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The Kidney Cancer Association (KCA) will present Dr. Nizar M. Tannir with the Nicholas J. Vogelzang Humanitarian Award in honor of his outstanding service and compassion for his patients, his mentorship of colleagues, and his contributions to the KCA and the wider kidney cancer community.

Gretchen E. Vaughan, KCA’s President and CEO, will present Dr. Tannir with the Vogelzang Award on Friday, November 10 during the KCA’s 2023 International Kidney Cancer Symposium (IKCS): North America in Nashville, Tennessee from November 9-11.

“I am humbled to have been selected as the recipient of the 2023 Nicholas J. Vogelzang Humanitarian Award,” said Dr. Tannir, a Professor in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. “During my 22 years in academic oncology, Nick and I shared patients, collaborated on multiple clinical trials, and participated in numerous conferences and advisory board meetings. I always admired Nick for his fierce advocacy for his patients, his wisdom and broad knowledge in oncology, his sponsorship of his fellows and faculty, and above all for his humanity. Nick truly epitomized our noble profession. To receive an award carrying his name is a great honor.”

The Nicholas J. Vogelzang Humanitarian Award was named in honor of the KCA’s late co-founder and board member Dr. Nicholas J. Vogelzang, a world-renowned genitourinary oncologist specializing in rare cancer types. In the 1980s, Dr. Vogelzang practiced at the University of Chicago where he cared for Eugene P. Schonfeld, a kidney cancer patient with whom he later co-founded the KCA. Dr. Vogelzang was the award’s inaugural recipient during the 2022 IKCS: North America meeting that November, which he received posthumously following his death in September 2022.

Dr. Tannir has served on the KCA’s Medical Steering Committee since 2014 and became an emeritus member in 2022. Over nearly a decade working in partnership with the KCA, Dr. Tannir helped shape the scientific program for many IKCS meetings, contributed to patient education materials, and advised the organization on how best to direct resources that would not only help patients in the near-term but would also advance research and clinical practice such that future patients would be closer than ever to a cure.

“Dr. Tannir embodies so much of who Dr. Vogelzang was,” Vaughan said. “In over two decades as an academic oncologist, Dr. Tannir’s dedication to his patients and colleagues, his commitment to advancing kidney cancer research, and his advocacy for those who need it most have set a remarkable example for all of us and show the compassion and humility that define a true humanitarian.”

Dr. Tannir made significant headway over the years in research on rare kidney tumors including renal medullary carcinoma (RMC), which most often afflicts young Black subjects, and translocation renal cell carcinoma (tRCC), which often afflicts children, adolescents, and young adults.

“In 2011, I connected with Dr. Tannir when my youngest son, Chris, was diagnosed with RMC,” said Ritchie Johnson, MBA, BSN, RN, President and Founder of the Chris “CJ” Johnson Foundation supporting those with RMC and a member of the KCA’s Patient and Caregiver Advisory Council. “Recognized worldwide for treating this rare kidney disease, Dr. Tannir and I collaborated closely after my son’s passing. Over the past 11 years, our shared focus has been on advocating for change and finding a cure for RMC. I deeply appreciate Dr. Tannir’s unwavering commitment, exceptional expertise, and sincere compassion for his patients. His tireless research efforts are making a significant impact in the RMC community. Dr. Tannir, you will always have a special place in my heart.”

Much of Dr. Tannir’s recent work in RMC was in collaboration with Dr. Pavlos Msaouel, a medical oncologist at MD Anderson, a recognized RMC expert, and one of many fellows and junior faculty who benefitted from Dr. Tannir’s conscientious support.

“Nizar Tannir is a mentor’s mentor whose compassion heals, research innovates, and teachings inspire the future of patient care,” said Msaouel, who is also a member of the KCA’s Medical Steering Committee. “It’s hard to think of anyone more deserving of the Nicholas J. Vogelzang Humanitarian Award.”

Dr. Tannir holds the Endowed Ransom Horne, Jr. Professorship for Cancer Research at MD Anderson. He is a clinical investigator with expertise in trial design and contributed significantly to clinical trials that have led to FDA approval of several therapeutic agents in RCC. Over his career, Dr. Tannir authored or co-authored hundreds of manuscripts, served as editor of two books and contributed to multiple book chapters on kidney cancer. Among his many teaching and career awards, Dr. Tannir received the KCA’s 2017 Eugene P. Schonfeld Award for research on rare kidney tumors. He is also the founding president of the RMC Alliance, established to accelerate target discovery and development of new therapeutics for this rare and aggressive kidney cancer type.

The Nicholas J. Vogelzang Humanitarian Award is not an annual award. However, the selection committee was unanimous in their decision to honor Dr. Tannir this year.

“Dr. Tannir is unwaveringly caring and compassionate with his patients as well as his colleagues – his concern for the well-being of others seems to be limitless,” said Dr. Bradley C. Leibovich, a urologic oncologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Chair of the KCA’s Board of Directors. “I suspect this is also what has motivated him academically and scientifically, resulting in a career impacting countless lives both directly and indirectly. He has unequivocally earned the right to be considered a humanitarian and I am so pleased that he will be honored in Dr. Vogelzang’s name.”


About the Kidney Cancer Association
The Kidney Cancer Association is a global community dedicated to serving and empowering patients and caregivers, and leading change through advocacy, research, and education in order to be the universal leader in finding the cure for kidney cancer. Founded in 1990 by Eugene P. Schonfeld and a small group of patients and doctors in Chicago, Illinois, the KCA has grown into an international non-profit organization based in Houston, Texas. The KCA promotes scientific advances through two annual research symposiums and a robust grant program, participates in legislative advocacy, and seeks to be a source of education and resources for patients, caregivers, and anyone impacted by kidney cancer.

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Radha Chitale
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