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Leading gastrointestinal cancer expert joins IU Simon Cancer Center

Apr. 17, 2014

A leading gastrointestinal cancer expert has joined the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

Bert O'Neil

Bert O'Neil, M.D.

Bert Howard O'Neil, M.D., has been named the inaugural Joseph W. and Jackie J. Cusick Professor of Oncology and a professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine. He is also the Phase I director and director of the gastrointestinal cancer research program at the IU Simon Cancer Center, and he will represent the  cancer center on the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium steering committee.

As the Phase I director, Dr. O'Neil will oversee clinical trials that are the necessary first step in testing a new cancer treatment in patients. Phase I studies test the best way to give a new treatment (for example, by mouth, intravenous infusion or injection) and the best dose.

Although Dr. O'Neil will oversee the program for all areas of cancer treatment, his area of expertise is in gastrointestinal cancers, with a particular concentration on pancreas, colorectal and hepatocellular carcinomas, a type of liver tumor. He has considerable expertise in targeting new drugs to specific molecular targets on tumors. This therapeutic individualization, in which treatments are tailored to individual patients and their cancer’s unique “fingerprint,” is one of the most promising areas of cancer research.

"Finding new and better agents to treat cancer, particularly gastrointestinal cancers, is a major focus of the IU Simon Cancer Center," said Patrick J. Loehrer, director of the IU Simon Cancer Center and associate dean for cancer research and H. H. Gregg Professor of Oncology at the IU School of Medicine. "There is no one that I know in the country who is better suited for this role than Dr. O'Neil. He is the complete package as he’s both smart and dedicated."

Dr. O'Neil was most recently an associate professor of medicine and director of the gastrointestinal malignancies research program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also was the medical director of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s clinical protocol office where he designed and conducted clinical and translational studies.

He is a member of the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He is also a section reviewer for the journal Gastrointestinal Malignancies and an ad hoc reviewer for the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Cancer, Oncology, Lancet Oncology, Gastroenterology, American Journal of Oncology and the Annals of Oncology, among others. He presents regularly at national scientific meetings.

Dr. O'Neil earned his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and he completed his internal medicine residency and fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of California, San Francisco.

The Cusick professorship was established by Jackie J. Cusick in memory of her husband Joseph, who co-founded, co-owned and co-operated NCA Group, who was instrumental in building New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fishers, Ind., and who was interested in advancing educational opportunities.

It is the intent of the donor that the holder of the Cusick Professorship be involved in clinical or basic science research aimed at enhancing treatment for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.

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