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Dr. Arenson's Biography

Dr. Arenson was born in Philadelphia, on April 11, 1945. His father was in the Naval officer. When the war ended, the family moved toToledo, Ohio where he lived until college.

Dr. Arenson attended Ottawa Hills High School wich recently presented him with an award for life time achievement approved by the Ohio legislature. He has maintained a close relationship with his former classmates at Ottowa Hills who have been remarkably successful. He will attend his 50th high school reunion this summer 2013. 

Dr. Arenson attended college at Cornell University where he was a member of the rowing team and was President of his fraternity. He majored in English and Art History as well pre-med. He went to medical school in Philadelphia at Drexel University where he was elected to AOA Medical Honor Society in his sophomore year and finished in the top 5% of his class. 

He then trained in pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Colorado and University of California. This training was interrupted by two years of military service in the Army Medical Corp for wich he received the Army Commendation Medal.

During his early career, Dr. Arenson participated in pivotal clinical trials which ultimately led to the cure of several childhood cancers through the use of combinations of chemotherapy drugs that had been used previously as single agents with no evidence of cure. This was a turning point in the history of cancer treatment which has left an indelible impression and forms the core of his new book, TO BE OF USE, Five Decades as a Cancer Doctor Including the Story of the Conquest of Childhood Leukemia. 

Currently, Dr. Arenson enjoys life through his motto of "work hard, play hard". He is married to Aura Cordero Arenson and has four children, two stepchildren and three grandchildren. He has diverse interests which include his passion for painting www.arensonsart.com, cycling, drumming, birds, writing poetry and dancing tango, but his work in neuro-oncology remains the centerpiece of his life. He hopes to continue this as long as his body (and wife) will allow.

Medical Career

Dr. Arenson did research on the immune system’s role in cancer and participated in the early days of bone marrow transplantation. He joined the UCLA faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1978 where he stayed until 1982, when he moved to Albany, New York, to become Director of Pediatric Hematology Oncology at the Albany Medical College. There he established programs for childhood cancer, hemophilia and sickle cell anemia. In 1988 he returned to Denver to join the faculty of the University of Colorado at Children’s Hospital as an Associate Professor.

It was at Children’s Hospital that Dr. Arenson developed an interest in tumors of the central nervous system. Brain tumors account for approximately 25% of all childhood cancers and present major challenges to achieve improved survival while preserving acceptable levels of function. He helped establish a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and developed several treatment protocols that contributed to significant progress in the field. He became a member of the Brain Tumor Strategy Group of the Children’s Cancer Group, an international consortium of institutions seeking to improve treatment for childhood cancer.

As Dr. Arenson later discovered, these challenges faced by children are similar to those faced by adults with central nervous system tumors.

In 1992 Dr. Arenson reluctantly concluded that his professional interests and areas of expertise would be better served in the freer environment of private practice. Soon thereafter, four Denver hospitals merged to form what is now known as HealthOne. This led him to conceive the idea of developing a program for both children and adults with central nervous system tumors which would pull together the diverse expertise at these four hospitals. He contacted Dr. Michael Hitchcock, a neurosurgeon at Swedish Hospital, now retired, who strongly supported the idea. They conceived a state-of-the-art, comprehensive program for all patients with central nervous system tumors in the Rocky Mountain Region, which would eliminate disruptive and costly out-of-state travel for medical care. They met with many professionals and eventually formed a group which met twice a month to review and discuss patient cases in order to optimize treatment.

Ultimately, Dr. Arenson and Dr. Hitchcock decided that Swedish Hospital, closely allied with the Colorado Neurological Institute, a nonprofit organization seeking to provide programs of optimum care, research, education and outcomes analysis for all neurological diseases, was the best place for this innovative program. In 1996, their first year, they treated approximately 30 patients. After Dr. Hitchcock’s retirement, Dr. Timothy Fullager and Dr. Arenson were named co-medical directors of the program. In 2005, Dr. Arenson became Medical Director and Director of Neuro-oncology of the CNI Center for Brain & Spinal Tumors.

After 40 years as an oncologist, Dr. Arenson had found his niche in neuro-oncology, the culmination of his experience with both pediatric and adult patients with tumors of the central nervous system.

People often ask Dr. Arenson how it is that he could work in an area of medicine that is so challenging and emotionally draining. His answer is that it was the relationships he formed with the patients and their families and friends that kept him going as well as his sense that he brought unique skills of knowledge, compassion and humor to what was often a devastating experience. His relationship with his patients was a partnership, one which taught him something new about the resiliency of the human spirit every day.