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The Brain Tumor Puzzle

C. David James, '86 Ph.D. Biomedical Sciences

C. David JamesAs one of the country's top neuro-oncology researchers, C. David James delves into the most basic biological processes to determine how normal brain cells develop into cancerous tumors, a line of research that has garnered continuous support from National Cancer Institute since 1991.

Professor of Neurological Surgery and the Berthold and Belle N. Guggenhime Endowed Chair at the University of California–San Francisco (UCSF), James' primary role is associate director and principal investigator for the Brain Tumor Research Center at UCSF, an internationally recognized research and treatment center for adults and children with tumors of the brain and spinal cord.

James began his appointment at UCSF this past June, following an illustrious decade-long tenure on the faculty of The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, where he helped secure a prestigious $11 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to establish a Specialized Program of Research Excellence.

Previously, he served as a faculty member and principal investigator at Emory University and the Henry Ford Hospital, where he established the neuro-oncology research program.

While working on his doctorate at WSU, he worked under the tutelage of Michael Leffak, professor of biochemistry. Under Leffak's direction, James produced a significant paper that described one of the first human origins of DNA replication, initiating a line of investigation in Leffak's laboratory that continues today.

"What starts out as basic research develops into medically relevant research," says James, who earned a B.S. in chemistry from Wright State in 1975. "It begins with a novel idea. For one thing that works right, 10 go wrong, so research takes perseverance. You learn to deal with setbacks and dead ends. In many cases, the dead ends are really important clues, and it depends on the experience as well as insight of the investigator to see the clues among the negative results."