It is with great sadness that the family of Professor Thomas Tursz announced his death on 27 April 2018. Professor Tursz was the General Director of the Institut Gustave-Roussy (IGR), from 1994 to 2010. He became Professor of Oncology at the Faculty of Medicine Paris-Sud in 1986. He was both a medical oncologist and a researcher, leading the Biology of Tumours Laboratory (URA CNRS 1156) at the IGR from 1984 to 1996 and was Head of the Department of Medicine from 1992-1994. His department conducted several important trials in breast, lung cancer and soft tissue sarcomas and was a pioneer in France of cytokines and gene therapy in human clinical trials. In 1994, the first trial on gene therapy in lung cancer using a recombinant adenovirus was initiated in his department at the Institut Gustave Roussy.
At the EORTC, he was the chairman of the EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group, from 1993 to 1996. He became the Chairman of EORTC Scientific Audit Committee in 2003 to 2006 and Vice-President of EORTC Board in 2006 to 2009.
Born in Krakow, Poland in 1946, his father was a physician in Poland who immigrated to France in 1946, when Thomas was less than a year old. However, his father was not allowed to practice in France until 1957, as he was not a French-born citizen, and he was asked to repeat his medical studies. This left a lasting mark on Thomas, as his father was instrumental in his choice of career.
Professor Allan van Oosterom, a former EORTC president, was his great friend and close colleague within the EORTC Soft Tissue and Bone Sarcoma Group. “I remember with great emotion the friendship between Allan and Thomas. Understanding that Thomas had not been to Poland since he was born, Allan organised the group meeting in Poland in 1996 on the occasion of his 50th birthday. It was a very special moment for Thomas and he was grateful to his dear friend”, said Professor Françoise Meunier, former Director General of EORTC and Director of Special Projects.
Thomas Tursz’s work was awarded several prestigious scientific prizes, such as the Oncology Award “Prix de Cancérologie” from the French National League Against Cancer in 1979. The Bernard-Halpern Immunology Award in 1983; the Rosen Oncology Award from the Medical Research Foundation in 1989; the Grand Prix in Oncology from the Academy of Medicine in 1992; the Hamilton Fairley Award for Clinical Research from the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) in 1998 and the Prix de Rayonnement Français in 2001.
His enthusiasm for life and for his work will be greatly missed. He was once asked what his greatest vice was1. “Gourmandise! Which also means curiosity and a wish to experiment. We have to enjoy life, and it’s best lived with a bit of taste and passion,” he replied.
1 An interview with Professor Thomas Tursz; EJC; 2002