Dennis Joseph Slamon (born August 8, 1948), is an American oncologist and chief of the division of Hematology-Oncology at UCLA. He is best known for his work identifying the HER2/neu oncogene that is amplified in 25-33% of breast cancer patients and the resulting treatment Herceptin.
Slamon is the son of a West Virginia coal miner. He attended Washington & Jefferson College for its pre-med program.
He currently serves as director of Clinical/Translational Research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and as director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program at JCCC. He is a professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and executive vice chair for research for UCLA's Department of Medicine. Slamon also serves as director of the medical advisory board for the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, a fund-raising organization that promotes advances in colorectal cancer.
In 1986 Axel Ulirich, a german scientist working at Genentec, first discovered the Her-2 protein and gave a conference about it in which Slamon was present and afterwards Slamon proposed to work together, since he suspected that a mutation in Her-2 might cause cancer, eventually they found a kind of aggressive breast cancer with a mutation in the gen responsible for the Her-2 protein and started working on producing an antibody to block that protein, hoping to create a new breast cancer treatment, however Genentec had serious administrative conflicts regarding the direction of their research at the time and they refused to found their research, with Ullrich leaving the company. Despite not working at Genentec Slamon kept insisting, which lead to him being known and disliked among the staff, but eventually he convinced a group of Genentec scientistsand got funds to do a small study, which proved the efficacy of the Her-2 antibody in fighting breast cancer which convinced Genentec to launch a full scale research and development effort, which concluded in the creating of new more effective breast cancer treatments.
For 12 years, Dr. Slamon and his colleagues conducted the laboratory and clinical research that led to the development of the new breast cancer drug Herceptin, which targets a specific genetic alteration found in about 25 percent of breast cancer patients. To acknowledge Slamon's accomplishments, President Bill Clinton appointed Slamon to the three-member President's Cancer Panel in June 2000.
A 1975 honors graduate of the University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine, Slamon earned his Ph.D. in cell biology that same year. He completed his internship and residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics, becoming chief resident in 1978. One year later, he became a fellow in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at UCLA, Los Angeles.
His life and research was the template for the plot of the film Living Proof (2008), starring Harry Connick, Jr..
Slamon and his colleagues set out to find ways to target their treatments. They took breast cancer cells and mimicked what was happening in their patients, looking at genetic alterations in the genes that regulate growth. One of them was a gene called HER-2, human epidermal growth factor receptor No. 2. The researchers saw that women who had the HER-2 alteration weren't doing as well because they had a more aggressive tumor. That made it a logical target. Slamon's group found that when they added an antibody to the receptor that the gene made when it mutated, the tumor growth rate dropped dramatically. The process of identifying the target and validating it in the laboratory worked not just for breast cancer, but for other major malignancies, he said. The UCLA researchers developed models for several cancers, seeing which antibodies worked and which didn't.2007 Gairdner Foundation International Award
2002 Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine