Jonathan Finlay, MD, named to endowed chair as head of new Neuro-Oncology Program

Jonathan Finlay, MD, director of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Neural Tumors Program within the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, has been named to an endowed chair as director of the hospital’s newly-established inter-departmental Neuro-Oncology Program.

CONTACT FOR MEDIA: Lorenzo Benet, (323) 361-4823

Los Angeles, CA – October 25, 2012 -- Jonathan Finlay, MD, director of the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Neural Tumors Program within the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases, has been named to an endowed chair as director of the hospital’s newly-established inter-departmental Neuro-Oncology Program.

Finlay, a leading international authority in the management of the brain tumors of children, adolescents and young adults, will conduct research and education activities to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to treat brain cancer in children. The as yet unnamed endowed chair , will work in collaboration with the hospital’s divisional and departmental chiefs in Neurosurgery, Pathology and Radiology. Reporting to Finlay will be Girish Dhall, MD, the newly-appointed clinical director of the Neuro-Oncology Program.

 “This multi-disciplinary collaboration under Dr. Finlay’s direction will lead to the development of innovative treatment strategies for childhood brain cancer,” says D. Brent Polk, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and vice president of Academic Affairs at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. “In addition to working with our top clinicians and physician scientists to develop a freestanding program, Dr. Finlay will also draw on the strengths of other institutions in the region.”

Finlay’s work in the field of pediatric hematology-oncology has been recognized around the world. He pioneered the approach of using high-dose, marrow-destructive chemotherapy with autologous peripheral blood cell transplantation to improve both the cure rates and minimize the adverse neurocognitive effects of radiation therapy in preschool children with malignant brain tumors. 

Currently, he is collaborating on the development of gene therapy strategies to combat medulloblastoma (the most common malignant brain tumor of children) with research colleagues from the City of Hope Cancer Center. Internationally, he is creating a first-of-its-kind care model for improving early diagnosis and the triaging of the treatment of children with brain tumors in under-developed nations.

Finlay is also leading a multinational consortium to develop drug therapy strategies for underfunded countries unable to combat such otherwise curable childhood brain cancers as germ cell tumors, due to the inaccessibility of radiation therapy machines. “We strive to look beyond what needs to be done in California and nationally to achieve successful clinical accomplishments in the treatment of childhood brain tumors globally,” says Finlay, whose plan for the endowed chair also includes the creation of a new Neuro-Oncology Research Fellowship Training Program that would be accredited by the American Academy of Neurology.

One of the overall goals of the endowed chair is to develop translational research in these different areas and incorporate the scientific findings into clinical practice. “The funds will support Dr. Finlay's expanded efforts to strengthen the overall brain tumor program to meet that goal, including recruitment of new clinical and basic research faculty,” says Stuart Siegel, MD, director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital.

Finlay, a professor of Pediatrics, Neurology and Neurological Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, arrived at Children’s Hospital in 2003 as clinical director of the Neural Tumors Program. His work has always been at the forefront of the field. He was a co-leader in a cancer study that connected an otherwise rare childhood malignant brain tumor, choroid plexus carcinoma, with a mutation of the P53 gene responsible for the Li-Fraumani Family Cancer Predisposition Syndrome. The findings concluded that children with this rare brain tumor should be tested for the P53 mutation, and if present, family members should also be tested. Finlay’s group has shown that implementing appropriate cancer screening strategies improves the cure rates for patients with cancers diagnosed early through such surveillance screening.

In addition to directing one of the largest brain tumor treatment programs in the country at Children’s Hospital, Finlay’s career has also been devoted to the treatment of children, adolescents and young adults with brain tumors, especially young children with treatment strategies that avoid radiotherapy; children with medulloblastoma; other PNET, germ cell tumors, ependymoma, gliomas (low grade and high grade) and choroid plexus carcinomas. In 2009, Finlay was honored as a recipient of the “Medical Visionary Award” at the North American Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation’s inaugural event in California.

Prior to coming to Children’s Hospital nine years ago, Finlay held pediatric oncology faculty positions at several prestigious universities: New York University from 1997 to2003; Cornell University/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 1989 to 1993; and previously, positions at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University.
Over the last 30 years, Finlay has authored or co-authored more than 180 peer-reviewed publications in leading medical journals, as well as more than 80 review articles and book chapters. Since 1985, he has delivered more than 250 invited lectures globally, mainly on childhood brain tumors, through visiting professorships or at national/international medical conferences. Since 1982, he has mentored more than 90 undergraduate students, medical students, medical and pediatric residents, and fellows in clinical research projects. Several of these individuals now direct brain tumor programs throughout the world.

Additionally, Finlay has served on the editorial boards of several leading medical journals, and on the advisory boards and/or as medical director of several national philanthropic foundations devoted to childhood cancer, and to childhood brain tumors in particular. In 2006, he was elected as the founding Chair of the Society of Neuro-Oncology’s International Outreach Committee, whose goal is to facilitate educational and technological improvements in the management of brain tumors of adults and children in low-income countries.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America's premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

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