Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang, MD, FASCO, FACP, was a unique talent – a nationally renowned and spectacularly decorated doctor at the forefront of innovation and treatment who was also revered for his patience, kindness, and ability to inspire hope in his patients.
Dr. Vogelzang died on September 20 at the age of 72, leaving a lasting legacy in both the medical community and legal field through his work with his son, Nicholas Vogelzang, founder of Vogelzang Law.
Dr. Vogelzang changed lives at every turn. He was recruited to UChicago after finishing his MD at the University of Illinois Chicago. He joined the Hematology/Oncology
faculty in the Department of Medicine, where he built the genitourinary oncology program from scratch. There he treated prostate, kidney, bladder, and other urologic cancers. From the very start, his patient care was a hallmark of his practice.
“As he built the program, it was clear he was very good with patients,” said Harvey Golomb,
MD, Lowell T. Coggeshall Professor of Medicine, who led the section then and recruited Vogelzang. “His father had been a minister, and he learned from him how to cater to patients.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, there were limited treatments for genitourinary cancers. Dr. Vogelzang’s zest for research and unending curiosity meant he was always looking for new ideas for therapies. He became the leading clinical investigator in genitourinary oncology. Though many of his ideas didn’t work, he was able to develop novel therapies for renal cancer, which helped him launch his career and a lifelong search for effective cancer treatments.
No matter how busy his schedule or deep into his research, Dr. Vogelzang ensured his patients knew they came first.
“He was an amazing oncologist,” William Stadler, MD, Fred C. Buffett Professor of Medicine and Surgery and Dean for Clinical Research, said. “Even if he didn’t see a patient until 7 p.m., and they were angry because they had been waiting, within 10 minutes, they would do anything he said. He had this incredible ability to give patients hope, even when our options were extremely limited.”
Dr. Vogelzang’s battle with Hodgkin’s disease contributed to his empathy and treatment of his patients. He was a cancer patient himself, so he knew what his patients were going through and could talk to them as both a patient and their doctor.
Dr. Vogelzang’s most important contribution to medicine was his discovery of the first life-extending treatment for mesothelioma: a chemotherapy drug combination of pemetrexed and cisplatin. Mesothelioma is always fatal, and before Dr. Vogelzang’s groundbreaking work, there were no treatment options for patients.
His dedication to understanding treatments led him to be the principal or co-principal investigator in various clinical trials that ultimately led to the regulatory approval of several cutting-edge cancer therapies, including atezolizumab, pemetrexed, abiraterone, mitoxantrone, and radium 223 dichloride.
Over his storied career, Dr. Vogelzang was a respected figure in the oncology community. He served as president of the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society (1988-1991), served on the board of directors for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (1993-1996), and was the principal investigator of the University of Chicago for Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) grant from 1988 to 1999. From 1993 to 1998, he was the chair of the CALGB Prostate Committee.
Dr. Vogelzang was a founding board member of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation and helped found the Kidney Cancer Association (KCA), serving on the Board of Directors until his retirement in 2022. He was also a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Urological Association, the Society of Urologic Oncology, and the European Society for Medical Oncology.
In 2004, Dr. Vogelzang became the Head of Genitourinary Oncology and Clinical Professor of Medicine for the University of Nevada School of Medicine in Las Vegas and Reno. 2009, he joined the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada (CCCN) as a medical oncologist and became the Director of the Nevada Cancer Institute.
“Nicholas Vogelzang was our practice’s chairman of medical oncology and he preserved and extended the lives of thousands of Southern Nevadans and those who sought his meticulous care from throughout the United States and world,” said Andrew M. Cohen, MD, a Comprehensive Radiation Oncologist and Practice President. “Dr. Vogelzang led and participated in countless clinical trials in genitourinary malignancies, mesothelioma, as well as trials focused on new therapies for patients with metastatic kidney, bladder and prostate cancer, leading research findings and advances that have changed cancer care for the better globally. He will be greatly missed by all of us at Comprehensive.”
Mentorship was a key component of Dr. Vogelzang’s practice.
“He distinguished himself by always going above and beyond for his patients and colleagues with compassion and tremendous generosity of his time and wisdom,” said Bradly Leibovich, MD, chair of the board of directors at KCA and chair in the Department of Urology at Mayo Clinic. “When you consider those he cared for over the years and those he has taught who will continue to do great things because of the knowledge he imparted on them, he has and will continue to impact countless lives.”
Dr. Vogelzang’s lasting legacy is his family and his lifelong focus on mentorship. He changed the lives of so many through his warmth, genuine caring, and impact on medical oncology. His family, friends, and the cancer community remember and miss him.
In addition to his work in the medical field, Dr. Vogelzang was a prolific writer, authoring or co-authoring over 400 journal articles, book chapters, and abstracts.
Dr. Vogelzang was the first editor of the Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology, the first textbook to focus on GU oncology. It combined the perspectives of a molecular biologist, pathologist, oncologist, and urologist. He was the lead editor until recently and co-author and co-editor of “Malignant Mesothelioma: Advances in Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Translational Therapies.” With hundreds of speaking engagements worldwide, he advocated advancing initiatives to eradicate mesothelioma.