San Pedro, CA – September 12, 2007
Nikos Hontzeas lost his mother to mesothelioma when he was ten years old. The doctors first misdiagnosed her with pneumonia, a mistake that still occurs with alarming frequency due to mesothelioma’s relative rarity. This traumatic experience shaped Nikos’s life as he felt the ravages of the disease at an early age.
Nikos dedicated his life to cancer research after his father died from colon cancer, and his wife’s brush with ovarian cancer continued to drive home what everyone knows: not enough is being done quickly enough.
The Pacific Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has hired Nikos as part of its research team. As a post-doctoral research associate at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Nikos has worked on cancer-related research projects at UCLA since 2005. He joined PHLBI because, in his words, “Dr. Cameron is realistic about the possibilities with mesothelioma research, he has a fantastic approach. He’s doing this out of his own drive and passion because it’s the right thing to do. It really makes me feel good about working here.”
Nikos was also impressed by the survival times of Dr. Cameron’s mesothelioma patients, up to 5 years in some cases, and the focus on quality of life as well as quantity of life. By pursuing a combination of therapies to extend life, from cell studies to mouse studies, and eventually to clinical trials, Nikos believes that much can be accomplished.
Nikos’s father was a violinist, composer, and the head of a conservatory in Montreal. His mother was an accomplished flute player. As a violinist himself, with an abiding love for classical music, Nikos brings an interest in culture as well as science to his work.
“It’s amazing that so many people who’ve lost someone donate money to this cause, but seeing the generosity of people like Dr. Cameron and those who are in a position to help actually doing so, is wonderful,” Nikos says.