December 7 is generally a day of somber reflection across the U.S., when we remember the attack on Pearl Harbor that pushed the country into World War II. This year, we at University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC CancerCenter used the day to reflect in a different way by hosting a symposium on a promising area in cancer research and medicine: immunotherapy. We are no strangers to immunotherapy as a cancer center that was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, a noted immunologist and discoverer of the NK cell whom we continue to mourn after his sudden death earlier this year.
Thanks to the efforts of Drs. Lisa Butterfield, Robert Ferris and Hassane Zarour, UPCI was selected to host a regional symposium on cancer immunotherapy sponsored by the Society of Immunotherapy for Cancer (SITC). Ten experts in the area from Pittsburgh reviewed the latest findings in the field ranging from monitoring immune function to application of the newest therapies and beyond. They were joined by outside speakers, Drs. Jedd Wolchok and Patrick Hwu, from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center, respectively. A special feature for us was the opportunity to dedicate this symposium to the memory of Dr. Herberman, who was a founder and past president of SITC and a pioneer in cancer immunology.
This gathering also gave us the opportunity to host a memorial tribute to Dr. Herberman, who touched so many and contributed so much over his long career. Ten individuals shared their personal memories and reflections about Ron to a diverse audience of Pittsburghers who have been touched by Ron. His longtime friend and member of the UPCI Council, George Fechter, and Dorothy Mann, one of the original employees of UPCI, recalled some of the earliest days of the institute. Ron's son, Steve Herberman, talked movingly about Ron's family life. The most humorous anecdote came from Henry Hillman, who regaled us with a story confirming what we all knew - that Ron was a man of reserved demeanor and few words. Elsie Hillman spoke poignantly about what has been accomplished at the Hillman Cancer Center and UPCI and charged us with turning our attention to cancer prevention as we plan for our future.
We remember Dr. Herberman every day through the myriad of activities that take place in the Herberman Conference Center. We recall his dedication to our research mission each year when we present the Herberman Award for Research Staff Excellence. At the memorial event we launched a fundraising effort for the Ronald Herberman MD Lectureship, an endowment that will underwrite the keynote speaker for the annual UPCI retreat, an enduring recognition that we believe would give Dr. Herberman the greatest pleasure.
Donations to support the endowment may be sent to:
UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1B
5150 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15232
We hope that you, too, will recognize and remember Dr. Herberman, a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy and a visionary who founded UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter.