Feature Story | 5-Apr-2024

Virginia Tech professor named to American Society for Clinical Investigation

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute faculty member's contributions to cancer research underscore Virginia Tech's growing prominence in biomedical research

Virginia Tech

Christopher Hourigan, director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Cancer Research Center — D.C., will be inducted this week into the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) — a historic membership for a faculty member of Virginia Tech.

Hourigan, formerly a tenured senior investigator and chief of the Laboratory of Myeloid Malignancies at the National Institutes of Health, joined Virginia Tech on Monday, April 1, as a professor of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and director of the institute’s Cancer Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“Dr. Hourigan's induction into an esteemed medical honor society, with a legacy spanning over a century, marks a significant milestone for Virginia Tech,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the research institute and Virginia Tech's vice president for health sciences and technology. “This distinguished membership includes Nobel Prize and Lasker Award laureates and many other men and women representing the pinnacle of achievement. Dr. Hourigan’s inclusion honors Virginia Tech and enhances the university’s global standing.”

Friedlander said Virginia Tech has reached an important milestone on its path to becoming a comprehensive academic medicine enterprise that includes fundamental, translational, and clinical research excellence. 

“Dr. Hourigan’s innovative and persistent work to better understand and be able to offer the best and most individualized treatments to patients who have relapsing myeloid leukemia is at the very forefront of this important area of cancer research,” Friedlander said. “His work offers scientifically grounded hope in a very personalized way to individuals facing the specter of recurring disease.”

American Society for Clinical Investigation members must be physicians who have “accomplished meritorious original, creative, and independent investigations in clinical medicine” and who enjoy “unimpeachable moral standing in the medical profession.”

“ASCI is one of the nation’s oldest medical honor societies and one of the few that focuses on the special role of physician-scientists,” said Lee Learman, dean of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. “Dr. Hourigan is a perfect example. His extensive background as a renowned scientist and precision oncologist has enabled him to move discoveries from bench to bedside and back again, hastening the translation of new treatments into practice. We are thrilled that he has joined the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine as tenured faculty in conjunction with his primary faculty appointment with Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. By connecting with collaborators across Virginia Tech, the nation, and the world, I expect Dr. Hourigan will lead innovations that revolutionize our approach to cancer treatment.”

Hourigan started the Laboratory of Myeloid Malignancies in the intramural research program of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in 2012  to bring scientific, clinical, and technical expertise to bear on the challenging problem of measurable residual disease in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

“My membership in this medical honorary society is based on the efforts of my teams over the past 12 years to use the best scientific tools to understand and improve the practice of medicine,” Hourigan said. “As oncologists, we ask patients to make life-changing decisions, often based on limited information. We have focused on the specific example of patients who have been told they are in clinical remission after treatment for a highly fatal rare blood cancer and we have shown that it is possible to identify those with higher risk who could benefit from personalized therapy.”

Hourigan was nominated for membership by Benjamin Ebert, chair of the Department of Medical Oncology of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Ross Levine, a leukemia specialist and physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and senior vice president of translational research at Memorial Hospital.

“Dr. Hourigan rapidly established himself as a highly rigorous physician-scientist who has brought great scientific, clinical, and technical expertise to bear on the challenging problem of measurable residual disease in patients with acute myeloid leukemia,” said Ebert, who is the George P. Canellos, M.D., and Jean S. Canellos Professor of Medicine with Harvard Medical School and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Dr. Hourigan is unquestionably among the few investigators at the forefront of this field.”

Likewise, Levine said Hourigan is a noteworthy example of a physician-scientist, emphasizing Hourigan’s groundbreaking work on minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia has had a transformative impact on patient care and research.

“Chris is the quintessential physician-scientist, using clinical medicine as the basis to ask and investigate key scientific questions in the lab and then bringing that insight back to the clinic,” said Levine, who is focused on researching and treating blood and bone marrow cancers. “He is an exemplary scientist and clinician, and his use of genomics to ask and answer key questions with relevance to the scientific and clinical fields is world-class. His work is leading the field and changing how we monitor and treat AML patients.”

Hourigan was inducted on Friday, April 5, in Chicago.


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