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Humphrey Named Ladenson Professor of Pathology

By Michael Purdy

Oct. 5, 2007 – Siteman Cancer Center member Peter Humphrey, MD, PhD, has been named the Ladenson Professor of Pathology in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The announcement was made by Larry Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

"Peter has a long history of service to the University and is a recognized leader in efforts to refine prostate cancer diagnosis, and this new professorship recognizes both of those endeavors," Shapiro says. "The professorship also honors the many groundbreaking contributions of Jack Ladenson, whose research helps clinicians diagnose hundreds of thousands of heart attack patients every year."

As the Ladenson professor, Humphrey becomes chief of the newly renamed Division of Anatomic and Molecular Pathology within the department.

Skip Virgin, MD, PhD, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor and head of the Department of Pathology and Immunology, praises Humphrey's work in the diagnosis and study of urologic cancers.

"Peter is one of the top pathologists in the world in prostate cancer diagnosis, with more than 180 papers published," Virgin says.

Humphrey's new chair is named for Jack Ladenson, the Oree M. Carroll and Lillian B. Ladenson Professor of Clinical Chemistry in Pathology and Immunology and interim director of the Division of Laboratory Medicine.

"I was floored when they offered the chair to me," Humphrey says. "Jack is a wonderful colleague and a real pioneer in the development of diagnostic tests that have helped untold numbers of patients around the world. He's done so much fundamental, groundbreaking work, including his development of the monoclonal antibodies used to test patients for heart attacks."

Humphrey earned his medical degree and his doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Kansas and served for four years as an assistant professor of pathology at Duke University. He came to Washington University in 1992 as an associate professor of pathology and immunology. One branch of his research focuses on developing better ways to predict which prostate cancers are most likely to act aggressively.

In collaboration with Gerald Andriole, MD, professor of urologic surgery and chief of the Division of Urologic Surgery, Humphrey has been studying whether increasing the number of prostate biopsy samples can help improve clinicians' ability to assess a tumor's likely aggressiveness.

In a more basic branch of his research program, Humphrey is characterizing the properties of a growth factor known as scatter factor.

"That's literally what this factor does – it causes cells to break apart, move and spread," Humphrey says. "With colleagues here at the University, we've shown that scatter factor is elevated in the blood of some patients who have prostate cancer, and that this is linked to a more dire prognosis."

Humphrey hopes to develop a therapeutic agent that either blocks scatter factor or its receptor in cells. Scatter factor can be active in other types of tumors, so the treatment may be useful for more than just prostate cancer.

"I'm very fortunate to work here at Washington University, with such outstanding and valued colleagues in the Department of Pathology and Immunology, and with opportunities to collaborate with a superb urology division and expert faculty members in a world-class cancer center," Humphrey says.