Vogelzang, 2018 Giants of Cancer Care® Winner, Dies at 72

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, a world-renowned genitourinary oncologist and investigator and the 2018 Giants of Cancer Care® award winner in GU cancer, died on September 20, 2022. He was 72.

Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, a world-renowned genitourinary (GU) oncologist and investigator and the 2018 Giants of Cancer Care® award winner in GU cancer, died on September 20, 2022. He was 72.

No cause of death has been announced.

In March, Vogelzang retired from his position on the Board of Directors for the Kidney Cancer Association (KCA). In a meeting with Eugene P. Schonfeld, a patient with kidney cancer, and a small group of patients and physicians around his kitchen table, Vogelzang helped to found the KCA in 1990.

“Nick was an extraordinary example of the beautiful difference one life can make. He saw a need and co-founded the Kidney Cancer Association when people had no resources in the kidney space,” Gretchen E. Vaughan, KCA president and chief executive officer, wrote in an email to OncLive®. He was “such an incredible doctor but, more importantly, the kindest man, biggest heart, and gentlest soul. We are all better for knowing him.”

Vogelzang was vital to progress in GU oncology over the past 4 decades, providing extraordinary leadership in the development of clinical trials and therapeutics. He helped organize GU oncologists early on and worked to ensure that the field would have the necessary multidisciplinary emphasis.

He was the principal or coprincipal investigator in trials that led to the regulatory approval of new therapeutics such as atezolizumab (Tecentriq) in bladder cancer, pemetrexed (Alimta) in mesothelioma, abiraterone acetate (Zytiga), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), radium 223 dichloride (Xofigo).

Vogelzang was the inaugural Fred C. Buffett Professor of GU Oncology at the University of Chicago and served as director of the university’s Cancer Research Center from 1999 to 2003. He then served as director of the Nevada Cancer Institute from 2004 to 2009. In his final role, he served as a physician and medical director of Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Las Vegas.

Bradley C. Leibovich, MD, who is chair of the board of directors at KCA, as well as chair and a consultant in the Department of Urology at Mayo Clinic, told OncLive® in an email that Vogelzang was “truly a giant” in GU oncology.

“He distinguished himself by always going above and beyond for his patients and colleagues with compassion and tremendous generosity of his time and wisdom,” Leibovich said. “When you consider those he cared for over the years and those he has taught who will continue to do great things because of the knowledge he imparted on them, he has and will continue to impact countless lives.”

Vogelzang stepped down from his role as vice chair of the SWOG GU committee in 2021, a role he held for 14 years. The organization is scheduled to host the inaugural Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, GU Symposium at its Fall 2022 Group Meeting in October. The session will be devoted to organ preservation in bladder cancer.

SWOG has also established the Nicholas J. Vogelzang, MD, Scholarship, which will allow a young investigator to travel to the SWOG group meeting. Each Vogelzang Scholar will be paired with a senior mentor to help them not only at the meeting but throughout their early career years.

Charles D. Blanke, MD, SWOG group chair and professor of medicine with Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, wrote a tribute to his friend and colleague in August 2022. Vogelzang went into hospice care a few weeks earlier.

“He is warm, caring, professional, and knowledgeable to a fault,” Blanke wrote. “He is an amazing physician and researcher.

“I turned to Nick when a personal friend developed a cancer within his area of expertise. Although most of us are fairly willing to give advice, his thoroughness of follow-up on my friend’s case was a brilliant model for physicians everywhere,” Blanke added. “His response wasn’t just routine or what was expected—he truly wanted to help this patient he had never met and went out of his way to make sure the patient and family knew every possible option for care. Of course, he offered to see my friend the next day. That warmth and thoroughness have helped make him much loved among both patients and colleagues throughout the oncology community.”