Thomas to lead MUSC work in gastrointestinal cancer


Dr. Melanie Thomas is the 20th researcher, and the first woman, recruited to South Carolina through the state's Centers of Economic Excellence program.

Beginning in August, Thomas will lead Gastrointestinal Cancer Diagnostics at the Medical University of South Carolina's Hollings Cancer Center.

Gastrointestinal cancers are located throughout the digestive tract, including the stomach, liver, pancreas and colon.

Thomas, who was recruited from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, plans to develop a clinical trials program for liver cancer and will work with researchers to develop trials in other cancers. She is a principal investigator for 17 clinical trials, several of which are international.

Said Thomas: "There is tremendous energy focused on leveraging the talent and expertise available at MUSC and Hollings Cancer Center to become known as a strong regional and national center."

The Centers of Economic Excellence uses lottery funds matched with federal money and private investments to lure top professors to South Carolina's three research universities: MUSC, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.

Research at the gastro- intestinal cancer center will include searching for new treatment targets, such as proteins that play a role in the disease process. Also, identifying new ways to screen for gastro- intestinal cancer will be a priority.

John Raymond, provost at MUSC, described Thomas as "a scholar who is interested in translating basic molecular discoveries into clinical therapies."

More than 270,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancers of the digestive system in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society. About 135,000 will die from gastrointestinal cancer in the same period.