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MD Anderson’s Stephen Hahn confirmed to lead the FDA

He is the fourth person to lead the agency this year


Stephen Hahn, M.D. Stephen Hahn, M.D., was confirmed on Dec. 12, 2019 to lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
By Maggie Galehouse | December 13, 2019

MD Anderson’s Stephen Hahn, M.D., was confirmed on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019 as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a 72 to 18 vote by the U.S. Senate. He is the fourth person to lead the agency this year.

Hahn, 59, is currently chief medical executive at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a position he has held since 2018. An oncologist who specializes in treating lung cancer and sarcoma, Hahn joined MD Anderson in 2015 as division head, department chair and professor of radiation oncology. Before that, he worked in his hometown of Philadelphia as chair of the radiation oncology department in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine from 2005 to 2014.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Hahn responded to questions about the most pressing issues facing the FDA, including the rise in illnesses and deaths related to vaping products with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as the opioid crisis.

“I’m a lung cancer doctor and I have seen the ravages of tobacco-related cancers,” Hahn said. “I also know youngsters who are very close to me who use e-cigarette products. … I think this is an important, urgent crisis in this country. I do not want to see another generation of Americans become addicted to tobacco and nicotine and I believe we need to take aggressive action to stop that.”

When asked what three steps he would take as FDA commissioner to monitor the use of opioids, Hahn said he would focus on the appropriate packaging and labeling of the drugs, accelerate the approval of non-opioid products and embrace a holistic approach to managing patient pain.

Hahn was no stranger to Houston when he arrived four years ago. He received his undergraduate degree in biology from Rice University in 1980 before returning to Philadelphia to attend medical school at Temple University. His postgraduate training included a clinical residency and fellowship at the National Cancer Institute.

Hahn’s research targets the molecular causes of the tumor microenvironment, particularly the study of chemical signals that go awry (aberrant signal transduction pathways) and the evaluation of proton therapy as a way to improve the efficiency of radiation therapy.

As commissioner of the FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hahn will oversee the regulation of foods, drugs, biologics (vaccines, blood, blood products and more), medical devices, electronic products that give off radiation (such as X-ray equipment, microwave ovens and laser products), cosmetics, veterinary products and tobacco products.

Hahn will take over from Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., who was appointed acting FDA commissioner on Nov. 6. Giroir was preceded in the role by Norman “Ned” Sharpless, M.D., who served from April to early November, following the resignation of Scott Gottlieb, M.D., which was announced in March.




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