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Obituary of Juan A. del Regato

New York Times
Sunday, June 29, 2008

Juan del Regato, 90, an Expert In Radiation Therapy for Cancer

Published: June 22, 1999

Dr. Juan A. del Regato, a pioneer in using radiation therapy to treat cancer, died on June 12 at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Mich. He was 90 and lived in a retirement home in Tampa, Fla.

Dr. del Regato, who had been visiting his daughters in Michigan, died after surgery for injuries suffered in a recent fall.

In 1949, Dr. del Regato helped start the first training center in the United States dedicated to therapeutic radiology, the Penrose Cancer Hospital in Colorado Springs. And in the late 1960's, he helped coordinate one of the first cooperative clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of radiation therapy in treating inoperable prostate cancer.

''Few American physicians have had as great an impact on the development of a medical specialty as did Dr. del Regato,'' said a former student of his, Dr. J. Frank Wilson, chairman of the department of oncology at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Dr. del Regato was born on March 1, 1909, in Camaguey, Cuba. He attended medical school at the University of Havana and received his medical degree from the University of Paris.

While in France, he also studied at the Radium Institute and the Fondation Curie and invented the ''del Regato localizer,'' a device that facilitated the delivery of effective radiation treatments in the early era of radiation oncology.

Dr. del Regato came to the United States in 1939 and worked briefly at the Chicago Tumor Institute. He then left for Washington and the private practice of Dr. Edwin Merritt, a leading radiologist. He later became a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute.

In January 1943, he took a position as a radiation oncologist at the Ellis Fischel State Cancer Hospital in Columbia, Mo. In 1948, though, Spencer Penrose, a wealthy philanthropist, visited the hospital and decided to build a similar one in Colorado Springs. Dr. del Regato became director of that institution, the Penrose Cancer Hospital.

Later he left Colorado for Tampa, accepting the University of South Florida's offer of a professorship in radiology and serving as a consultant in radiation therapy at the James A. Haley V.A. Medical Center there.

Dr. del Regato wrote ''Cancer: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prognosis'' (C. V. Mosby Company, 1947) with Dr. Lauren Ackerman, and he published many research articles.

Among his honors were the Gold Medal from the American College of Radiology in 1968 and the Bruning haus Prize from the French Academy of Medicine in 1979. In 1980, he was one of five American radiation oncologists to receive the Beclere Medal from the Centre Antoine Beclere in Paris.

Dr. del Regato was also the founder of the American Club of Therapeutic Radiologists, now called the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

His wife, Inez, died this year. He is survived by a son, Dr. John del Regato of Indianapolis; two daughters, Ann Jaeger of Lake Ann, Mich., and Juanita Peters of West Bloomfield, Mich., and five grandchildren.

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Autobiographical Essay (pdf format ready to download)

To find out more about Juan A. del Regato see biographies in the Publications page.

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