments
- discovery and delivery of new cancer drugs and predicting therapeutic response of those drugs
- regenerative medicine and stem cell biology.
I would like to focus specifically on developing world-class research and care delivery in a few common cancer types and helping build CU Cancer Center’s status as a regional referral center for cancer care in Colorado and the surrounding states.
Finally, I would like to continue training and nurturing the next generation of translational cancer scientists and physicians for the 21st century.
C3: What are the first steps you’ll be taking toward those ends?
Theodorescu: During the first year, we’ll develop a strategic plan with one-, two- and five-year metrics of success and recruit faculty to support the plan.
C3: What challenges do you see for CU Cancer Center in the next five years?
Theodorescu: One critical challenge is the state funding situation.
CU Cancer Center gets no direct funding from the State of Colorado. We must help the Colorado Legislature and governor’s office understand that financial support of CU Cancer Center leads to both health benefits and tremendous economic benefits to the citizens of Colorado.
For every state dollar spent on cancer in Colorado, much more is returned in the form of care and economic benefits to the state. Investing in cancer is right thing to do for the physical health of our citizens and the financial health of our state.
C3: What personal qualities do you think will be put to the test in your first year?
Theodorescu: We have almost 450 members doing cancer research and care in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, and about 200 staff members on the Anschutz Medical Campus. I take pride in my ability to pull people together and make them feel like winners while pulling for a common goal and vision.
C3: How will you split your time between leading CU Cancer Center, conducting your own research and taking care of patients?
Theodorescu: My first objective and responsibility is to formulate and direct CU Cancer Center’s programmatic and strategic vision. I am moving my lab to Colorado, and I intend to grow my own research program and collaborate to develop program projects and other large multidisciplinary projects with our members.
In Virginia, I spend 40 to 50 percent of my time operating on cancer patients. In Colorado, I will limit my clinical practice to bladder cancer at University of Colorado Hospital.