Chapter 17: The Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging: Part of the Changing Institutional Vision of Cancer Care

Chapter 17: The Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging: Part of the Changing Institutional Vision of Cancer Care



Media is loading


After discussing some controversies over establishing CABI, Dr. Podoloff explains how CABI fits in with the visions of cancer care developed by MD Anderson’s presidents. He discusses how CABI fits in with Dr. John Mendelsohn’s view of the “cancer care cycle” and how a system of research centers could offer a comprehensive approach to cancer prevention and treatment (see image next page). He then talks about its relationship to Dr. Ronald DePinho’s approach to research and targeted therapy.



Publication Date



Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Building the Institution; Building/Transforming the Institution; Leadership; Industry Partnerships; Multi-disciplinary Approaches; Fiscal Realities in Healthcare; Institutional Mission and Values

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History


Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Interesting, interesting. I forgot to ask you. Was there any controversy about establishing CABI?

Donald A. Podoloff, MD

There’s always controversy when a new idea is started. It’s within the realm of human nature that people resist change.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

What were the discussions like?

Donald A. Podoloff, MD

Well, should we be in that business? Who’s going to pay for it? Do we need to have another research facility? Look at how busy we are with clinical care. Why don’t you just hire another 100 faculty instead of wasting all this money for this pie in the sky deal? That kind of stuff. But that happens no matter what you do. You form a new department here, and people will wonder why you have to do that. I mean it wasn’t serious controversy because the administration was in favor of this.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

I was remembering. I think the timing is right, because when I interviewed John Mendelsohn he talked about his vision of the interrelationship of all of the different institutes and his vision for the cancer care cycle. And this early detection was a really important piece of that global vision.

Diagram designed by Dr. John Mendelsohn, provided with his permission.

Donald A. Podoloff, MD

Yeah. It started with Dr. LeMaistre.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Oh, did it? OK.

Donald A. Podoloff, MD

Dr. LeMaistre was hissed at and booed because he said, “We’ve been treating cancer or trying to since the 1970s.” He got here in ’76. “It’s now 1996. Why don’t we start thinking about preventing it instead of curing it?” And there was a lot of people who were making their living on cancer drugs who didn’t like that. But no question about it. If you have to have cancer, get thyroid cancer and get it differentiated, because we can cure that. And the best thing is not to get cancer at all, prevent.

So anyhow, LeMaistre was very big on that. And I think John by the time he got here, because he had been through that phase of the cancer cycle, recognized that lumps and bumps are too late. We got to get it before. And he was very biochemical. He’s the inventor of Erbitux, which is one of the few drugs that has been taken out of a laboratory and commercialized. That doesn’t happen that often. It’s a rare event. I think six to eight percent of the drugs that are started ever make it clinically. And that’s part of the reason that they’re so damn expensive, because it’s high risk, high reward, but a lot of failure.

So anyhow, John had that vision and he was committed to CABI. And it’s a funny thing. If the president of the institution is committed to it, a lot of people will shut up and go along regardless of what they think. We didn’t have a battle. There are always discussions about do you really want to do that. Part of the reason that you have to do that in a place like this is we have to grow and change, because if we’re doing the same things ten years ago that we’re doing today, we’re not meeting our mission.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

How do you feel that CABI fits in with Dr. DePinho’s vision?

Donald A. Podoloff, MD

It’s an extension or it’s a vital part. What DePinho is talking about is what people refer to as big data. What Ron sees, apart from his Moon Shots, my understanding from my contacts with him, which are not extensive, but I’ve had a few, and they’ve all been good, is that if we understand the genomics and we understand the pathology and we understand the radiology of the disease, we’ll be able to personalize it and give the person a drug that will cure the cancer and not kill the body.

But it involves putting all of these things together. He’s recruited extraordinary people here. Jim Allison is probably on his way to a Nobel Prize because of his unleashing of the immune system. It’s a totally new way of treating cancer. DePinho himself, he has reversed aging in mice, that was his work at the Belfer Institute. The people who are now running cancer medicine, Patrick Hwu, who’s a melanoma specialist, he’s just done a—Dmitrovsky and the Piwnica-Wormses, husband and wife, these are outstanding recruits that will I think ultimately change the way cancer is managed in the United States and the world.

And it’s his vision that did that. He is very supportive of CABI. He’s the one who let us bleed $2 million a year away. He could have shut that down any time, but he never did. So I think we fit very nicely with both Mendelsohn’s vision and his.

Conditions Governing Access


Chapter 17: The Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging: Part of the Changing Institutional Vision of Cancer Care