A Man of Many Battles: Genitourinary Expert Spurs Advances Amid Challenges

Beth Fand Incollingo @fandincollingo
Published: Monday, Nov 12, 2012
Dr. Nicholas J. Vogelzang from the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada

Photo courtesy of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD
Nicholas Vogelzang knows what it’s like to start over.

Research Achievements Mount During two decades at the University of Chicago, Vogelzang conducted studies in mesothelioma, culminating in the February 2004 approval of the chemotherapy agent pemetrexed disodium (Alimta) (J Clin Oncol. 2003; 21(14):2636-44).

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD . . .

Dr. Nick Vogelzang
  • Is devoted to his five children and his seven grandchildren, who range in age from 1 to 10.
  • Is “addicted” to reading, particularly autobiographies and histories such as Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. “When I have the chance, I’ll read all night,” he said. “I have to be careful about how many books I read, so I don’t get too tied up and get behind on my real work.”
  • Enjoys riding his road bike between 60 and 100 miles a week in the Nevada desert and mountains.
  • Is of Dutch heritage, and grew up “attending tulip festivals and wearing a little Dutch hat and little wooden shoes.”
  • Held a series of less-than-ideal jobs during high school and college, including cleaning out dry-cleaning vats, scrubbing toilets and floors, and working at a plant testing plaster mixed with asbestos. As someone who now treats mesothelioma, frequently caused by asbestos exposure, Vogelzang sees “the irony” in that experience. “At the time, I had no idea” that asbestos was dangerous, he said. “The plant manager was a member of our church, and I was happy to have a job.”
  • Is a survivor of Hodgkin disease.
  • Has served on numerous committees of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and won the organization’s Statesman Award in June 2007.
  • Firmly supports ASCO’s August clinical provision report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, which says that PSA screening should be strongly considered for certain groups at high risk for prostate cancer. “It’s more nuanced than the bludgeoning approach of the US Preventive Services Task Force, which is ‘don’t screen.’ That approach is not smart, because medicine is not black and white,” Vogelzang said. “For a patient truly at risk because of genetics or race, the PSA test should be ordered so the patient can make a decision for or against active treatment. The problem to avoid is being overly aggressive with our treatments, not our screenings.”
  • Sees immunotherapy as well as the genetic profiling of cancers as the most important frontiers to be tackled by today’s cancer researchers.
  • Is grateful to his wife, children, and grandchildren for “not giving up on me in spite of the long hours I work,” and to “the patients, who are enormously stimulating, kind, and thoughtful. Their courage encourages me every day.
“I put in a lot of time,” he said, “but patients needed to be empowered. They help raise money and give emotional, physical, and financial support to other patients. They’re very important groups.”

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