Brian E. Henderson, MD, former dean of the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, died June 20, 2015, at the age of 77. Henderson, who once served as the director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, was the Kenneth T. Norris Jr. chair in cancer prevention and distinguished professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine.
Henderson, founding chair of the Keck School of Medicine’s Department of Preventive Medicine, had been a member of the AACR since 1987. He was an active participant in many AACR programs, conferences, and committees, including the Epidemiology and Prevention Awards Selection Committee and the State Legislative Committee. In addition, he received the AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Memorial Award and the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention.
“Dr. Henderson was one of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of cancer epidemiology,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “He joined the field when it was in its infancy and helped establish it as a vital area of cancer research. Because of his career-long dedication to identifying and understanding the causes of cancer and to mentoring early-career epidemiologists, he leaves a lasting legacy of saving lives from cancer.
Henderson began his medical career in virology, but changed his research focus to cancer in the early 1970s, becoming an internationally renowned authority in cancer epidemiology. He focused on the connection between environmental and genetic factors in the development, treatment, and prevention of a variety of cancers. In 1972, he set up the Los Angeles Cancer Surveillance Program at USC, which remains an important resource nationwide. The program provides valuable insight on myriad issues, such as the link between combination hormone replacement therapy and increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. In 1993, Henderson established the Hawaii-Los Angeles Multiethnic Cohort, a large study that led to numerous findings on cancer risk factors, and continues to provide valuable insight; many papers are published from the study each year.
Born June 27, 1937, Henderson graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He received his medical degree from the University of Chicago and completed an internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He joined the Keck School of Medicine as an associate professor of pathology in 1970. Under Henderson’s tenure as director from 1983 to 1994, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center experienced a time of significant growth.
Henderson served as president of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, from 1993 to 1996, before returning to USC, serving as the founding director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute. He served as dean of the Keck School of Medicine from 2004 to 2007, before returning to his academic research interests. Henderson was recently the principle investigator of a National Cancer Institute initiative, the Elucidating Loci Involved in Prostate Cancer Susceptibility study (ELLIPSE).
In addition to the AACR’s honors, Henderson’s contributions to cancer research were recognized with numerous other awards, including election into the Institute of Medicine and the USC Presidential Medallion, which is the university’s highest honor.
Henderson is survived by his wife, Judith, three sons, two daughters, and 11 grandchildren.