Transplant pioneer Dr. Thomas Starzl to be honored by colleagues at two-day academic event

April 22, 2001

PITTSBURGH, April 18 -- Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., played a paramount role in bringing organ transplantation from concept to reality. And his numerous contributions over the span of more than 40 years have continued to advance the field. One measure of his place in medical history is the vast number of surgeons and scientists who trained under his tutelage and still more whose daily practice continues to be influenced by his work and vision.

Many of these former students and colleagues -- a who's who in the transplant world from six continents -- will pay tribute to Dr. Starzl at a Festschrift in his honor April 27-28 at the University of Pittsburgh.

More than 300 are expected to attend the Festschrift, which in academic circles can be both a celebration and subsequent publication of selected scholarly writings in honor of an esteemed scholar late in his or her career. This event also serves as a belated celebration of Dr. Starzl's 75th birthday, which was March 11.

The first day consists of a program of some 27 oral and 50 poster scientific presentations of novel work or very recent findings, many in areas of study of keen interest to Dr. Starzl. The following morning Dr. Starzl's portrait will be unveiled in the School of Medicine's main lecture room, where it will hang among the 28 portraits of the school's former deans and most distinguished faculty, including polio vaccine discoverer Jonas Salk, M.D.

Then 1996 Nobel Laureate Rolf M. Zinkernagel, M.D., Ph.D., in recent years a close collaborator with Dr. Starzl, will receive the inaugural Starzl Prize in Surgery and Immunology and with it a $10,000 cash award. An immunologist specializing in infectious diseases, Dr. Zinkernagel shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Peter C. Doherty, Ph.D., for their work showing the specificity of the cell-mediated immune defense. Dr. Zinkernagel's lecture will shed light on how immunity against infectious agents, tumors and transplanted organs follows the same cellular mechanisms.

Dr. Zinkernagel's talk and the previous day's abstracts, as well as remembrances and photos of Dr. Starzl, will be published in a hardcover volume by the University of Pittsburgh Press, as is customary for a Festschrift, a German word literally translated to mean festival writings.

At the Festschrift, Dr. Starzl's protégé, John J. Fung, M.D., Ph.D., will be announced as the Thomas E. Starzl Professor of Transplantation Surgery, an endowed chair made possible by contributions from patients, faculty and friends of the institute. Dr. Fung, chief of transplantation at the University of Pittsburgh, will give the keynote lecture on the first day of the event.

Dr. Starzl came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1981 from the University of Colorado, where in 1962 and 1963 he proved possible the successful transplantation of kidneys from nonidentical twins. He performed the world's first liver transplant in 1963 and the world's first successful liver transplant in 1967. Dr. Starzl's career has included among the most important discoveries related to immunosuppression, from the development of azathioprine and corticosteroids, which invigorated living-related kidney transplantation, to the introduction of anti-lymphocyte globulin and cyclosporine, which advanced cadaveric transplantation from an experimental procedure to an accepted treatment for patients with end-stage organ failure. About 10 years ago, he developed the drug tacrolimus, which resulted in improved survival rates for all transplants and made feasible the successful transplantation of the small intestine. In recent years, Dr. Starzl has put forth theories that have shifted the paradigms of transplant immunology and have provided a greater understanding to the acceptance of transplanted organs.

In the 20 years that Dr. Starzl has had a presence at the University of Pittsburgh, nearly 6,000 liver transplants and more than 11,300 transplants of all organs have been performed, a single-center experience unmatched by any other program. Dr. Starzl retired from clinical practice in 1991, at which time Dr. Fung took over as chief of transplantation. In 1996, the program was renamed the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, and Dr. Starzl continues to contribute to the scientific literature and provide vision for the program.

Following is more detailed information and highlights of the two-day Festschrift:

Friday, April 27
William Pitt Union Ballroom, University of Pittsburgh

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- Scientific Presentations

Highlights include:

Stable Mixed Chimerism by Bone Marrow Transplantation for Prevention and Treatment of Autoimmune Disease in Mice -- Robert A. Good, M.D., Ph.D., of South Florida College of Medicine, a pioneer in his own right who discovered the crucial function of the thymus in the immune response.

Gene Therapy for Tolerance Induction in Experimental Organ Transplantation -- Satoru Todo, M.D., of Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan, a former fellow and faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh.

Tumor Regression Produced by Stem Cell Transfusion from Daughter to Micro-Chimeric Mother -- Paul Terasaki, Ph.D., of the Terasaki Foundation Laboratory in Los Angeles, who pioneered tissue typing for kidney transplantation and collaborated with Dr. Starzl in the early 60's.

Complement Inhibition Will Be Crucial in Pig-to-Man Islet Transplantation -- Carl G. Groth, M.D., of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, who worked with Dr. Starzl at the University of Colorado when the first liver transplants were performed and later joined him at the University of Pittsburgh when the program first opened.

5 - 5:45 p.m. -
Keynote Address: "Of Mice and Men: A Tale of Tolerance"
John J. Fung, M.D., Ph.D.
Thomas E. Starzl Professor of Transplantation Surgery
Chief, Division of Transplant Surgery
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Saturday, April 28
Lecture Room 6, Scaife Hall
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

10 a.m. -
Portrait Unveiling
Mark A. Nordenberg, Chancellor, and Arthur S. Levine, Senior Vice Chancellor of the Health Sciences and Dean, School of Medicine

Dr. Starzl's portrait is by local artist Greg Kavalec, who also painted portraits of Thomas Detre, M.D., and Jonas Salk, M.D.

10:15 a.m. -
The Starzl Prize in Surgery and Immunology and Lecture
"T-Cell Ignorance, Induction and Deletion"
Rolf Zinkernagel, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Pathology and Head, Institute of Experimental Immunology
University of Zurich
1996 Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology
Lisa Rossi
Jane Duffield
PHONE: 412-647-3555
FAX: 412-624-3184

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

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