April 21, 2014:

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

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.

— Reposted with permission from the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium creates a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to treatment-changing paradigms. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in student-athletes’ lives and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions provide in excess of $141 million in direct financial aid to more than 8,200 student-athletes playing on more than 300 teams in 43 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 26 official conference sports, 13 for men and 13 for women, and will add men’s and women’s lacrosse as the 27th and 28th official sports for the 2014-15 academic year. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.