Harold Frucht joined the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2001 as the Director of Gastrointestinal Oncology in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases. He graduated from the SUNY Upstate Medical Center in 1982 where he subsequently stayed for internship and residency in Internal Medicine, as well as a first year of Gastroenterology fellowship training. To pursue scientific research, he completed his fellowship in the Digestive Diseases Branch of NIDDK at the NIH, where he continued as a Senior Staff Fellow. Clinical research was focused on neuroendocrine tumors, Zollinger Ellison Syndrome, gastric acid physiology, and many of the initial clinical trials of acid suppression with H2-receptor antagonists and with proton pump inhibitors. After establishing a collaborative relationship with investigators in the NCI-Naval Medical Oncology Branch of the NIH, basic science research focused on tumor biology of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and of gastrointestinal cancers. Specific interests included autocrine growth of cancers by G-protein mediated cell surface receptors, and calcium signal transduction in the mechanism of tumor growth.
In 1991, he was recruited to the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia as the Director of Gastroenterology. The goal was to establish a gastroenterology inpatient and consult service, an endoscopy unit, collaborate on gastrointestinal cancer clinical research, and basic science research on cancer biology. All clinical aspects were accomplished, and included a GI Fellowship training program in collaboration with the Division of Gastroenterology of the Thomas Jefferson University Medical College. He was fortunate to develop a relationship with Dr. Alfred G. Knudson as a result of which he developed a major interest in molecular and clinical cancer genetics. This led to collaboration with the Population Science Division of the FCCC and the establishment of the Gastrointestinal Tumor Risk Assessment Program. Basic science research funding was obtained and led to insights of the mechanism of colon cancer growth mediated by gastrointestinal hormones, the muscarinic cholinergic receptor, prostaglandin E2 and cox-2 expression, and PPAR induced apoptosis.
After ten years in Philadelphia, he was recruited to the faculty of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons with a clinical appointment at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – Columbia. As Director of Gastrointestinal Oncology in the Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases in the Department of Medicine, he established the Columbia Colon Cancer Prevention Program, which included a clinical database for research studies. As a result of his interest in molecular and cancer genetics, and gastrointestinal cancer prevention, he was a founding member of the Pancreas Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. As Director of the Pancreas Center Prevention and Genetics Program, he created the infrastructure that would result in numerous important clinical and translational research endeavors and publications. Under his direction and as a result of his accomplishments and vision of the program potential, the Pancreas Center Prevention and Genetics Program was selected as the recipient of very generous funding. This allowed for the establishment of a number of needed staff positions, including a Prevention Program Administrator, a Pancreas Program Prevention Fellow Trainee, and a certified genetic counselor; computer hardware and software; administrative office and clinical space; pathological specimen procurement and database formation; and expanded collaboration with other academic institutions research studies of pancreas cancer genetics and prevention.
Having been influenced by many outstanding mentors throughout his training and academic career, Dr. Frucht has always considered teaching a major aspect of his responsibilities. This has in fact been one of the most enjoyable and satisfying undertakings of his career. From training at the Upstate Medical Center, research position at the NIH, and academic positions at the Fox Chase Cancer Center and at CUMC, he has been fortunate to be trusted with educational, clinical, and research aspects of medical students, residents, fellows, and non-medical professionals.
Many significant research endeavors were undertaken by these trainees and resulted in often referenced publications on: head and neck SCC as part of the germline mutation induced FAMMM syndrome; pancreas cancer genetics, screening and prevention of pancreatic cancer in high risk patients; epidemiologic and clinical risks of pancreatic cancer; BRCA1 and BRCA2 germline mutations as risk factors and predisposition to pancreas cancer; and collaboration in the International Cancer of the Pancreas Screening (CAPS) Consortium, which created and published guidelines on the management of patients with increased risk of familial pancreas cancer. All of the trainees have gone on to successful academic careers and clinical endeavors.
Updated June 27, 2023