U. W. Medicine

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Acclaimed oncologist seen
as 'LeBron'–like addition

Dr. Eric Holland and Dr. Larry Corey

In the spring, stakeholders at UW Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center celebrated the good fortune of recruiting acclaimed neurosurgeon Eric Holland from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“It’s like adding LeBron James to your lineup,” said Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, UW Medicine chair of neurological surgery. “He is a game-changer and patients will benefit by his presence.”

Dr. HollandThe more sustained benefit, though, stands to be realized by brain-cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.

“The plan is to recruit absolute leaders in the field, national and international, and get them all to converge on Seattle,” Holland said.

“It should change the way physicians who refer patients think about brain-tumor care. People in Montana now might think about MD Anderson or Duke, and we’re going to give them a better reason to stay in the Northwest.”

Holland specializes in gliomas, the most common adult brain cancer, and metastatic brain tumors. Over the past twelve years at Sloan-Kettering, he founded and directed the Brain Tumor Center, building one of the leading such programs in the country. His lab pioneered the identification of molecular pathways and targets central to brain cancer, which, in turn, gave rise to medications now in clinical trial.

“He’s one of those top-tier scientists whose original work has pushed the field forward,” Ellenbogen said.

Holland faces a considerable task, Ellenbogen added: aligning and making best use of the diverse groups exploring molecular therapeutics and precision diagnostics – and not only for neuro-oncology, but for all solid tumors.

He expects to be performing surgery for UW Medicine in the next six months, too, he said, as soon as his Washington state license arrives.

“I love doing surgery. It’s great to have the face-to-face interaction with the patients – and the immediate satisfaction of helping people,” Holland said.

“But if glioma surgery were all I did, I think I would get depressed. Although people tend to do very well right after surgery, the disease by its nature is a difficult one. Because of that, the best thing I can do is to continue to make research a big focus of what I do.”

Holland received his medical degree from Stanford University and his doctorate in molecular biology from the University of Chicago. He did his internship and neurosurgical residency at UCLA, and conducted research as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health and at Stanford. He was a faculty member at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center before moving to Sloan-Kettering. Holland is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ prestigious Institute of Medicine.

He and his family have just moved to Seattle, where he also looks forward to reconnecting with his brother, who works at Adobe.

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