The University of Arizona

Arizona Cancer Center Founding Director Sydney Salmon Dies

By Janis Leibold, October 6, 1999

Dr. Sydney Elias Salmon, Regents Professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and founding director of the Arizona Cancer Center, died the morning of Oct. 6, 1999 of complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

A public memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17, under the covered drive of the Sydney E. Salmon Building at the Arizona Cancer Center, 1515 N. Campbell Ave. Parking will be available in the University of Arizona parking lot on the northwest corner of Mabel St. and Campbell Ave. Shuttle service from this lot to the Cancer Center will be available.

"The Arizona Cancer Center has lost a wonderful friend, colleague, physician and scientist." said Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, director of the Arizona Cancer Center. "The world also has lost a remarkable cancer visionary and great leader. This is a very sad time at the center that he conceived and created in our state."

Salmon was born in Staten Island, N.Y., on May 8, 1936. He moved to Tucson in May 1948 at the age of 12 with his parents Herbert M. Salmon and Edna W. Salmon, both of whom are now deceased. Salmon attended Tucson Unified School District schools, including Mansfeld Junior High School, and graduated from Tucson High School.

He received his bachelor's degree in philosophy with a minor in psychology from the University of Arizona in May 1958. While at the UA, he was active in Blue Key and Phi Beta Kappa. He also was art editor of the UA's humor magazine, The Arizona Kitty Kat, and was business manager of the Arizona Wildcat.

He married Joan Estelle Tobias on June 1, 1958, and remained happily married until the time of his death.

That fall, Salmon entered Washington University School of Medicine in St. in Louis, Mo., and received his medical degree in June 1962. After a medical internship and residency at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. (1962-64), he enlisted in the U.S. Public Health Service at the rank of lieutenant commander (surgeon) and was assigned to the cancer research service at the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital in Boston (1964-1966).

From 1966 to 1968, Salmon was a National Institutes of Health special fellow in hematology and immunology in the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Upon completion of his fellowship, he joined the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, as an assistant professor of medicine.

In June 1972, Salmon was recruited to the University of Arizona College of Medicine as an associate professor to head the hematology/oncology section of the department of medicine. In 1974, he was promoted to professor of medicine.

His areas of research interest were in multiple myeloma, breast cancer and tissue culture studies of human cancers.

Salmon played a key role in planning for the creation of the Arizona Cancer Center. In 1976, the Arizona Board of Regents formally established the Arizona Cancer Center, and Salmon was named as the center's founding director

Under Salmon's leadership, the center grew rapidly and became a major resource for the treatment of cancer in the Southwest. The center's first building, the Leon F. Levy Building, was dedicated in 1986 providing clinical, administrative, and research facilities.

In 1989 the Arizona Board of Regents named Salmon as a Regents Professor of medicine. The following year, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) named the Arizona Cancer Center as one of a small, prestigious network of "comprehensive cancer centers," which the NCI determines to have outstanding basic and clinical cancer research and patient care. In 1991, Salmon was named by then President George Bush to the NCI's senior advisory board, the National Cancer Advisory Board, for a five-year term.

The center's second building, the Sydney E. Salmon, M.D. Building, was named by the Arizona Board of Regents to honor Salmon and was formally dedicated in January 1998.

This addition more than doubled the total space for the center's 500-plus faculty and staff, making the combined size of the facility greater than 100,000 net square feet.

In 1998, Salmon announced his decision to step down as director of the Arizona Cancer Center. After a national search, Von Hoff was named director in August 1999. Thereafter, Salmon served as director emeritus until the time of his death.

During the course of his career, Salmon served as president of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (1984-85) and the American Association of Cancer Institutes (1989-1990).

He is the inventor of eight patents, several of which have had major impact on biology and medicine, and he served as an advisor to both government and the pharmaceutical industry. He was founding scientist of the Selectide Corp. in Oro Valley, which is now a division of the Aventis Corp. Salmon also is the recipient of many awards for his achievements in cancer research. He is the author of nearly 400 scholarly papers, and he edited 12 books in fields related to cancer research or cancer treatment.

Salmon is survived by his wife, Joan; five children: Howard M. Salmon, Stewart J. Salmon, and Russell A. Salmon, all of Tucson; Dr. Julia V. Salmon of Boston, Mass., and Laura M. Levine of Atlanta, Ga.; one brother, Norman W. Salmon of Tucson; and three grandchildren, Jordana Miriam and Joshua Toby Levine of Atlanta, Ga., and Susann Rachell Salmon of Tucson.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Arizona Cancer Center/UAF for the Sydney E. Salmon, M.D. Director's Endowment.