The IASLC Mourns the Loss of Dr. Pierre Massion

The IASLC Mourns the Loss of Dr. Pierre Massion

Names & News
Apr 06, 2021
“Pierre was not only an amazing physician and scientist, but he was also a truly amazing, kind, generous, and loving soul who always had a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone he met.”
Dr. Massion

Pierre Massion, MD, director of the Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Initiative and co-lead of Cancer Health Outcomes Control Research Program at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), has passed away suddenly of an apparent heart attack at the age of 58.

Dr. Massion had a very prestigious career. He was director of Faculty Development in the Division of Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Medicine and served as a member of the Diversity Liaison Committee in the Department of Medicine at VICC. He was a recipient of the Patricia A. Stern Award from the LUNGevity Foundation, the ASCO Foundation Advanced Clinical Research Award in Lung Cancer, and the Damon Runyon Lilly Clinical Investigator Award. He was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015.

“Our community is devastated with this tragic news,” said Dr. Christine Lovely, who worked with Dr. Massion at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) for more than 15 years. “Pierre was not only an amazing physician and scientist, but he was also a truly amazing, kind, generous, and loving soul who always had a smile on his face and a kind word for everyone he met.”

Dedicated Researcher, Mentor

Dr. Massion worked in lung cancer biology, early detection, and therapeutics since 1999. Dr. Massion’s lab focused on lung tumorigenesis and on using molecular approaches to identify markers of lung neoplasia, as well as on testing those novel markers in multidisciplinary early detection strategies. The Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Medicine and professor of medicine at VUMC, Dr. Massion was the principal investigator of five ongoing clinical trials including the Vanderbilt Clinical Validation Center, which sought to validate novel markers in lung cancer, and the VA (Veteran’s Administration) Merit Review Grant to discern tumor heterogeneity in SCLC.

Dr. Massion and his mentees
Dr. Massion (second from the right) and his screening program team. Mentee Dr. Jennifer Lewis remembers how helpful he was, regardless of the type of problem. “His door was always open to discuss anything that was on your mind,” she said.

One of Dr. Massion’s current mentees, Dr. Jennifer Lewis, told the IASLC that she has many fond memories of working with Dr. Massion. “Perhaps what stands out the most is the early days of starting the first lung cancer screening program at our VA,” she said. “Pierre helped us finalize our mission and vision statements, create our workflow, and of course, made sure research was a prominent component of the program. His positivity, infectious enthusiasm and love for science will always be a part of our work moving forward.”

Generous with Knowledge and Time: IASLC Volunteer Service

Dr. Massion received his undergraduate and MD degrees from the Universtite Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. He trained in Internal Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, where he also completed a Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship. He became a member of the IASLC in 2007 and quickly became emmeshed in the Screening & Early Detection Committee. He has been faculty of numerous IASLC events including two World Conference on Lung Cancers, two small cell lung cancer meetings, and two AACR-IASLC international joint conferences. He was an engaged reviewer and author for the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, and a repeat contributor to the IASLC Lung Cancer News. Dr. Massion not only provided the IASLC community with expert insights, but he served as a mentor for a number of early-career physicians and encouraged them to become active in the association.

Dr. Massion at the LUNGevity Run
Dr. Massion (second orange shirt from the left) and the Vanderbilt team, their families, and their dogs at the 2018 LUNGevity walk

“Pierre encouraged me to seek out opportunities for leadership in the community; in fact, he was the one who supported my application to the IASLC’s Early Detection and Screening Committee,” Dr. Lewis noted. “He set high standards, and it was his tough love and relentless push to improve my work that made me a stronger scientist and physician.”

A Global Family of Thousands

Dr. Massion is survived by his wife, Tebeb, and his sons Samuel, Thomas, and Elias. His extended international family of thoracic oncology colleagues has met the news with shock and sadness. The IASLC and the entire lung cancer community send their thoughts to Dr. Massion’s family.

Dr. Leora Horn shared a clinic day and numerous patients with Dr. Massion during her time at VUMC. “We would talk about work but we would also share family stories. He would often speak about his family in Belgium, his wife and his sons, of whom he was incredibly proud. His enthusiasm and positive energy were contagious. We have lost a wonderful person, advocate, researcher and friend,” she said.