H. Richard Alexander, Jr., M.D., is the associate chairman for clinical research and a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, as well as a surgical oncologist at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. He cares deeply about providing the best possible medical care for his patients at the cancer center, but he is also very passionate about advancing the science -- bringing promising new therapies out of the laboratory into the clinic to benefit people battling cancer.
Throughout his career, Dr. Alexander, an internationally recognized cancer surgeon and researcher, has been instrumental in developing new techniques to treat patients with advanced cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the liver.
Recently, he helped lead a nationwide clinical study to test a new procedure to treat melanoma that has spread to the liver. The technique, which is called percutaneous hepatic perfusion, uses a specially designed system of catheters and filters to target tumors with a dose of chemotherapy that is 10 times stronger than patients could otherwise tolerate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now reviewing the study results and Dr. Alexander expects the treatment will become the standard of care for patients with advanced melanoma, who often die within months of learning that their cancer has spread. He also believes the technique can be used to treat patients with colon and other cancers that have attacked the liver.
In laboratory studies, Dr. Alexander and his colleagues also have gained significant insights into malignant peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare, but fatal, cancer in the abdomen for which there is no effective treatment. Using sophisticated molecular techniques, they discovered proteins that play a major role in the growth of the cancer. They also have identified compounds that stopped the cancer from growing in the lab and are planning a clinical trial to study the effectiveness of these compounds to treat patients with this cancer.
"Dr. Alexander is one of the most outstanding surgical oncologists in the country and a world-class researcher who is widely recognized for pioneering treatments for patients with advanced GI cancers and melanoma. We're very fortunate to have him on our team," says Kevin J. Cullen, M.D., director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
In addition to his research activities, Dr. Alexander has a very active clinical practice treating people with gastrointestinal and endocrine cancers. He is particularly skilled at performing a complicated surgery for pancreatic cancer known as the Whipple procedure. His patients applaud his expertise and appreciate his frank, honest manner. "It didn't take me long at all to bond with him. I liked him right away," says one of Dr. Alexander's patients. "You just feel confident that what he says is the right thing based on his experience."
Dr. Alexander came to the University of Maryland in 2005 after spending 16 years at the National Cancer Institute, where he served as deputy director of the NCI's Center for Cancer Research. He also served as chairman of the gastrointestinal malignancies section and chief of the surgical metabolism section.
He received his medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in general surgery at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and did a fellowship in surgical oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Dr. Alexander is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American Surgical Association and the Society of Surgical Oncology. He has written more than 200 journal articles and has lectured throughout the United States and the world. He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Annals of Surgical Oncology. He is a reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Annals of Surgery and Surgery.