Center News Magazine: Memorial Sloan Kettering President Emeritus Paul Marks Publishes Memoir about His Life in Cancer Research

By Celia Gittelson, BA  |  Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Pictured: Craig Thompson & Paul Marks Memorial Sloan Kettering President Craig Thompson (left) with Paul Marks at a reception celebrating the publication of his book Emeritus Paul Marks

Paul Marks — who served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center from 1980 to 1999 — presents a riveting firsthand account of cancer research and treatment in On the Cancer Frontier: One Man, One Disease, and a Medical Revolution (written with Wall Street Journal senior business writer James Sterngold and published by Public Affairs Books).

“The truth,” he writes, “uncomfortable and inconvenient as it may be, is that medical science has never faced a more inscrutable, more mutable, or more ruthless adversary.” From his twin perspectives as an internationally recognized cancer scientist and — for nearly two decades — the leader of one of the world’s premier cancer centers, Dr. Marks elucidates how best to pursue a course of action to control cancer’s tenacity and provides an accessible and eloquent account of the extraordinary progress that has been made.

Praised by Kirkus Reviews as “on a level with [award-winning essayist and former Memorial Sloan Kettering President] Lewis Thomas for its clarity and verve in presenting the science of the cell” and by The Economist as “a fascinating journey through the world of cancer research,” Dr. Marks’ book illuminates how the insights of physicians and scientists around the globe are leading to therapies that allow people with cancer to live longer, fuller lives — and, in increasing numbers, are even resulting in cures.

“A Legend” with a “Pioneering Passion”

“Paul Marks is a legend. And now he’s shown himself to be as gifted a writer as he was a scientific leader,” current Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Craig Thompson writes. “Reading about his unique path from the coal mining towns of Pennsylvania and the rough streets of Brooklyn to the dean’s chair at Columbia and the president’s chair at Memorial Sloan Kettering was tremendously inspiring and compelling.”

At the forefront of cancer research since the 1950s, Dr. Marks, through his work in cell biology and cancer genetics, has made major contributions toward more effective approaches to cancer treatment and prevention through the development of new and more potent chemotherapy and chemoprevention agents.

As President of Memorial Sloan Kettering, he was a visionary and powerful leader, overseeing the complete reorganization of Memorial Hospital and the Sloan Kettering Institute. His extraordinary leadership shaped the institution into the Memorial Sloan Kettering that exists today, as he integrated what had been separately operating units into a cohesive, fully integrated cancer center. Under Dr. Marks’ guidance, Memorial Sloan Kettering established the highest standards for research and patient care and has provided leadership in the national and international medical science community.

“Paul Marks has been an imposing figure in medical research for over half a century, as a scientist, institutional leader, and national advisor,” writes Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus, Dr. Marks’ immediate predecessor as President and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering and the current Director of the National Cancer Institute. “In this highly readable memoir, he shows us how his pioneering passion for incorporating molecular biology into medical practice has helped change the way we understand and control cancer.”

Among his many awards and honors, Dr. Marks has received the National Medal of Science, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2001, Memorial Sloan Kettering established the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research to recognize a new generation of leaders in the field, who are making significant contributions to the understanding of cancer or are improving the treatment of the disease through basic or clinical research.

On the Cancer Frontier is available at Amazon.com and other book retailers.

Read The Economist’s review.