Martin D. Abeloff, MD, Chief Oncologist and Director of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, died September 14 of leukemia. He was 65.
An international authority on the treatment of breast cancer, Dr. Abeloff was remembered by his colleagues with great warmth, in comments noting his humility, wry sense of humor, and great devotion to his patients and students, as well as the collaborative spirit he nurtured in his long tenure at Johns Hopkins, where he spent most of his career.
“Marty was that iconic Hopkins physician, scientist, educator, leader, and good citizen rolled into one,” said Edward D. Miller, MD, Dean/CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “He was there for his patients, his residents and fellows, his colleagues and at so many challenging times, the institution he graced for so long.”
“All of the Johns Hopkins Medicine family will miss his presence and his wisdom,” said Ronald R. Peterson, President of Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. “He was the consummate quiet man who worked tirelessly to achieve greatness in his field.”
“He was the ultimate role model,” said Stephen Baylin, MD, Professor of Oncology and Medicine and Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. “What he didn't know, he took the time to learn. And with a combination of qualities best summarized as wisdom, he helped transform both the treatment of cancer and the way that Johns Hopkins delivers that care.
During his 15-year tenure as Cancer Center Director, Dr. Abeloff doubled the size of the center's faculty, increased research funding sixfold since 1992, and saw it consistently ranked among the nation's top three cancer centers in U.S. News & World Report surveys.
Under his direction, the cancer complex at Johns Hopkins expanded to include nearly 1 million square feet of treatment and research space. Inside the Center's Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, Dr. Abeloff revealed what the center credited as his passion for the arts, where he established the Art of Healing program, which includes a performing arts series and a collection of more than 100 works of museum-quality art by Maryland and other nationally known artists.
He also was instrumental in bringing the largest single gift to Johns Hopkins, the $150 million donation from Sidney Kimmel, for whom the cancer center is now named.
Dr. Abeloff received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1966. After residency and fellowship training in Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and Tufts-New England Medical Center, he returned to Baltimore for an oncology fellowship at Hopkins and joined the oncology faculty in 1972, focusing on lung and breast cancer research, then heading the medical oncology department before directing the entire cancer center.
He was President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (1991–1992) and Chairman of the FDA Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee. He was also Chair of the Board of Scientific Counselors to the NCI's Intramural Division of Clinical Science and a member of the NCI Executive Committee.
He is survived by his wife, Diane, a medical illustrator; daughters Elisa Abeloff and her husband, George Landau, and Jennifer Abeloff and her husband, Howard Wasserman; three grandchildren; and his sister and brother-in-law, Marilyn and Morrell Fox.
The family requested that in lieu of flowers or gifts, that donations be sent to the Martin D. Abeloff, MD, Scholars Program in Cancer Prevention and Control at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Suite 234, 100 N. Charles St., Baltimore MD 21201.
Tributes and notes of sympathy are posted at ww.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org/about/abeloff.cfm
Among the many messages is a joint statement from NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, and NCI Director John E. Niederhuber, MD, who said, “All of us at the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute were saddened today to hear of the passing of Dr. Martin Abeloff. In his 15 years as director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Abeloff headed an outstanding institution, even as he continued to lead seminal research in breast cancer therapy and prevention. His contributions to the state of the science, in the use of mammography and in techniques to screen for breast cancer risk factors, transformed prevention efforts.
“Marty, as he was known to his many friends, volunteered seemingly countless hours to serve on boards and committees that advise the NCI on its research directions. As an academic colleague for many years, Marty was a supporter, a wise counselor, and always a consummate professional and gentleman. His death is just one more reason we rededicate ourselves daily to the same goals that Marty shared: trying to solve the mysteries of cancer so that future generations won't have to suffer unnecessarily. Our hearts go out to his wife and best friend, Diane, and all of Marty's family.”