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Meet Daniel Hayes, Future ASCO President

Jason M. Broderick
Published: Wednesday, Jan 14, 2015

Daniel Hayes, MD

Daniel Hayes, MD, was recently elected president of ASCO. He is a breast cancer specialist, professor of Internal Medicine, the Stuart B. Padnos Professor in Breast Cancer, and Clinical Director of the Breast Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hayes will be sworn in as president-elect in June at the 2015 ASCO Annual Meeting and will begin his 1-year term as ASCO president at the 2016 meeting. OncLive recently caught up with Hayes at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.                 

What led you to the field of oncology?

Frankly speaking, it was totally serendipitous. I was a medical student at Indiana University in 1977 and in my routine clinical rotations as a third-year student, I was assigned to the oncology ward at the university hospital. I had no interest in cancer at all—it was just luck of the draw that the attending physician happened to be Dr Larry Einhorn, who was in the process of showing that you can cure testicular cancer with combination chemotherapy including cisplatin, with cisplatin being the big drug that he brought in.   

I remember going home the first day and saying to my wife, “I don’t think I can get through this month, this is going to be a month of cancer, it is going to be horrible.”  And by the last day saying, “This is what I want to do. This is the most exciting thing I have ever seen.”

I went back and spent 2 months with Dr Einhorn as a senior medical student and it was even more exciting—this was right in the middle of showing that you could cure these men. Testicular cancer patients were being admitted more than any other kind of patient to the hospital because he was the only guy who had cisplatin. 

That was really very exciting and that made me want to be an oncologist.  To this day, whenever I see Dr Einhorn, I walk up and shake his hand to say “Thank you so much.”

Please discuss some of the areas of focus of your career in oncology.

To start, I am a medical oncologist and all I do is breast cancer with a few exceptions, but principally my practice is exclusively breast cancer. I see patients 2 or 3 days a week.

I have also been very much involved in a field that gained a name after I got into it, translational research. I started out again sort of serendipitously, I went into a laboratory when I was a second-year fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the guy who I went to work with said, here are 15 hybridomas, I believe all made against the breast cancer metastasis. He said, I believe we can find an antigen in blood using an assay with one of the monoclonal antibodies and your job is to figure out which one of these it is. Out of that experience, grew an assay called CA15-3, which is pretty widely used around the world to monitor patients with metastatic breast cancer and determine whether or not they should stay on what they are on or think about switching to something else.

That led me then to get very involved in the whole field of tumor biomarkers and since then I have been involved in tumor biomarkers in tissue and other circulating tumor biomarkers, especially circulating tumor cells, which has been quite exciting over the last 10 or 15 years.

As the future leader of ASCO, what do you anticipate will be some of the biggest challenges?

There are so many challenges and ASCO really has an opportunity to weigh in and approach them productively. I think one of those is the change in the way we deliver healthcare and the change in the way healthcare is going to be paid for in this country—the entire economics and management of patients with cancer is changing. It is a moving target. It is not entirely clear how the ACA will or will not affect all of this, that’s still being instituted. ASCO has a real chance of serving as an advocate for our patients to make sure that whatever comes out of this, the patients have access to high-quality care. ASCO has been a real leader in quality of care, first with QOPI and more recently with CancerLinQ. This is a challenge that I take on willingly. 

Another major challenge is the erosion and dilution of clinical research because of the cutbacks in funding to the NIH the NCI.  And again, I think ASCO can take a real lead along with our sister societies like AACR in advocating for this research because again, there is a patient at the end of those experiments and if we cut back on what we do, we are not going to make that kind of progress we have over the last 30 years. 

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