Upstate News

May 8, 2002
Doretta Royer 315 464-4833

Gene therapy innovator and pioneering breast cancer researcher will speak at SUNY Upstate Medical University Commencement May 19

W. French Anderson, M.D., known as the father of gene therapy, and C. Barber Mueller, M.D., a pioneer in the field of breast cancer research, will address degree candidates at SUNY Upstate Medical University’s 168th Commencement Sunday, May 19. Commencement for graduates of Upstate’s colleges of Medicine, Health Professions, Nursing and Graduate Studies will be held at 1 p.m. in the Crouse Hinds Theater of John H. Mulroy Civic Center. Anderson and Mueller will receive honorary doctor of science degrees from the State University Board of Trustees.

The College of Medicine will confer 150 medical degrees.

The College of Health Professions will award 73 degrees: one associate in applied science degree (A.A.S.), 32 bachelor of science degrees, nine bachelor of professional studies degrees (B.P.S.), and 31 combined bachelor/master of physical therapy degrees (M.P.T.).

The College of Graduate Studies will award nine doctoral degrees and two combined M.D./Ph.D. degrees.

The College of Nursing will award 25 bachelor’s degrees (B.S.N.) and 30 master’s degrees.

Anderson, director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories and professor of biochemistry and pediatrics at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, is heralded as the father of gene therapy having led the team in 1990 that carried out the first approved gene therapy clinical protocol. Recognized as an innovator in the area of human gene transfer and a leading ethicist in human genetic engineering, Anderson is a member of the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and program coordinator for gene therapy in the Institute of Genetic Medicine.

Anderson’s present research is the development of advanced gene therapy delivery systems, hopefully leading to the design of virus based vectors (organisms that transmit a disease) that can be injected directly into patients in order to accomplish gene transfer. This delivery system would be directly applicable to a wide range of human diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, AIDS and genetic diseases. The work continues his earlier research that led to the first approved human gene therapy trial in 1990.
Anderson has also served as chief of the molecular hematology branch at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

Mueller, professor emeritus of surgery at McMaster University in Canada, is an accomplished educator and surgeon whose scholarly work, more than 125 publications, has been largely in the area of the identification and treatment of breast cancer and renal disease.

In his 1995 study, “Screening mammography and public health policy: the need for perspective,” published in the Canadian medical journal Lancet, Mueller and a coauthor pointedly questioned the benefit of widespread mammography screening as the answer to breast cancer prevention. Their conclusion, that public funding for breast cancer screening may not be justifiable, touched off a storm of protest from mammography supporters.

He wrote: “Although politically attractive, the benefits of mass population screening, even in older women, are too small and the harm and cost generated too great to justify widespread implementation of screening mammography as a publicly funded health measure.” He said studies that claim benefits of widespread mammography screening fail to address the following facts: that “a) a great majority of ‘positive’ screenings are false positive; b) screenings leads to many unnecessary investigations and useless surgery; c) a ‘negative’ screening result does not means the absence of breast cancer; and d) in the large majority of women whose breast cancer is diagnosed by screening the outcome is unchanged. “For women the only ‘benefit’ is extra time spent with the knowledge that they have the disease,” he concluded.

Mueller served as professor and chair of the SUNY Upstate’s Department of Surgery from 1956 to 1967, developing it into a full-time academic department. While at SUNY Upstate he developed a residency training program, improved the education of medical students and substantially upgraded the practice of surgery in this region.

Mueller has received numerous honors, including awards for Distinguished Service from the Association for Academic Surgery and the American College of Surgeons.

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