Hawaii doctor improved access to breast cancer clinical trials


POSTED: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dr. Robert H. Oishi, 76, a surgical educator and researcher who helped hundreds of Hawaii patients with breast and colorectal cancer clinical trials, died Jan. 13.

He was principal investigator for the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project from 1982 until his death and principal investigator for the project's Breast Cancer Prevention Trial from 1992 to 2001.

Because of his efforts, Hawaii women had access to “;major breakthrough breast cancer clinical trials that resulted in monumental modifications in the care and management of those diagnosed with or at high risk for developing the disease,”; said Sharon Shigemasa, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii public information officer.

The National Breast and Bowel Project recognized the Hawaii center last year as one of the top 25 study recruitment sites out of hundreds participating, she said.

Dr. Jonathan Cho, oncologist-internist and co-investigator for the breast and bowel project studies, said Oishi “;was an icon in terms of clinical trials. ... He was a very dedicated teacher and mentor to many and tireless researcher.”;

Studies included establishment of lumpectomies plus radiation over radical mastectomies as standard surgical breast cancer treatment. “;It took a lot of persistence trying to fight the dogma at that time, which was radical mastectomy,”; Cho said.

Another major trial was to see how the drug Raloxifene compares with Tamoxifen in reducing breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

“;He was a quiet man but when he spoke everybody listened,”; said Dorothy Coleman, manager of the Cancer Research Center's clinical trial unit and Oishi's program coordinator for the breast and bowel project.

Dr. Kenneth Sumida, associate professor of medicine at Kuakini, who worked with Oishi in education of medical and surgical residents, said, “;He emphasized that his patients kept him going and drove research.”;

Oishi had many appointments as chief of surgery and director of surgical education at Kuakini Medical Center and associate professor of surgery at the University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Oishi was born on Kauai. He graduated in 1951 from 'Iolani School, completed undergraduate requirements in three years at Tufts University and earned his medical degree from the Tufts School of Medicine in 1958. He set up a private practice in 1965, specializing in general surgery, until he retired in December 2006.

He married Elaine Mitsunaga in October 1967.

Survivors besides his wife include son Stanton, daughter Elna Ward, brother Noboru, sisters Grace Kagawa and Akiye, grandson Dashiell Ward and granddaughter Alana Oishi-Agader.

Visitation will be from 3 to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Nuuanu Mortuary with a memorial service at 4 p.m. No flowers.