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Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012

George W. Sledge Jr.

Distinguished Professor

Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Pathology and Ballvé-Lantero Professor of Oncology
Department of Medicine
School of Medicine
University Graduate School
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Appointed to IU faculty, 1983
B.A., University of Wisconsin, 1973
M.D., Tulane University, 1977

The plaudits are many for George Sledge, physician and researcher at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center: "brilliant scientist," "caring physician," "successful mentor," "inspirational leader." Yet an anecdote relayed by Sledge's colleague Hari Nakshatri is perhaps the most revealing portrayal of all.

Last summer at a scientific meeting in Orlando, a New York radiation oncologist described one of her patients in a presentation and then reported that she had personally undertaken a national search for the best clinical oncologist to treat that patient. The physician she chose, from all those she could have selected in the United States, was George Sledge.

"George Sledge is one of the most influential figures in breast cancer in our generation," says Jose Baselga, holder of the Bruce A. Chabner Chair in Hematology and Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "He is a gifted clinician, an amazing scientist, and a deep and critical thinker. The depth of his knowledge is legendary."

For countless women and their families, Sledge is a compassionate doctor providing expert care, a physician who has given women his home phone number and encouraged them to use it.

"George is a consummate clinician," says Kathy Miller, associate professor of medicine and Sheila D. Ward Scholar at the IU School of Medicine. "He continues to serve a large and loyal patient population. Referring physicians seek his advice and counsel regularly.

"I marvel at his ability to explain technically complicated molecular biology to patients and their families. He is an active listener, considering patients' unique fears and goals when formulating their treatment plans. Importantly, George cares deeply about his patients -- celebrating their successes and mourning their losses," Miller says.

Sledge's laboratory has been continuously funded with external grants, and the science that has emerged is on the leading edge, generating more than 245 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He is recognized internationally for his work in developing and testing agents -- notably the drug bevacizumab -- to inhibit angiogenesis, the process by which cancer stimulates the development of blood vessels to support the growth of cancer cells.

Sledge was a leader in the research and clinical trials that established the medication Paclitaxel as an important therapy for metastatic breast cancer. His demonstration that the efficacy, at much lower toxicity, of sequential administration of another drug, Doxorubicin, with Paclitaxel "triggered a profound revision of the therapeutic approach to women with metastatic breast cancer," says Luca Gianni, director of the Department of Medical Oncology at Milan's Istituto Scientifico Universitario San Raffaele.

As leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the IU Simon Cancer Center, Sledge has created a multidisciplinary program of excellence in research and patient care, expanding it to 32 members. In the process Sledge has served as a talented mentor, inspiring young colleagues to do work that has made them national leaders in their cancer research specialties.

He has served tirelessly as a member or chair of numerous study groups and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group clinical trials, and as a member of key research-related committees at the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Association of Clinical Oncology. His many contributions resulted in his election as president of American Association of Clinical Oncology for 2010-11.

Sledge has received numerous prestigious honors, notably the Komen-Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in 2006, the Jill Rose Award from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 2007 and the 2010 William L. McGuire Memorial Lecture Award at the 33rd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Clifford Hudis, chief of Breast Cancer Medicine Service and professor of medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, captures well Sledge's many contributions: "His is a career marked by service and selflessness. He can be counted upon to confront difficult drug development decisions within both academia and industry; he provides clarity and precision when he teaches; and his specific contributions to the work of the regional scientific community, the national cooperative group system and ASCO all reflect admirable and rarely seen generosity."