Dr. Robert Fenstermaker
A Hope Award-winner who loves to give good news
BY JANA EISENBERG
Dr. Robert Fenstermaker has been
at Roswell Park Cancer Institute since
1995. His titles include Department of
Neurosurgery chair and codirector of
both the Brain Tumor Treatment Center
and the new Gamma Knife Center; he’s
also associate professor and director of
neurosurgical oncology at UB’s Department of Neurosurgery. For his innovative and passionate approach to brain
cancer research, Fenstermaker was
honored in late 2017 with RPCI’s Thomas B. Tomasi, MD, PhD, Hope Award.
His research is equally impressive:
he’s the lead investigator on SurVaxM,
a groundbreaking and promising vaccine that targets glioblastoma tumors.
The research concentrates on molecular
oncogenesis, which studies the mechanisms by which certain growth factors
and their receptors contribute to malignant glioma tumor formation and progression, and how these factors may be
selectively targeted to kill tumor cells.
The vaccine is in phase II trials both at
Roswell Park and four additional institutions, including the Dana-Farber Cancer
Institute and the Cleveland Clinic.
The combination of his training and
interests (neurosurgery, pharmacology, biochemistry) and his motivations
(patients, better outcomes for people
with brain cancer) make him particularly suited to his work.
A graduate of Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine and former
professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, he was also
chief of neurosurgery at the Cleveland
Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He’s
professionally active, serving on panels
and co-authoring articles, chapters, and
abstracts; he reviews others’ work for
scientific journals and presents his own
at national and international meetings.
The son of a high school teacher and
a homemaker, Fenstermaker grew up in
the 1960s in Norton, Ohio, near Akron.
The Depression and World War II profoundly and generationally affected the
family—as the youngest of brothers,
Fenstermaker felt that weight and still
reflects some of it in his habits and pursuits.
High school sparked his interest in
science and biology; in addition, the
deep effect of seeing the suffering of ill
family members inspired him to become Photo by kc kratt