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Konstantin Dragnev Named the Irene Heinz Given Professor in Pharmacology

Konstantin Dragnev, MD, a professor of medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine, has been named the Irene Heinz Given Professor in Pharmacology. He is both a practicing oncologist at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center and a translational scientist. In addition to serving as the Cancer Center’s Associate Director for Clinical Research, he is currently interim deputy director of the Cancer Center and has been medical director of its infusion suite since 2011.

After earning his MD at the Higher Institute of Medicine in his native Bulgaria, Dragnev came to the U.S. as a Fogarty Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. He then completed a residency in internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, as well as hematology-oncology fellowships at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Dragnev’s clinical work and research are focused on lung cancer. He studies rexinoids—a class of compounds that regulate cell growth—which cause degradation of a protein known as cyclin D1 that’s often overexpressed in lung cancer cells. His research demonstrated the effectiveness of a combination of two agents, including a rexinoid, against lung cancers characterized by a mutation to a gene called KRAS.

A translational clinical trial based on this work conducted at Dartmouth-Hitchcock showed benefit for lung cancer patients who had not responded to other treatments. Dragnev plans to continue designing clinical trials, with the goal of translating bench science into effective treatments for lung cancers characterized by specific molecular signatures, such as KRAS.

“Dr. Dragnev's leadership has been critical to the success of our cancer clinical trials program, and I am very happy to see his appointment to the Given Professorship," said Duane Compton, PhD, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine. "He exemplifies the very best in how we work to translate discoveries in the basic sciences into more effective and less toxic treatments for a disease that knows no boundaries in who it affects.”

Being named to an endowed professorship is one of the highest honors in academia. By funding the creation of named chairs, donors support the work of an institution’s most distinguished faculty members. The Irene Heinz Given Professorship is one of two endowed chairs established at Geisel in 1964 through a gift from the Irene Heinz Given and John LaPorte Given Foundation.

“I am honored and humbled by my appointment as the Irene Heinz Given Professor,” said Dragnev. “Not only does it represent recognition of the efforts of our entire team of cancer investigators, but it will be an inspiration, allowing me to concentrate on my research to develop new ways to prevent and treat lung cancer.”