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Ratner Named Wolff Professor of Oncology

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Lee Ratner, MD, PhD, (right) shakes hands with Dean Larry J. Shapiro, MD, after being named the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Oncology. Photo by Mark Beaven

By Lee Phillion

Nov. 8, 2013 – Lee Ratner, MD, PhD, has been named the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Oncology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He is an oncologist and noted authority on retroviruses.

Ratner was installed as the Wolff Professor of Oncology by Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“Dr. Ratner joins an elite group of leading physician researchers who hold Wolff Professorships at Washington University,” said Wrighton. “The late Edith Wolff’s bequest ensures that her generous support of medical research will continue.”

Ratner exemplifies the competence, achievement and character that Alan and Edith Wolff appreciated and reinforced with their support.

“During their more than three decades of giving to the university, Edith and Alan Wolff insisted that their gifts be used to advance important research by leaders in their respective fields,” Shapiro said. “Dr. Ratner’s appointment continues that covenant.”

Ratner joined the faculty of Washington University in 1985 following medical and research fellowships at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. He previously had completed medical training and a doctorate in molecular biochemistry and biophysics at Yale University, and an internship and residency in internal medicine at Washington University and what is now Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

He is a professor of medicine, molecular microbiology and pathology at the School of Medicine and co-leads the translational and clinical research program at Siteman Cancer Center. Since 2008, he has co-directed the Siteman Cancer Center Solid Tumor Therapeutics Research Program (formerly the Translational & Clinical Research Program).

Ratner also co-directs the sections of molecular oncology and medical oncology in the Department of Medicine and directs the cancer biology education program as well as the oncology fellowship protocol committee.

His primary research interest focuses on retroviruses, including the human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, which causes a specific form of lymphoma, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) associated with AIDS. His studies have been applied to developing novel therapeutic approaches for these viral infections.

Ratner is affiliated with a number of leading national and international AIDS research, clinical trial and study groups. Since 2011, he has been a member of the steering committee of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, a National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials group that helps conduct innovative trials for AIDS-related cancers.

Among his many honors is a lifetime achievement award for studies of human T-cell leukemia viruses from the International Retrovirology Association.

“Dr. Ratner is an outstanding physician-scientist who has made substantial contributions to our understanding of virus-induced malignancies,” said Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine. “He has been a national leader in the design and conduct of clinical trials for HIV/AIDS-associated cancers. In addition to being an enthusiastic and popular mentor and teacher, he is a compassionate and dedicated clinician who has made a huge difference in the lives of cancer patients.”

Wolff Family

Edith Wolff and her husband, the late Alan Wolff, owned Wolff Construction Co., a real-estate development, investment and management company founded by Alan Wolff in the late 1940s. Edith Wolff became president of the company following her husband’s death in 1989 and led the company until her death in 2008.

For more than three decades, Alan and Edith Wolff directed funds to multiple areas of medical research at Washington University School of Medicine.

In 1999, Edith Wolff endowed a professorship in medicine, currently held by Daniel Link, MD, an oncologist and stem cell biologist, to support progress in understanding cancer. In 2003, she endowed the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professorship in Medicine, which is held by William Peck, MD, former dean of the School of Medicine and now director of the university’s Center for Health Policy. She also established the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship Loan Fund, a noninterest-bearing fund for medical students.

In 2007, Mrs. Wolff made a commitment of $20 million to establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute at the School of Medicine to support biomedical research projects. In 2011, two Wolff Distinguished Professorships, the first enabled by Mrs. Wolff’s estate, were established in developmental biology and in molecular microbiology. The Wolff family also provided for two additional distinguished professorships and 10 additional endowed professorships, including the new professorship held by Ratner.

In recognition of her generous support of medical research, Mrs. Wolff received a number of awards from Washington University, including the Robert S. Brookings Award, the Second Century Award from the School of Medicine and an honorary doctorate in 2004.