Public Release: 

Transplant Pioneer Thomas E. Starzl Most Cited Researcher In Clinical Medicine Over Past 17 Years

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Five Others From University Of Pittsburgh Listed By The Institute For Scientific Information

PITTSBURGH, May 12 -- Transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., has had the most impact in clinical medicine in the past 17 years, according to a ranking of the number of times researchers' publications have been cited by others in the medical literature. Dr. Starzl, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, tops the list compiled by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) and published in the May/June issue of ScienceWatch.

According to ISI, the ranking is a measure of a researcher's influence and his work's utility in the field of clinical medicine. Between Jan. 1981 and June 1998, Dr. Starzl's publications were cited 26,456 times, about 4,000 more times than the second-ranked researcher, Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute. The ISI analysis included only those citations in clinical medicine journals.

ISI also examined citations in four main subfields: cardiology, oncology, surgery/transplantation and epidemiology. Dr. Starzl ranked first in the surgery/transplantation listing, and three other University of Pittsburgh researchers made this top-10 list as well. They are Shunzaburo Iwatsuki, M.D., professor of surgery at the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, ranked 3rd; Satoru Todo, M.D., now of Hokkaido University School of Medicine in Japan, ranked 4th; and Richard L. Simmons, M.D., professor of surgery and former chairman of the department of surgery, ranked 6th. The top-10 list also includes two others who have trained and worked under Dr. Starzl at the University of Pittsburgh.

Michael T. Lotze, M.D., professor of surgery and molecular genetics and biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute's Biological Therapeutics Program, was listed 10th in the oncology category.

Dr. Starzl performed the world's first liver transplant in 1963 and the world's first successful liver transplant in 1967, both while at the University of Colorado. He also was among the first to perform cadaveric kidney transplants. Since coming to the University of Pittsburgh in 1981, he has continued to advance the field considerably. His discovery in the early 1980s that the drug cocktail prednisone, azathioprine and cyclosporine could control organ rejection practically transformed the field overnight, making it more feasible to transplant livers, kidneys and hearts. In 1989, he and his team announced their development of an even more effective drug therapy to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. This drug, FK506 or tacrolimus, won U. S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 1994. In addition to the research and clinical advancements he has made with cross-species, cellular and multiple-organ transplantation, Dr. Starzl's more recent contributions to transplant science have significantly enhanced the understanding of transplant immunology, particularly with respect to how and why organs are accepted.

"Dr. Starzl is responsible for transplantation's transition from an experimental procedure to a viable treatment for patients with end-stage organ failure. There is no doubt that his early work is still widely recognized, and his current contributions are no less important. This ranking proves that he has laid the foundation for new discoveries in the field," said John J. Fung, M.D., Ph.D., the professor of surgery and chief of transplantation at the University of Pittsburgh's Starzl Transplant Institute.


The ISI, based in Philadelphia, regularly tracks trends and performance in basic research and maintains a comprehensive database of more than 16,000 international journals, books and proceedings. The names in the ISI ranking of the most cited researchers in clinical medicine include those who have earned at least 7,000 citations in clinical medicine journals. The ranking was according to total citations, based on papers published and cited in the journals of clinical medicine indexed since 1981.

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