Remembering Hopkins' Martin D. Abeloff, MD, scientist, educator, leader

October 1, 2007

Martin D. Abeloff, MD, the chief oncologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center for the past 15 years, died September 14, 2007, of leukemia.

BALTIMORE—Martin D. Abeloff, MD, the chief oncologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center for the past 15 years, died September 14, 2007, of leukemia.

Dr. Abeloff, 65, an international authority on the treatment of breast cancer, was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Oncology NEWS International in 1992 and served as co-Editor-in-Chief of ONI's sister publication ONCOLOGY since 1999. Through these years, Dr. Abeloff was integral to building and maintaining the quality and integrity of these publications, and continued to advise, contribute to, and read both publications during his illness despite ongoing therapy.

The editorial and publishing staff of both publications offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences to Dr. Abeloff's family and to his many colleagues and friends at the Kimmel Cancer Center, and in the oncology community. To Dr. Abeloff, we offer our deepest gratitude for his service along with our utmost and eternal respect.

The iconic Hopkins physician

Dr. Abeloff is remembered by his colleagues and friends across the globe for his characteristic humility, wry sense of humor, and extraordinary devotion to his patients, students, and the collaborative spirit he nurtured in his long tenure at Johns Hopkins.

"Marty was that iconic Hopkins physician, scientist, educator, leader, and good citizen rolled into one," said Edward D. Miller, MD, Dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "He was there for his patients, his residents and fellows, his colleagues, and at so many challenging times, the institution he graced for so long."

Andrew D. Seidman, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who worked with Dr. Abeloff on the ONI and ONCOLOGY editorial boards, among other forums, said that "all the interactions I have had with him over the years confirm my impression that the phrase 'giant in medical oncology' did not simply reflect his physical stature. He was a visionary leader and a straight-shooter. While those at Johns Hopkins will no doubt feel his absence most acutely, so will the larger oncology community."

Friend and Hopkins colleague Stephen Baylin, MD, Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor of Oncology and Medicine, and deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, described Dr. Abeloff as the ultimate role model. "What he didn't know, he took the time to learn. And with a combination of qualities best summarized as wisdom, he helped transform both the treatment of cancer and the way that Johns Hopkins delivers that care. These are his legacies," Dr. Baylin said.

During his 15-year tenure as Cancer Center director, Dr. Abeloff doubled the size of the center's faculty, increased research funding sixfold, and saw it consistently ranked among the nation's top three cancer centers in US News & World Report surveys.

Born in Pennsylvania

Martin David Abeloff was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. He received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1966. After residency and fellowship training in Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and Tufts-New England Medical Center, he returned to Johns Hopkins for an oncology fellowship. He joined the Hopkins oncology faculty in 1972, focusing on lung and breast cancer research, then headed the medical oncology department before directing the entire cancer center.

Dr. Abeloff served as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and chairman of the FDA Oncology Drugs Advisory Committee.

He is survived by his wife, Diane, a medical illustrator; daughters Elisa Abeloff and her husband George Landau, and Jennifer Abeloff and her husband Howard Wasserman; three grandchildren; and his sister and brother-in-law Marilyn and Morrell Fox.

Donations in his memory may be sent to the Martin D. Abeloff, MD, Scholars Program in Cancer Prevention and Control at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Suite 234, 100 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201.

Tributes and sympathy notes may be sent to kpr@jhmi.edu for posting on the Kimmel Cancer Center website at www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org.