UH Cancer Center welcomes new director

The University of Hawaii Cancer Center hosted a gathering Monday to welcome its new director, Dr. Randall Holcombe.

Holcombe has more than 25 years of experience in academic medicine with more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, according to a university bio.

Prior to his arrival in Hawaii, Holcombe held positions as chief medical officer for Cancer for the Mount Sinai Health System, deputy director of the Tisch Cancer Institute, and director of the ambulatory oncology services at Mount Sinai Hospital.

He told KHON2 Monday that he's excited to further the center's already impressive strengths.

"This is an excellent cancer center to start with and I think people don't actually realize that," Holcombe said. "We have researchers who focus directly on the cancer problems of the people of Hawaii, we are leaders internationally in the study of genetic diversity, something that can really only be done here in the state of Hawaii, we have leaders in development of natural products for cancer prevention and cancer treatment, and we have a substantial community outreach cancer prevention program."

Holcombe says he plans to also address the center's financial issues, and sees "clear ways where we can improve efficiencies, increase our revenues, decrease expenditures, and actually get to a balanced budget with the help of the Legislature for that gap in the cigarette tax funding. I think that over the next three to four years, we can have a zero-deficit operations."

He pointed out that the UH Cancer Center is more than just a research institution.

"We have a lot of community outreach, we provide the infrastructure for clinical trials, so we have some direct influence related to how patients are cared for here on the islands, and we also do a lot of teaching. We teach students, we teach high school students, undergraduate students, graduate students, and medical students," he said. "So I think that this is really a unique opportunity to focus on the strengths of this cancer center and the uniqueness of this cancer center. Not try to be the biggest,  because we're not going to be the biggest, but really to try to be the best in those areas where we already have exceptional strength."

The event also marked the 45th anniversary of the cancer center, and the 20th anniversary of its National Cancer Institute designation with a proclamation presented by Gov. David Ige.

Since its opening in 1971, the UH Cancer Center has allowed thousands of state residents to participate in coordinated clinical trials.

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