Nov 07, 2018
ASCO and the entire oncology community are deeply saddened by the loss of colleague, friend, ASCO Board of Directors member, and geriatric oncology leader Arti Hurria, MD, FASCO. Dr. Hurria was killed in a traffic accident on November 7, 2018. She was the George Tsai Family Chair in Geriatric Oncology, director of the Center on Cancer and Aging, co-lead of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, vice provost of clinical faculty, a professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, and a medical oncologist at City of Hope.
“Arti was a brilliant researcher and mentor, and a vibrant, shining light in the field of geriatric oncology. Her passing marks the loss of someone who made tremendous contributions to the field of oncology and to ASCO,” said ASCO CEO Dr. Clifford A. Hudis.
The child of physicians who immigrated from India, Dr. Hurria was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Southern California. She planned to be a physician herself from a young age—in interviews, she often related a story from her childhood, in which her father took her to a barbershop for a haircut and proudly told the barber that she was going to be a doctor.
After high school, she attended a 7-year combined medical program at Northwestern University and Northwestern Medical School. Her interest in oncology stemmed from her mother, who was a radiation oncologist, and her work with Dr. Steven T. Rosen at Northwestern. Dr. Hurria completed her internship at Beth Israel Medical Center, her residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and her fellowships in geriatrics and oncology at the Harvard Geriatrics Fellowship Program and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), respectively.
After her fellowship, Dr. Hudis and Dr. Larry Norton recruited Dr. Hurria to the Breast Medicine Service at MSKCC. She often acknowledged the importance of their mentorship, along with other eminent physicians such as Dr. Harvey J. Cohen, Dr. Hyman B. Muss, Dr. Jimmie C. Holland, and Dr. George J. Bosl.
“I always felt privileged to be able to mentor Arti. She taught me more than I taught her,” Dr. Hudis said.
Early in her career at MSKCC, Dr. Hurria worked with Dr. Bosl on a P20 grant integrating cancer care and geriatric medicine in a comprehensive cancer center. The grant built on her early interest in oncology and geriatrics, and laid the foundation for her future, in an understudied area where there was a clear need for more knowledge.
“Older adults were a vulnerable population because they had been so unrepresented in clinical trials,” Dr. Hurria said in a previous interview with ASCO Connection. “When you tried to make treatment decisions with them, you were often looking at data derived from younger patients.”
Following her time at MSKCC, she returned to Southern California to join City of Hope and lead its Center on Cancer and Aging. It is impossible to overstate the profound impact she has had on geriatric oncology and the improved care of older patients with cancer, shaping the nascent field through her research, clinical care, administrative leadership, and mentoring.
She had been recognized for her work with a Young Investigator Award and Career Development Award from ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation, and in 2013 she was presented with ASCO’s B.J. Kennedy Award and Lecture for Scientific Excellence in Geriatric Oncology. Her honors were manifold and well deserved, including the International Society of Geriatric Oncology’s Paul Calabresi Award, the Paul B. Beeson Career Development Award in Aging (K23), and the Frederick Stenn Memorial Award for Humanism in Medicine.
But in spite of the many awards and recognitions for her individual contributions to the field, she was deeply devoted to team science and collaboration. In a past interview with ASCO Connection, when asked about her personal motto, Dr. Hurria cited the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
Her strong belief in the power of community was reflected in her work within ASCO, where she was extraordinarily generous with her time, energy, and expertise since joining in 2001. At the time of Dr. Hurria’s passing, she was a member of the Board of Directors and active on several committees, including the Cancer Communications Committee, and numerous expert panels related to geriatric oncology and breast cancer. She served as past chair of the Professional Development and Cancer Research Committees, was on the Journal of Clinical Oncology editorial board, and was an associate editor for Cancer.Net, ASCO’s patient information website. She participated in ASCO’s Leadership Development Program and Education Council, and was active in the Society’s efforts supporting women in oncology.
In addition to her work within ASCO, she was an active and enthusiastic volunteer in a number of organizations. She was the chair and founder of the Cancer and Aging Research Group, co-chair for the Alliance Cancer in the Elderly Committee, past president of the International Society of Geriatric Oncology, and past chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Older Adult Oncology Committee, among others.
Always, her work was driven by her genuine connection to the patients she cared for. In a past interview with ASCO Connection, when asked what she would say to young physicians considering a career in oncology, Dr. Hurria answered, “The experience that comes with holding a patient’s hand during a cancer diagnosis is one that I don’t think is paralleled anywhere else in medicine, and I would welcome young doctors into the field of oncology and into the field of geriatric oncology in particular. It’s a beautiful way to live one’s life, caring for such an incredible group of patients.”
Our hearts are with Dr. Hurria’s husband and daughter, her patients and colleagues, and the many people around the world who knew, admired, and loved her. She will be profoundly missed.
ASCO and ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation have established a fund in Dr. Hurria’s name to endow a Young Investigator Award in geriatric oncology. Learn more and donate.
This article has been updated to reflect the date of Dr. Hurria's passing; she died on November 7, 2018.