Like many early pioneers in oncology in the United States, Simon Kramer, MD completed his training in oncology in the United Kingdom. This followed World War II active duty in the Italian Resistance and immigration from his native Romania. Kramer came to Philadelphia in the 1960's as the founding chairman of radiation oncology at Thomas Jefferson University (Jefferson), and he subsequently founded the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), which was the first North American group to systemically study combined modality therapy for adults with locally advanced cancers. He led the first such trial beginning in 1969 for patients with head and neck cancer in studying the role of chemotherapy for such patients.
Kramer preceded Winship's executive director Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD in both of these leadership roles and inspired Curran and several generations of cancer investigators. "Simon established a national infrastructure for cancer research which remains foundational to this day", says Curran, who served as RTOG Group Chairman from 1997 to 2014 and as its successor NRG Oncology Group Chairman since 2014.
Under Kramer's leadership, Jefferson acquired the first radiation therapy simulator in the country and became a national leader in radiation oncology innovation. Curran served as chairman of the same Jefferson department as Kramer from 1994 to 2007, prior to his arrival at Winship in 2008. "Simon inspired all of us to realize that we need to think and act boldly to truly lessen the burden of cancer."
Photo credit: Archives & Special Collections, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia