Molecular imaging pioneer Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, MD, PhD, passed away on Saturday, July 18, from cancer. He was 57.

A brilliant researcher, Gambhir was known internationally for his pioneering work in multimodality molecular imaging, focusing on early cancer detection and extending into many other areas of study, reports SNMMI.

“Sam had an immeasurable capacity to be empathetic to each circumstance and person,” said Garry Gold, David Larson, and Yun-Ting Yeh from the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford. “Sam gave selflessly of himself in a way that was profound and genuine.” He was devoted to his wife, Aruna Gambhir, and to his son, Milan, who passed away in 2015.

Gambhir was the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research and Chair of the Department of Radiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was head of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection and director of the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford as well as the Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center.

Gambhir received his bachelor’s degree in physics from Arizona State University in Tempe and trained at UCLA in the Medical Scientist Training Program, where he obtained both his medical degree and his doctorate in biomathematics. He did his medicine and nuclear medicine residency training at UCLA and was a professor of molecular pharmacology, vice chair of molecular pharmacology, and director of the Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging before moving to Stanford University in 2003.

He developed many of the FDG PET algorithms used for the management of cancer patients, including cost-effectiveness models. His decision models were used by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services in understanding the role of FDG PET in various applications and directly helped achieve reimbursement for PET. 

Gambhir received numerous awards, including the Benedict Cassen Prize, George Charles de Hevesy Nuclear Pioneer Award and the Paul C. Aebersold Award for outstanding achievement in basic nuclear medicine science from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging, Outstanding Researcher Award from the Radiological Society of North America in 2009, the Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Holst Medal, the Tesla Medal, the Hounsfield Medal from Imperial College, London, and the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2008, the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2014, and the National Academy of Inventors in 2016.

“Sam’s research and leadership improved healthcare for patients around the world, while at the same time inspiring a new generation of researchers to follow in his path,” said SNMMI President Alan Packard, PhD. “With Sam’s passing, we have lost not only a giant in our field but also a wonderful human being who we will long remember for his empathy, charisma, creativity, and inspirational leadership.”

In lieu of flowers, the Gambhir family prefers that donations be made to the PHIND Center, the Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection at Stanford, the Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation, or The Sanjiv Sam Gambhir Professorship in Translational Medicine.

Featured Image: Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, MD, PhD, was a molecular imaging pioneer. He died of cancer at age 57.