Bednarski, pioneer of new cancer therapies, dies at 47

Mark Bednarski

Mark Bednarski, PhD, assistant professor of radiology, passed away Feb. 18 after a 14-year battle with colon cancer. He was 47.

During his time at Stanford, Bednarski led studies to develop nanoparticles that could selectively kill cancer cells. Pre-clinical studies using this system were able to eliminate cancers that had spread widely from a variety of primary tumors. He also synthesized a nanoparticle that targeted tumor angiogenesis using magnetic resonance imaging.

"He was extraordinary in that his mind led him to understand and innovate in many different fields and disciplines including organic chemistry, chemical biology, medicine, image-guided therapy and molecular imaging," said chair of radiology Gary Glazer, MD, in a letter to the department. "Some of these ideas may very well provide a new foundation for earlier disease detection or targeted novel therapies."

Bednarski received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1984. He received his PhD in chemistry from Yale, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard in 1988. He received an appointment in one of the world's leading chemistry departments at the University of California-Berkeley as an assistant professor. By his early 30s, Bednarski was well-known as a rising star in chemical biology, said Glazer.

Shortly after his 33rd birthday, Bednarski was diagnosed with colon cancer, which inspired him to develop an understanding of medicine and biology. He came to the School of Medicine in 1992, where he began his studies of medical imaging. He was appointed an assistant professor of radiology in 2000 and served as a founding member of the molecular imaging program.

Despite his health problems, Bednarski continued to forge ahead with his studies. In 2003, he took a leave of absence from Stanford to work at the National Institutes of Health, helping develop a manufacturing facility for novel molecular probes and therapies for use in cancer clinical trials.

Bednarski was not only a dedicated scientist but also a passionate fan of the San Francisco Giants and of racket sports, said his mother, Dorothy Bednarski, of Flushing, Mich. In addition to his mother, he is survived by his wife, Lynn Oehler and daughters, Lauren and Carly, of Los Altos. He was buried in Flint, Mich.

Gifts honoring Bednarski and his life's work will be used to support a radiology fellowship in his name. To contribute, please make the check out to Stanford University—with Mark Bednarski's name on the memo line of the check or in an accompanying note—and mailed to Commemorative Gifts, Stanford University Medical Center, 2700 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.