A Conversation with Cancer Leader
Eric Holland, M.D., Ph.D.

Photo courtesy of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Recently recruited from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center (MSKCC) in New York, brain tumor researcher and neurosurgeon Eric Holland will fulfill a number of functions at UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He’s the director of the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at
UW Medicine, the director of the Human Biology Division and senior vice president at the Hutch, and the head of Solid Tumor Translational Research, which spans both institutions. He’s also the Chap and Eve Alvord and Elias Alvord Chair in Neuro-oncology in Honor of Dr. and Mrs. Ellsworth C. Alvord, Jr.
We spoke to him as he was packing up his lab in New York.

About building a brain tumor center at Sloan-Kettering.
When Holland arrived at Sloan-Kettering, he found a great clinical brain cancer program — but no organized and collaborative research program. He changed all that. With the creation of the Brain Tumor Center at MKSKCC, annual brain cancer funding from the National Institutes of Health more than quadrupled, totaling approximately $10 to $15 million a year. “Now it’s clearly one of the top five brain tumor programs in the country,” Holland says.

Why join UW Medicine and the Hutch?
“Everyone is aware of where the strong programs are on the West Coast, and the University of Washington is one of the top places, as is the Hutch. That’s ultimately why I ended up coming to Seattle,” says Holland.

Using data to defeat brain cancer in Seattle.
UW Medicine’s Department of Neurological Surgery has amassed an impressive collection of brain tumor samples. “It could well be the largest one in the country,” Holland says. He and his colleagues are searching for funding to create a tumor database, linking a tumor’s molecular profile with a patient’s treatments and outcomes. This data will provide physicians a detailed look at which treatments were most successful with which tumors, allowing them to compare a new patient’s tumor with previously collected samples to provide more personalized, focused care. “The database will certainly make UW a magnet for people with the disease,” says Holland.

Big goals for the first year.
“What brought me here was the opportunity to build, organize and make it a better place than it was before,” Holland says. First, he wants to make it easier for patients to access services related to solid tumors. He wants to recruit faculty in disciplines such as neuropathology and radiation oncology for brain tumors. And Holland intends to increase efficiencies in brain tumor research at the Alvord Center and in the Hutch’s Human Biology Division.

Cleaning up the lab.
When we spoke, Dr. Holland was back in New York, cleaning out his old lab — including a multitude of slides from post-docs who worked with him and his colleagues over the years. “I was able to reminisce over every post-doc as I emptied their box,” he says.

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