Brian J. Druker, who also is a professor of medicine at OHSU, has set a goal to make Oregon’s death rate from cancer the nation’s lowest. Druker received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2010.
Committing to create a future without cancer
Early in his career, Druker thought there had to be a better way to treat cancer. He was inspired by his patients to develop a better treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which strikes about 5,000 people a year.
Druker identified a promising anti-cancer compound that killed CML cells by turning off the signal from the abnormal cancer-causing protein. From this, he developed a cancer drug more than 10 years ago that has revolutionized cancer research and treatment.
The drug, Gleevec, attacks the enzyme that causes overproduction of white blood cells in CML while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Gleevec has helped to boost the five-year survival rate of CML patients from 50 percent to nearly 90 percent.
Gleevec is now FDA-approved to treat seven different cancers.
“We are on the cusp of turning cancer into a manageable disease,” Druker says.
A Minnesota native, Druker earned a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree from the University of California, San Diego. He completed a residency at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and then completed an oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was an instructor at Harvard Medical School before joining OHSU in 1993.
Druker, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, has received numerous awards for his work, among them the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor and the Lasker-DeBakey Award for Clinical Medical Research, widely regarded as the most prestigious medical research award in the United States and often foreshadows future recognition by the Nobel Prize committee.