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Chiocca to Chair New Neurological Surgery Department,New Department of Neurological Surgery

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University Medical Center will complement its strengths in neuroscience, neurology and cancer research by establishing a neurological surgery department and appointing a nationally recognized brain tumor specialist from Harvard University to chair the new department. Both actions were approved today (12/5) by the university’s Board of Trustees.

Doctor Antonio Chiocca
E. Antonio Chiocca, MD, PhD
Dr. E. Antonio “Nino” Chiocca, an associate professor of neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, will join Ohio State in March as chair of the new department of neurological surgery and holder of the Dardinger Family Endowed Chair in Oncological Neurosurgery. Chiocca (kee-OH-ka) is hailed as a leading investigator in the use of gene therapies for brain tumors and other central nervous system disorders.

“We are fortunate to bring a great physician-scientist and energetic young leader like Nino Chiocca to the OSU Medical Center,” said Dr. Fred Sanfilippo, senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health. “He will strengthen our clinical, research and educational missions in the growing subspecialty of neurological surgery, as well as our emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration.

“The benefits of establishing this new department will positively influence disciplines ranging from anesthesiology to rehabilitation, and the resulting multidisciplinary research will increase partnership opportunities with industry to convert research discoveries into new therapeutics and technologies,” he said.

Chiocca will bring to Ohio State grants and research faculty, a move expected to position the medical center to attract additional external research support. His arrival is expected to be followed by the recruitment of additional specialists in other elements of the discipline, including trauma, movement disorders, spine surgery and vascular disorders.

"Dr. Chiocca is one of the few people today capable of caring for patients, performing high-quality translational research and holding an administrative position,” said Dr. Christopher Ellison, chair of the department of surgery at OSU Medical Center and associate vice president and vice dean for clinical affairs. “He is going to add so much to the institution in a multidisciplinary sense that Ohio State’s expertise and reputation in this area of surgery promises to expand dramatically.”

The bolstered staffing of the department and high-caliber research will translate into an enhanced educational environment for medical students, more clinical training opportunities for students and residents, and additional patients seeking treatment at OSU Medical Center for a wider range of disorders and injuries, according to Ellison.

The medical center’s ability to dedicate resources to the new department and recruitment of Chiocca is attributed largely to the funding made available through the Esther Dardinger Fund, a $14.1 million award to the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute to further cancer research. The fund established the Dardinger Family Endowed Chair in Oncological Neurosurgery to be held by Chiocca, as well as the Esther Dardinger Endowed Chair in Neuro-Oncology, held by Dr. Herbert Newton of the department of neurology.

In addition, the Esther Dardinger Neuro-Oncology Center was established from the award to provide expanded research and treatment for patients with this life-threatening disease. The center will be co-directed by Chiocca and Newton. Patients will benefit immensely from the talent and skill Chiocca brings to Ohio State, according to Dr. David Schuller, executive director of The James.

“Dr. Chiocca will provide needed support for a growing specialty and will help The James take a leadership role in the research and treatment of a very serious form of cancer,” he said.

Chiocca’s research in biologic therapies and gene delivery methods to treat brain tumors and highly specialized surgery skills will be a meaningful addition to the cancer research program, said Dr. Michael Caligiuri, director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The success of bringing a world-class brain tumor surgeon with an equally impressive research team will truly catapult Ohio State’s cancer program to new heights in innovative therapies,” he said.

Elevation of neurological surgery to department status – it has been a division in surgery since 1951 – reflects the increasingly specialized nature of the field and a natural evolution to a unit separate from the department of surgery, according to Ellison. Nationally, half of the country’s medical colleges maintain neurological surgery programs in separate academic departments.

Dr. Carole Miller, interim division director of neurosurgery, said she is looking forward to working with Chiocca. “We are pleased and delighted to have a neurosurgeon and researcher the caliber of Dr. Chiocca join the new department of neurological surgery and we look forward to growth and excellence under his direction,” she said.

Chiocca and his team will join three tenure-track faculty and a number of clinical faculty in the new department, which is expected to grow quickly with additions to the department’s ranks. He has been a member of the Harvard faculty and a practicing surgeon since 1995 at Massachusetts General, where he also served his residency in neurological surgery. He holds a medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and a doctorate from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center, also in Houston.

His research interests range from engineering more efficient “tumor-killing” genes and defining more selective viruses that could be used to deliver therapeutics directly to tumors. He is principal investigator on more than a dozen research projects on a variety of brain tumor therapies, many of them funded by the National Institutes of Health, has authored or co-authored more than 100 articles and book chapters, and holds three patents, with four others pending.

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