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UCI's Dr. Susan M. O'Brien named Giant of Cancer Care

Friday, December 04, 2020

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Dr. Susan M. O’Brien, the UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s associate director for clinical research, has been named a Giant of Cancer Care® for her sustained contributions in the field of leukemia. 

O’Brien was one of 15 international pioneers in cancer research and care to be honored during the Nov. 5 awards program ceremony, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the eighth consecutive year the program has recognized the physician-scientists whose work has propelled the field of oncology across the spectrum of cancer types and created pathways for future breakthroughs. This year’s awardees bring to 113 the total number of Giants of Cancer Care honorees.

“It is fair to say that Susan is one of the top leukemia doctors in the world today,” said Dr. Hagop M. Kantarjian, chair of the leukemia department at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a 2014 recipient of the Giant award.

“Over the years, she has done outstanding work in acute lymphocytic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia” that has led to improvements in the cure rates for both diseases, Kantarjian said.

O’Brien and fellow inductees were selected by more than 120 of the world’s preeminent oncologists for the recognition program, which was created by OncLive®, a digital information platform of medical media company MJH Life Sciences. Nominees are considered based on their body of work, including clinical impact, significant contributions in their field, and overall accomplishments.

View the "Giants of Cancer Care" ceremony.

O’Brien, an internationally recognized leader in the research of treatments for both chronic and acute leukemias, is a pioneer of several important therapies now regarded as the standard of care for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

She has served as the principal investigator for more than 40 funded clinical protocols. She led the initial clinical research into ibrutinib (Imbruvica) for patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and continues research into the Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitor in patients with CLL and small lymphocytic lymphoma.

As medical director of the cancer center’s Sue and Ralph Stern Center for Cancer Clinical Trials and Research, O’Brien is a leader in the push to launch more early-phase and investigator-initiated clinical studies. She also is also a professor in the UCI School of Medicine’s Division of Hematology/Oncology.

The author of more than 900 articles in peer-reviewed journals, numerous book chapters, and abstracts, she is also a past chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines panel on chronic myeloid leukemia.

In accepting her award, O’Brien told virtual attendees that she considered it an exceptional honor because it is voted upon by fellow cancer specialists, including past honorees such as Kantajarian, a longtime mentor. 

“To join these people is very humbling, because I consider them giants,” she said.

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