Remembering Joseph Simone, M.D.

Dr. Joseph V. Simone

We are saddened to share the news that Joseph V. Simone, M.D., former UF Health Cancer Center director and pioneering clinical investigator, passed away January 21, 2021, at the age of 85.

An internationally recognized leader in cancer care, research and education, Simone’s research led to the development of groundbreaking treatments in leukemia, HIV/AIDS, and other cancers. Simone served as director of the UF Health Cancer Center, then known as the Shands Cancer Center, from 2008-2009.

“Joe Simone was a giant in the field of oncology, responsible for many strides in the quest for cure of childhood leukemia. He helped so many in offering advice and support in their own careers,” said John Wingard, M.D., deputy director of the UF Health Cancer Center, who worked with Dr. Simone during his time at UF. “Personally, he was insightful and level-headed, yet also humorous and personable. He always had a twinkle in his eyes, with a joke on the ready in his pocket. He was a friend to UF and helped us in our journey to gain NCI designation. We will miss him greatly.”

Prior to his time at the UF Health Cancer Center, Simone worked for 25 years at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, where he served as the director and CEO from 1983 to 1992. In 1983, under Simone’s leadership, the hospital was designated as the first and only National Cancer Institute cancer center dedicated entirely to children. While at St. Jude’s, Simone helped shape the groundbreaking Total V clinical trial, which raised survival rates for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia from 4% to 50%.

“Dr Simone, throughout his remarkable career and in a variety of leadership roles, modeled integrity, empathy, and caring,” said ASCO CEO Clifford A. Hudis, M.D., FACP, FASCO, in an article posted on the organization’s website. “Among many other contributions, he envisioned and laid the foundation for ASCO’s portfolio of quality programs that improve care for patients everywhere.”

During his career, he has received many honors, including the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the AACR in 1979, the Distinguished Service Award for Scientific Achievement from ASCO in 2002, and the ASCO-American Cancer Society Award for significant contributions to cancer control or practice in 2010. In 2017, Simone was recognized with a 2017 Giants of Cancer Care® award, a unique honor that recognizes physician-scientists who have helped move cancer care forward.

“There is no question in my mind that my biggest impact in my career was developing treatments for childhood leukemia. Everything is dwarfed against that,” said Simone in a 2017 interview. “I think that having become a pediatric oncologist was a godsend for me.”

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