November 28, 2018
Cancer Research Pioneer Dr. Charles Coltman Jr. Dies at 88
Charles A. Coltman Jr. MD, an oncology trailblazer and co-founder of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, died Nov. 28. He was 88.
Coltman, along with William L. McGuire, MD, started the SABCS as a regional conference in 1978 during Breast Cancer Awareness Week. At that first session, there were 140 attendees from around South Texas. SABCS is now an international conference spanning five days, drawing nearly 8,000 attendees each year to San Antonio. It is one of the largest breast cancer meetings in the world. The 41st conference is taking place Dec. 4-8 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
"Dr. Coltman's profound influence on the cancer research community cannot be overstated," said Charles D. Blanke, MD, the current group chair of the SWOG Cancer Research Network, the organization Coltman ran from 1981 to 2005. "He was a true pioneer, seeing possibilities early - then making them happen with heart and hard work and the military bearing and precision of the Air Force officer he was."
For 24 years, Coltman served as group chair of SWOG, the National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials group that is part of the National Clinical Trials Network, the oldest and largest publicly funded cancer research network in the United States. In 1993, Coltman founded the Southwest Oncology Group Foundation, which would become a critical partner in furthering the group's work as The Hope Foundation for Cancer Research. SWOG trials have led to the approval of 14 new cancer drugs, made more than 100 changes to the standards of cancer care, and saved more than 3 million years of human life. At SWOG, Coltman championed young investigators, women, and patient advocates, launched landmark cancer prevention trials, and helped establish SWOG's international partners and presence.
SABCS co-sponsor C. Kent Osborne, MD, director of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, described Coltman as an educator who "had a major impact in the cancer world early on, when we were just getting started as a specialty."
As a researcher, Coltman's primary focus was on blood cancers, and he won several awards for this work, including the Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Research Award from the Association of Community Care Centers and ASCO's David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award. Coltman served as ASCO president in 1988, and on the ASCO board of directors from 1983 to 1986.
Coltman was a professor of hematology and medical oncology at UT Health San Antonio from 1977 to 2010. He joined what was known then as the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) in 1977 and served as its medical director and later chairman through 2003. The CTRC became part of UT Health San Antonio in 2007 and is now known as UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Prior to his civilian work, Coltman was a highly decorated Air Force veteran and the chief of hematology and oncology at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio.
William L. Henrich, MD, president of UT Health San Antonio, said Coltman helped give patients a voice in the clinical trial development process.
"Patients gained a place at the table with cancer researchers, designing clinical trials and providing advice on quality-of-life issues," Henrich said. "Advocates also got a front-row seat in learning about the newest treatments being studied and spread this news among their peers."
Henrich added: "With his influence locally, regionally and through the SABCS, Dr. Coltman impacted the prevention and treatment of cancer care throughout the world."
Published in San Antonio Express-News on Dec. 7, 2018.