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OHSU Dream Team researcher Joe Gray elected to Institute of Medicine

A renowned cancer researcher, Gray is one of 65 new members elected this year

Joe Gray, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University Knight Cancer Institute’s ‘Dream Team’ cancer researcher and chair of OHSU’s Biomedical Engineering Department, has been elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors a medical scientist can achieve.

Members of the Institute of Medicine are called upon to provide advice to the government as it strives to improve the nation’s health. They are elected by current active members through a highly selective process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the medical sciences, health care and public health. A branch of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues.

“Joe Gray’s research has already improved the lives of many cancer patients and it is leading us to the next cancer breakthrough,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. “His insights are certain to make an important contribution to the Institute of Medicine.”

Gray, who also serves as director of the OHSU Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine, is one of 65 new members and five foreign associates elected to the institute in conjunction with its recent 41st annual meeting.

“I am honored to be a part of the Institute of Medicine’s mission,” Gray said. “It is my goal to work in collaboration with other scientists to transform cancer into a disease that can be controlled so that patients and their families can go on with living full lives.”

A physicist and engineer by training, Gray gravitated to the biological sciences because of the diversity of questions yet to be answered in medicine.

He also had a personal motivation. When Gray’s father was stricken with lung cancer, he learned how few treatments there were for the disease. He hoped that by focusing on cancer research, he could “do work that would ultimately benefit mankind.”

Gray is known for his significant contributions in developing tests such as fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) that are transforming how treatments are selected for breast cancer patients.

Because of his work on the FISH test and many other accomplishments, the Stand Up To Cancer initiative selected him to co-lead the organization’s “Breast Cancer Dream Team,” which has been challenged to tackle some of the most ambitious cancer research conducted to date. As part of the ‘Dream Team,’ Gray and co-leader Dennis Slamon, M.D., Ph.D., of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, are exploring how to uncover the driving mechanisms that enable cancer cells to become resistant to treatments designed to kill them. With that knowledge, scientists expect to be able to develop more effective cancer drugs.

Gray also has played a central role in the Cancer Genome Atlas Project and is spearheading the use of computer models to predict how promising targeted therapies will work in attacking cancer cells as part of the National Cancer Institute Integrative Cancer Biology Program.

Gray joined OHSU in January from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The focus of his research for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute is using the latest advances in measurement science to determine how individual cancers function over time and in different anatomic locations. This knowledge will help build upon the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s pioneering role in developing personalized cancer therapies that target the cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy tissues.

“An important next phase of research will determine how normal and disease-linked molecular components are organized into cells, tissues and organs and how this information can be used to improve aspects of cancer management ranging from detection to treatment,” Gray said.

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