Dr. Brigid Leventhal, JHU oncologist, expert on treating cancer in children

February 08, 1994|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Sun Staff Writer

Dr. Brigid G. Leventhal, professor of oncology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the first director of the Pediatric Oncology Division at Hopkins' Oncology Center, died Sunday of cancer at her home in Columbia.

Dr. Leventhal, who was 58, was an expert on the development of new chemotherapy treatments and the assessment of their toxicity in children.

At her death, she was working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a study of agents already approved for treatment of children and of any long-term side effects.

"Dr. Leventhal's contribution to the management of childhood cancers is immeasurable," said Dr. Martin D. Abeloff, director of the Oncology Center. "She devoted her entire career to the pursuit of new and better ways to treat childhood cancers.

"She had a true concern for the children she treated and the long-term effects the disease would have on their lives. Dr. Leventhal made a special effort to pass her knowledge on to younger researchers and clinicians. Her contributions will have a lasting impact on the field of oncology."

Dr. Leventhal began working at Hopkins in 1976 and headed the pediatric unit until 1984, establishing the outpatient clinic and the inpatient unit.

The former Brigid Gray was born in London and, with her mother and younger brother, came to the United States in 1940 at the height of the blitz of London. They settled in Los Angeles. Her father remained in England as a filmmaker in the Royal Air Force.

She graduated from Hollywood High School in 1950, then studied for a year at a boarding school in Switzerland before beginning her studies in psychology at the University of California Los Angeles, from which she was graduated summa cum laude in 1955.

She began her medical studies at UCLA then transferred to the Harvard University medical school, graduating in 1960. She served her internship and pediatric residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. After an additional year of residency at Boston City Hospital, she studied hematology on a one-year fellowship at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Boston.

In 1964, she came to Maryland to work at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, where she headed the Chemoimmunotherapy Section from 1973 until she went to Hopkins.

She was a member of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee and its subcommittee on human gene therapy at the National Cancer Institute, and of the advisory committees of the Leukemia Society, the Yale Cancer Center, the Dartmouth Cancer Center and St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

She was a former president of Women in Cancer Research, a member of the boards of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association of Cancer Research, and a founding member of the Pediatric Oncology Group, a national cooperative group of those participating in clinical trials, and chairman of its Hodgkin's Disease Committee.

She was co-author of "Research Methods in Clinical Oncology" and wrote 52 book chapters, including several in the "Nelson Pediatric Textbook." She published more than 135 articles.

Her awards included the Outstanding Career Woman Award of the National Council of Women and the Outstanding Professional Achievement Award from the UCLA Alumni Association.

Services were to be held at 10 a.m. today at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, Columbia.

Dr. Leventhal is survived by her husband, Dr. Carl Leventhal, a division director at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders; two sons, George Leventhal of Takoma Park and James Leventhal of New York City; two daughters, Sarah Roark and Dinah Leventhal, both of Rockville; her mother, Barbara Gray, and brother, Kevin Gray, both of Los Angeles; and a granddaughter.

Memorial donations may be made to an endowed lectureship bearing her name at the Oncology Center through its development office at 550 N. Broadway, Baltimore 21205.

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