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Inaugural Kerr Symposium advanced personalized medicine in oral cancer

Dr. William Giannobile delivers the welcome at the start of the symposium.

Dr. Nisha D'Silva answers questions after her presentation, "Targeting DNA Repair."

Clinicians and scientists presented a variety of research projects at a poster session that opened the symposium.

Ann Arbor, Mich., July 5, 2017 -– The inaugural Donald Kerr Symposium at the School of Dentistry brought together a group of internationally recognized experts who have made important contributions to personalized diagnosis and treatment of patients with oral cancer. The day-long symposium on June 16, which drew a capacity enrollment of healthcare professionals and scientists, was preceded the previous afternoon by a poster session highlighting clinical care and research, presented by clinicians and scientists.

The symposium, which will be held every two years, honors the groundbreaking research and leadership of the late Dr. Donald Kerr, who was a member of the School of Dentistry faculty for 40 years before retiring in 1977. He was widely recognized for his work in periodontology and oral pathology, along with development of special dental programs for oral cancer patients.

The inaugural symposium addressed the emerging concept of personalized medicine in oral cancer. This approach can improve patient survival and quality of life by tailoring the diagnosis and treatment for each patient based on tumor characteristics.

Symposium speakers and attendees were from different professional backgrounds including dentists and dental hygienists, physicians, epidemiologists, cancer biologists and clinician-scientists with expertise in oral cancer epidemiology, biology, immunology and clinical trials. This diverse group facilitated inter-professional relationships and dissemination of knowledge of current and future clinical and scientific developments in the field of oral cancer.

Dr. William Giannobile, chair of the Department of Periodontics and Oral Medicine, said the initial symposium was well-attended and featured an excellent slate of speakers, both from within the School of Dentistry and U-M Medical School as well as from around the country. Topics included human papillomavirus, clinical stratification, cancer biology and immunotherapy.  Giannobile congratulated the co-chairs of the organizing committee, Dr. Nisha D’Silva, who holds the oral pathology professorship named for Kerr and is associate chair of the department’s Division of Oral Pathology/Medicine/Radiology, and Dr. Peter Polverini, a professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology and former dean of the school.

“We appreciate the excellence shown by our faculty and staff of the Division of Oral Pathology/Medicine/Radiology in organizing such a high-quality scientific and clinical continuing education program,” Giannobile said.

D’Silva said she was pleased that the inaugural symposium was a venue for enhancing knowledge of personalized medicine and inter-professional relationships in the field of oral cancer.

The second Donald Kerr Symposium is scheduled for June 14, 2019.


The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is one of the nation’s leading dental schools engaged in oral health care education, research, patient care and community service.  General dental care clinics and specialty clinics providing advanced treatment enable the school to offer dental services and programs to patients throughout Michigan.  Classroom and clinic instruction prepare future dentists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists for practice in private offices, hospitals, academia and public agencies.  Research seeks to discover and apply new knowledge that can help patients worldwide.  For more information about the School of Dentistry, visit us on the Web at:
Contact: Lynn Monson, associate director of communication, at, or (734) 615-1971.