NCI Director Dr. John E. Niederhuber honored his predecessor for his dynamic leadership of the Institute from 2002-2006. "As NCI director, Andy spoke often of the transformation of medicine and cancer care in the new molecular era," Dr. Niederhuber said. "He embodied that vision in his enthusiastic support and development of a number of major initiatives that sought to build upon and expand NCI's leading role in the cancer research enterprise. Those include the launching of the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid, re-engineering of the clinical trials enterprise through the Clinical Trials Working Group, NCI's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, the Integrative Cancer Biology Program, and The Cancer Genome Atlas, to name just a few."
"He also recognized the importance of science that rapidly and safely translates basic research into patient treatments - science that then takes information gleaned from the patient's bedside back to the laboratory," Dr. Niederhuber added. "Throughout these programs runs the thread of Andy's firm belief that we will increasingly be able to preempt the cancer process: preempt it with improvements in prevention, early detection, and targeted treatment for cure or modulation of aggressiveness to allow patients to live longer lives with higher quality."
The plaudits were seconded by NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni, who noted Dr. von Eschenbach's keen interest in nanotechnology, bioinformatics, and the need for greater emphasis on translational research at NCI and other NIH institutes. The NIH director also honored Dr. von Eschenbach's "very difficult decision" to heed President Bush's request for him to leave NCI in 2006 to assume his current role as Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. von Eschenbach thanked his colleagues and friends for their comments and support, particularly those among the NCI staff during his tenure. "When I arrived at NCI, I was enormously blessed by the incredibly talented and dedicated people I found here," he said. "Each and every day I served as NCI Director was an unbelievable privilege and honor."
He offered special thanks to his wife Madelyn, "who from the very first moment of our lives together was willing to pay any price so that we could together make a difference." His wife, four children, six grandchildren, and other family members were present at the unveiling of the oil paint portrait by noted artist James Tennison. The painting will hang in the NCI Office of the Director gallery beside the other 11 official portraits of all former NCI directors.