Dr. Keith Lanier Black is the healthcare pioneer that will be highlighted today.
Born in 1957 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Dr. Keith Lanier Black is an internationally recognized neurosurgeon who is well known and respected for successfully operating on brain tumors that many other neurosurgeons deem inoperable. Dr. Black performs more than 200 brain tumor operations annually.
Dr. Black’s father was principal of a segregated elementary school in Auburn, Alabama, who encouraged his son’s interest in science. Dr. Black credits his father with giving him and his siblings an attitude that they can accomplish anything. By the time Dr. Black reached high-school age, he was performing organ transplants and heart-valve replacements on dogs. At age 17, Dr. Black earned the Westinghouse Science Award for publishing his first scientific paper, a paper on the damage done to red blood cells in patients with heart-valve replacements.
Dr. Black earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in six years. He completed his internship in general surgery and his residency in neurological surgery at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Dr. Black is also a researcher and teacher and is well known for his groundbreaking research. He has been a pioneer in research related to techniques that allow chemotherapeutic drugs to be delivered directly into cancerous brain tumors.
Another innovative method based on Dr. Black’s research is geared towards strengthening the body’s own immune response to brain tumors. The method involves extracting the tumor cells during surgery; culturing the cells in the laboratory; genetically modifying the culture cells; and injecting the genetically engineered product into the patient as a vaccine. Dr. Black explains: “In order for the cancer to survive one of the things it has to do is make itself invisible to the immune system, the first step is to get the immune system to recognize the tumor.” After the tumor cells are removed, genetically engineered and re-injected into the patient, “the immune system can now recognize the tumor, identify it, and mount an immune response against it, and develop millions of immune cells to go out throughout the body, find these cancer cells and eradicate them
In 1997, Dr. Black joined Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as director of the Neurosurgical Institute. He continues to work toward his long-term goal of finding a true cure for brain cancer.