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Dr. Jack A. Roth is a physician-scientist who has been active in clinical and laboratory investigations in thoracic oncology for over 40 years. Dr. Roth is one of the nation’s premier thoracic surgeons and a leader in the development and application of advanced molecular biology techniques for the treatment of lung cancer. During his tenure at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Roth spearheaded the development of multidisciplinary treatments for both lung and esophageal cancer and was the principal investigator of the first randomized trial showing survival benefit with neoadjuvant chemotherapy in stage IIIA operable lung cancer.

Roth earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1967 and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1971. He completed a postgraduate research fellowship, as well as residencies in general surgery and thoracic surgery, at the University of California at Los Angeles. He was a senior investigator and head of the Thoracic Oncology Section in the National Cancer Institute’s Surgery Branch before joining MD Anderson in 1986 as professor and chair of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He holds the Bud S. Johnson Clinical Distinguished Chair and is section chief of Thoracic Molecular Oncology. He serves as founding director of the W. M. Keck Center for Innovative Cancer Therapies and holds academic appointments in MD Anderson’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology and the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

Among his landmark achievements, Dr. Roth was principal investigator for the first tumor suppressor gene therapy clinical trials approved by the National Institutes of Health Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Approval for those historic protocols was based on his demonstrating feasibility and efficacy through laboratory and preclinical studies. Dr. Roth and colleagues developed retroviral and adenoviral vectors expressing the p53 tumor suppressor gene and completed the first clinical trials for these agents in lung cancer patients. Adenovirus p53 became the first gene therapy approved for human use. His team showed that restoration of function for a single tumor suppressor gene could mediate regression of human cancers in vivo; helped identify and characterize a number of novel tumor suppressor genes on chromosome 3, and found that systemic delivery of tumor suppressor genes using a nanoparticle vector could effectively treat disseminated human lung cancer in animal models. These observations led Dr. Roth and colleagues to initiate the first clinical trial using nanoparticles to deliver genes systemically. His research was the first to show synergy between gene therapy and targeted small molecule drugs, leading to the world’s first clinical trial testing the combination of gene therapy and targeted therapy in lung cancer patients.

In addition to being an international leader in developing gene therapy for lung and other cancers, he has trained and mentored a new generation of outstanding surgical oncologists and laboratory researchers who are applying his philosophy of excellence throughout the world.

Numerous major grants supporting Dr. Roth’s translational research include an NCI Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) Grant in lung cancer, the first awarded to an MD Anderson investigator that is shared by faculty at MD Anderson and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The joint collaboration has twice been renewed. Dr. Roth was responsible for establishing the Keck Center for Innovative Cancer Therapies to serve as an institute without walls to coordinate novel therapy studies among MD Anderson investigators and has founded two biotechnology companies. He has contributed to more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed journals, nine books, 110 book chapters, and been awarded nearly 50 U.S. and foreign patents with another 50 pending.

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