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"A Game Changer": Renowned Pediatric Oncologist & Cancer Researcher Joins Children's, UNMC

Sep 21, 2018 10:42AM ● By Alyssa McGinnis

Donald Durden, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned pediatric oncologist and researcher specializing in the treatment of children with brain tumors and the development of leading-edge therapeutics, has joined the teams at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). Durden’s research brings more than $9 million in NIH grant support to the Child Health Research Institute (CHRI), doubling its funding.

Durden will lead efforts to develop and apply targeted, personalized drug therapies for pediatric and adult cancer at Children’s, UNMC and beyond. His innovative research and expertise align with Children’s vision: “To be a global leader for children’s health.”

Durden has been named Chief of the inaugural Division of Computational Chemistry and Innovative Therapeutics, in addition to his role as professor within the department of Pediatrics at Children’s/UNMC. He also serves as interim Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and holds the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Chair of Pediatric Oncology. Durden will be the CHRI’s lead pediatric cancer investigator and help lead its scientific committee, while serving as Associate Director for Pediatric Oncology research at the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. Within the UNMC College of Pharmacy, Durden is Director of Computational Chemistry.

“We’re enabled by science, and driven by compassion,” says Donald Durden, M.D., Ph.D. “When we see a 3-year-old completely paralyzed with a brain tumor, we have the burning desire to find a cure for that child. To this aim, we will develop within Children’s a Phase I/II clinical trial infrastructure to ensure children in Nebraska, the region and beyond are receiving the very best, most innovative therapeutics.”

Prior to joining the teams at Children’s and UNMC, Durden was vice chair of Research and professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine. At the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, he served as Associate Director for Pediatric Oncology and co-director of its Cancer Genetics clinic. Previously, Durden was at Emory University, where he was a professor of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine, Aflac Endowed Chair and scientific director of Basic and Translational Research at its Aflac Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Dr. Durden received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Miami School of Medicine. He completed his Pediatrics residency and pediatric Hematology/Oncology fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

“Dr. Durden’s scientific breakthroughs have led to safer, more effective cancer treatments for children,” says Richard G. Azizkhan, M.D., president & CEO of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. “His work is nothing short of life-changing—and game-changing in terms of how we target and inhibit cancer cells. He is a true pioneer in the field of pediatric cancer research, and we could not be more excited to have him in Omaha benefiting the children and families we serve.”

"Dr. Durden’s recruitment is a perfect example of how the partnership between UNMC and Children’s is taking pediatric cancer care to a whole new level in our community and the region,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “He is a true superstar in the cancer field. It speaks volumes for the quality of our pediatrics program that he would bring his world-class expertise to Nebraska.”