URMC Names Yuhchyau Chen, M.D., Ph.D.Chair of Department of Radiation Oncology

January 19, 2012

Yuhchyau Chen, M.D., Ph.D., has been named chair and Philip Rubin Professor of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Chen has been serving as acting chair of the department since December 2009. Her formal appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2012, pending approval of the University Board of Trustees.

“We are extremely pleased to have Yuhchyau Chen take a permanent leadership role within our oncology program,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “She has a wonderful reputation as a superb clinician, has demonstrated great success in building rapport and cultivating donors, and is recognized among her colleagues for her collaborative spirit. We are also encouraged by her success to date in research and her firm commitment to continue to build upon our rich tradition of innovation and excellence in the laboratory.”

A member of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center’s Radiation Oncology team for the past 17 years, Chen was selected following a thorough, nationwide search of candidates. 

 “As we progressed through a lengthy and exhaustive review of a pool of highly qualified candidates, it became increasingly clear to our committee that Dr. Chen was the right choice to lead the department,” said David L. Waldman, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Imaging Sciences at URMC. “Her skills as a clinician, combined with her intense focus and growing accomplishments in research bring a sense of balance that will serve the Wilmot Cancer Center and its patients well.”

A highly respected and accomplished clinician with expertise in lung and head and neck cancers, Chen was honored last year by a grateful patient after successfully treating his Stage 4 throat cancer. The Richard T. Bell Endowed Professorship, established with a gift of $1.5 million, will be used to support research activities in cancer and radiation oncology. Chen hopes to use a portion of those funds to recruit an associate chair of research in the department.

Chen has an extensive history in clinical and translational research, with a focus on radiosensitization, radiation biomarkers and radiation effects on normal tissue. She pioneered the schedule-dependent, pulsed paclitaxel radiosensitizing chemoradiation treatment, a lower toxicity option for inoperable lung cancer and was the first to discover the inflammatory cytokines Interleukin 6 and Interleukin, cell-signaling protein molecules, as indicators of radiation lung injury in post-treatment cancer patients. 

Chen was also a project leader of a five-year, NIH/NIAID center grant to conduct research on radiation bone marrow genotoxicity. That research led to a federal contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop drugs to treat radiation-induced bone marrow injury.

Results from the BARDA research has subsequently led to developing projects for agents in improving stem cell transplant outcomes. In collaboration with colleagues in the Stem Cell Transplantation program at the Wilmot Cancer Center, she has recently received approval for two study concepts that amount to an estimated $ 8.3 million to fund clinical research on an investigational agent targeted to improve the recovery of patients undergoing stem cell transplantation. She remains active in her interests in translational drug development in radiosensitization, radioprotection, and in experimental therapeutics for radiation injury.

“To be the chair and the named Philip Rubin Professor is both humbling and challenging,” said Chen.  Philip Rubin, M.D., was the first chair of Radiation Oncology at the medical center and a giant in the field of clinical oncology and radiation pathology.  He was a national leader and pioneer in the study of radiation normal tissue effects and led the department for 38 years. 

“It’s an honor and privilege to have been selected to lead Radiation Oncology at the Wilmot Cancer Center,” she continued. “The University of Rochester Department of Radiation Oncology is internationally recognized for its clinical and scientific discoveries relating to tumor eradication and the pathogenesis of normal tissue damage by radiation and, in the past decade, has pioneered the use of stereotactic body radiosurgery for the treatment of oligometastasis,” said Chen, citing a technological advancement and concept by former Chair Paul Okunieff, M.D.. “The department includes many talented clinical faculty and research scientists. The national interest in this position is indicative of the outstanding expertise within our institution, and the tremendous potential for truly transformational research and medicine taking place at URMC.”

Moving forward, one of Chen’s early goals is to initiate steps to further advance its scientific missions by conducting strategic retreats with the Wilmot Cancer Center’s scientists, and to identify and implement steps towards further expansion of research capabilities and scope.

“We are fortunate to have an individual of Yuhchyau Chen’s caliber to lead the Department of Radiation Oncology,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center. “Her ongoing collaboration with our medical oncologists epitomizes the model of multidisciplinary care which has become our hallmark, and which is practiced by the leading cancer centers in the country.”

After earning a bachelor of science degree from the highly prestigious National Taiwan University, Chen received the doctor of philosophy degree in experimental pathology from the University of Washington, where she also earned her medical degree. She subsequently completed an internship in Internal Medicine at Virginia Mason Hospital, in Seattle, before concurrently completing residency and fellowship requirements at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard University School of Medicine in Boston. She joined URMC in 1995, when she was appointed as assistant professor of Radiation Oncology.

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