Jan 04, 2011
The Society mourns the loss of visionary oncologist and former ASCO President (1965-1966) Michael J. Brennan, MD, FACP, who was influential in introducing the concept of specialized care and expanding the use of chemotherapy as a treatment for patients with cancer. Dr. Brennan died on September 22, 2010, at the age of 89.
In a 2004 interview with ASCO, Dr. Brennan discussed the history of systemic treatment and how, at one time, this approach had only been aimed at the treatment of patients with metastatic cancers that could not be excised or treated with radiotherapy. But beginning around 1948, researchers were able to produce profound metastatic reductions of large lymph nodes throughout the body in patients with Hodgkin disease and various lymphomas. Advances in the treatment of childhood leukemia were also being made.
By the Society’s inception in 1964, the year prior to Dr. Brennan’s one-year term as ASCO’s second president, “We were on the verge of a very large change in the possibilities of systemic medical treatment of people with cancer,” he said in the interview. “We had some hope that there were forms of neoplasia that could be destroyed by chemotherapy.”
“He really had a vision for what cancer care was going to be,” said ASCO member and Dr. Brennan’s former colleague Robert M. O’Bryan, MD, FACP, of Great Lakes Cancer Management Specialists, in an interview with Detroit News. “He was ahead of his time.”
Dr. Brennan attended medical school at Loyola University and trained at Cook County and Henry Ford Hospitals. He later became the founding chairman of the Oncology and Hematology Services at Henry Ford Hospital, where he remained until his appointment as President of the Michigan Cancer Foundation, now known as the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center.
His appointments included serving on the Breast Cancer Task Force of the National Cancer Institute, the Committee on Cancer of the American College of Physicians, and the Public Health Committee of the Wayne County Medical Society, among others. He was also Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Wayne State University and the author of numerous published materials.
As an ASCO member, Dr. Brennan’s accomplishments include receiving the Board of Directors Appreciation Award in 2004 and the Statesman Award in 2007. He served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors Committee from 1964 to 1965, was a member of the Publications Committee from 1974 to 1975 and 1981 to 1985, and was a member of the Special Awards Selection Committee from 1964 to 1967.
According to his obituary in the Detroit News, Dr. Brennan leaves behind his wife, Rita; his children, Catherine, John, Theresa, Timothy, Patricia, Mary, and Ann; 25 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.