University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Spotlight: Wedding Photo Inspires Melanoma Specialist

Adil Daud

In Adil Daud’s voyage toward a life in medicine, he was inspired by his mother, a gynecologist, and his father, an ophthalmologist.

Born in India, Daud spent his childhood in India and Dubai. He earned a medical degree in Nagpur, India, before coming to the United States in 1987 to pursue a research career.

Daud is now at UCSF, where he is a clinical professor in hematology/oncology and director of Melanoma Clinical Research at UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He combines patient care and research as he tries to better understand and develop new treatments for melanoma.

Daud’s first stop in the U.S. was the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where he focused on molecular biology. He also met a young physician-researcher, Pamela Munster, whom he later married and who now also practices medicine at the Diller center. Her dedication and focus on caring for patients convinced Daud to balance his career between research and direct patient care.

From Cleveland he went to a medical residency at Indiana University Medical Center, where he developed his passion for oncology and working with cancer patients. “I think you develop a more intense kind of relationship with cancer patients than with other kinds of patients,” Daud says. “That’s something that attracted me.”

He then served at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida before joining UCSF in 2008 to do clinical research on melanoma.

Daud vividly recalls treating one patient, a computer programmer whose melanoma had spread to his brain and lungs. Chemotherapy saved the man’s life and appears to have left him cancer-free, Daud says.

At one point, the patient asked Daud for some advice: “I think I’ve licked this. Do you think I can consider marriage?” Daud replied, “Why not?”

Six years after that conversation, Daud remains inspired by a photo of the patient’s wedding day, as well as annual Christmas cards from the couple. “From what I can tell, everything has been going well with him so far,” Daud says. “He’s still free of disease and he’s still OK.”

Daud, today a cheerful and relaxed 47, is excited to be doing research at a time when so much is being discovered about melanoma. In 2008 UCSF research made it possible to determine which people have a gene mutation called BRAF that can be found in as many as three out of five people with melanoma. Drugs that can inhibit those cancers are now available, with more treatments on the way.

“We’re entering a different era in melanoma where I’m hoping there will be a lot more patients like that computer programmer,” says Daud, who is proud to be part of UCSF’s clinical and research teams.

“We’re excellent clinically,” Daud says. “But we are also on the cutting edge of research, and where that matters a lot is with diseases like melanoma, because many of the advances aren’t FDA-approved yet and they’re not the kind of things you can just pull off the shelf. At UCSF, patients have access to the newest, best treatments because somebody’s been working on them in a lab for many years.”

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