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Endocrinologist from UC-Irvine to head medicine

"I found it exhilarating to consider working in one of the best designed hospitals in the U.S. as a member of a Department of Medicine that is strong and vibrant and blessed with superb clinicians, educators, and researchers," says distinguished endocrinologist and cancer biologist Murray Korc, M.D.

Chair: Korc, who will become chair of medicine at DMS on September 1, succeeds Harold Sox, M.D., both as the head of the department and as the Joseph M. Huber Professor of Medicine. Donald St. Germain, M.D., has been the department's acting chair since Sox left in July 2001 to become editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Murray Korc is coming from UC-Irvine to chair medicine at Dartmouth.

Korc has been a member of the faculty at the University of California at Irvine (UCI) since 1989. He heads UCI's Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and its diabetes and osteoporosis programs.

Nationally known for his research on the molecular underpinnings of pancreatic cancer— one of the five deadliest cancers in the U.S.—Korc explores disruptions in cell signaling pathways caused by growth-stimulating factors. He also studies the mechanisms of peptide hormones and diabetes mellitus.

His interest in endocrine-exocrine interactions in the pancreas grew out of his postdoctoral work in the late 1970s at UCSan Francisco, where he studied physiology, cell biology, and molecular biology.

Relevance: He wanted his work to have clinical relevance, too. He was particularly interested that people with type II diabetes mellitus have a higher incidence of pancreatic cancer. So he combined his clinical and research interests into a lifelong study of pancreatic cancer.

His early research focused on epidermal growth-factor receptors in pancreatic cancer. Growth factors are molecules that stimulate cell growth; receptors, on the cell surface, bind specific molecules outside the cell. In the 1980s, Korc proposed that mitogenic signaling (signals for cells to divide and grow) is enhanced in pancreatic cancer cells. He found that human pancreatic cancers overexpress many growth factors—and their associated receptors—which, in turn, overactivate the mitogenic pathways. "These alterations are akin to a car going out of control with the accelerator stuck to the floor," he says.

Later, he found the signaling abnormalities were due to defects in growth-inhibiting regulators. Using the car analogy again, he says it's like a broken brake. And further discoveries suggested that "not only is the brake broken, but it has turned into a second accelerator." Eventually, these findings may lead to "novel therapeutic strategies for this deadly disease."

Korc is a past president of the American Pancreas Association, well-funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the author of more than 200 publications. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Pancreas and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. He previously held posts at the University of Arizona and UC-San Francisco, after receiving his M.D. (1974) and training (1974-1977) at Albany Medical College.

Collaborations: At DMS, Korc says, "I hope to move the Department of Medicine forward in a collegial manner that respects the accomplishments, goals, and aspirations, as well as the concerns, of the clinicians, clinician- scientists, and administrators . . . in an environment that fosters intra- and interdepartmental collaborations." He is a strong believer in "excellence in scholarly activity in order . . . to excel in education, patient care, and service."

Korc is married to Antoinette Korc, M.D., and they have three children—Paul, 23; Melissa, 19; and Ashton, 15.

Laura Stephenson Carter

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