Dr. Zeljko Vujaskovic Is Recognized for His Longstanding Work in Hyperthermic Oncology
Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, an internationally recognized physician scientist and Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), will receive the 2016 J. Eugene Robinson Award at the annual Society for Thermal Medicine Meeting in New Orleans, held April 11 to 15. Dr. Vujaskovic, who is also Director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences in the UM SOM Department of Radiation Oncology, and Director of the Maryland Proton Alliance at UM SOM, will receive the award in recognition of his contributions to hyperthermic oncology, the use of heat to treat cancer. At the event, Dr. Vujaskovic will also present a lecture on the reemerging role of thermal therapy in cancer treatment.
The award, named for J. Eugene Robinson, a pioneer in hyperthermic research for 20 years, has its origins at the University of Maryland. Dr. Robinson, was chief of physics at UM SOM’s Department of Radiation Oncology starting in 1962 and was the first to use hyperthermia as an anti-cancer agent in the late 1960s. He then continued his investigations in various areas related to hyperthermia including thermal dose and time–temperature relationships. During his time at Maryland, he studied hyperthermia, and was an expert in the relationship between tissue temperature and the effects of radiation treatment. He also organized the first international conference on the use of hyperthermia in the treatment of malignancy. Now, 40 years after it first became available, thermal therapy is once again receiving increasing attention in oncology community.
“This is well-deserved recognition for Dr. Vujaskovic who has been a true pioneer in exploring new and innovative therapies for eradicating deadly cancers,” said William F. Regine, MD, FACR, FACRO, the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman Endowed Chairman and Professor of Radiation Oncology at UM SOM, as well as Executive Director of the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. “We are very fortunate to have him on our faculty, as he continues to develop future clinical care protocols, new novel therapies and leads our efforts to improve radiation treatments and the quality of life for cancer patients.”
For more than 30 years, Dr. Vujaskovic’s career has been defined by transdisciplinary research that bridges the gap between basic science and clinical research He joined the University of Maryland in 2012 from his previous position as professor, Director of the Normal Tissue Injury Laboratory and Director of the Clinical Hyperthermia Program at Duke University Medical Center. There, he led the clinical team as the only U.S. site participating in a multicenter Phase III trial establishing a new multimodality treatment regimen for high-risk soft tissue sarcoma, the results of which were published in Lancet Oncology.
Dr. Vujaskovic’s clinical and research work has focused on elucidating the mechanisms associated with radiation normal tissue injury, identifying potential biomarkers predicting individual patient risk for injury, and developing novel therapeutic interventions/strategies to prevent, mitigate, or treat radiation injury. In the field of radiotherapy and hyperthermia, Dr. Vujaskovic is recognized for being at the forefront of combining hyperthermia treatment with radiation and chemotherapy for a range of cancer patients.
He earned his MD degree from the University of Zagreb, Croatia, in 1985, and his PhD degree in radiation biology from Colorado State University in 1994. He began his academic career as an assistant professor in the Departments of Radiotherapy and Clinical Radiobiology at the University of Gröningen School of Medicine in The Netherlands. In 1999, he joined the Department of Radiation Oncology at Duke University, eventually becoming a full professor before joining UM SOM.
At UM SOM, Dr. Vujaskovic has continued to focus on hyperthermia. He established the new Division of Translational Radiation Sciences within the Department of Radiation Oncology. He also created one of the largest clinical thermal therapy services in the country. He recently assumed leadership of the Maryland Proton Alliance, a joint effort between UM SOM and the newly opened Maryland Proton Treatment Center in Baltimore.
In his new leadership roles at UM SOM, Dr. Vujaskovic is charged with advancing the Department’s translational and patient-centered research agenda as well as leading efforts at the new Maryland Proton Treatment Center to build public and private partnerships that will attract research funding and create new clinical and educational opportunities. In his current investigations, he is exploring the synergies between proton beam therapy and thermal therapy.
Over his career, Dr. Vujaskovic has published more than 150 articles and book chapters on radiation therapy, radiation normal tissue injury, and hyperthermia. He served as medical counselor for the Society of Thermal Medicine from 2006 through 2010, and as the group’s president in 2011. At Duke, he received the R. Wayne Rundles Award, which is presented to a Duke physician whose research has made an important contribution to the detection, treatment, or prevention of cancer. He is a member of many medical associations, including the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and serves as the president of the Society for Thermal Medicine.
“Dr. Vujaskovic is a highly accomplished physician-scientist who has brought outstanding leadership to his department and division,” said E. Albert Reece, Vice President, Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at UM SOM. “This award, which originated at here at the School of Medicine with Dr. Robinson, recognizes a new generation of innovative leaders at UM SOM like Dr. Vujaskovic who are continuing to place our Department of Radiation Oncology and our Greenebaum Cancer Center at the forefront of this exciting and dynamic field of medicine.”
About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
The University of Maryland School of Medicine, chartered in 1807 and as the first public medical school in the United States, continues today as an innovative leader in accelerating innovation and discovery in medicine. The School of Medicine is the founding school of the University of Maryland and is an integral part of the 12-campus University System of Maryland. Located on the University of Maryland’s Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine works closely with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide a research-intensive, academic and clinically based education. With 45 academic departments, centers, programs and institutes and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians and research scientists, along with more than $400 million in extramural funding, the School is regarded as one of the leading biomedical research institutions in the U.S. with top-tier faculty and programs in cancer, brain science, surgery and transplantation, trauma and emergency medicine, vaccine development and human genomics, among other centers of excellence. The School is not only concerned with the health of the citizens of Maryland and the nation, but also has a global presence, with research and treatment facilities in more than 35 countries around the world.