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In memoriam: Laurence Clarke, visionary imaging scientist at US National Cancer Institute

19 April 2016

photo of Larry ClarkeSPIE mourns the death of SPIE Fellow Laurence P. (Larry) Clarke, who was a visionary leader of the Cancer Imaging Program (CIP) at the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) and steadfast supporter of new and emerging quantitative imaging technologies that address the cancer problem.

Clarke, the longtime NCI branch chief for imaging technology development, died 16 April. He was 72.

Clarke was a visionary in the field of medical imaging for cancer with a particular focus on quantitative imaging methods across a range of imaging modalities to support clinical decision-making and cancer research. He established several NCI programs and research networks for the development and validation of quantitative imaging methods for current and next-generation imaging platforms that support multi-center clinical trials and preclinical research, most notably the Quantitative Imaging Network (QIN).

His efforts as a co-chair of the Trans NCI-Center for Biomedical Informatics & Information Technology (CBIIT) informatics working group stimulated the development of open-source informatics tools and imaging archives that permit the evaluation of clinical decision tools as applied to cancer and precision medicine.

Clarke was actively working with several international scientific societies, including SPIE, to support and adopt physical standards for imaging as a biomarker and to position imaging to play a significant role in NCI future precision medicine initiatives.

photo of Laurence Clarke and Maryellen Giger"Larry Clarke was an imaging leader and the founder of the Quantitative Imaging Network program at NCI," said SPIE Vice President Maryellen Giger (pictured at right). "He was always enthusiastic, visionary, and effective, and really moved imaging forward in today's science of precision medicine. Dr. Clarke often attended SPIE Medical Imaging and most recently was the motivator behind the 2015 LungX Challenge, which brought together NCI, SPIE, and AAPM (the American Association of Physicists in Medicine)." The LungX Challenge was a project to evaluate quantitative image-analysis methods from multiple research labs for the diagnostic classification of malignant and benign lung nodules.

Clarke, who published numerous scientific papers with SPIE and other organizations, had worked at the NCI since 1999.

In supporting Giger's nomination of Clarke for promotion to SPIE Fellow in 2016, SPIE Fellow Kyle Myers of the US Food and Drug Administration also noted Clarke's leadership in making medical imaging a more quantitative and reproducible science. Clarke built strong networks of collaboration across academia, industry, and government to translate research findings into practice, she said.

"Examples of these efforts include his building of the quantitative imaging network and the use of academic-industry partnership grant mechanisms," Myers said. "Dr. Clarke was instrumental in the development of large public databases such as the LIDC (Lung Image Database Consortium) and RIDER (Reference Image Database for the Evaluation of Response) to enable benchmarking of quantitative imaging tools for use in establishing the state of the science and the development of more advanced methodologies.

"His impact on the advancement of the cancer imaging field cannot be understated."

Clarke was instrumental in the development of large public databases such as the LIDC (Lung Image Database Consortium) and RIDER (Reference Image Database for the Evaluation of Response) to enable benchmarking of quantitative imaging tools for use in establishing the state of the science and the development of more advanced methodologies.

Robert J. Nordstrom, NCI branch chief for image-guided interventions, informed his colleagues of the news on Monday, saying he would miss his friend and colleague's tireless pursuit of bringing standards into all aspects of clinical imaging. "Uniting the technologies of informatics with the goal of improved clinical imaging results, Larry paved a pathway to bring informatics tools and methods into the science of imaging.

"We will carry on here at CIP because we have to," Nordstrom added. "Larry's legacy is tall, and it is inspirational to each of us who knew him."

During his long career, Clarke was also an adjunct professor of engineering and bioengineering at George Washington University (USA) and taught at University of South Florida, the nearby H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, University of Miami, and Dublin Institute of Technology.

He earned his PhD in medical imaging physics at National University of Ireland in 1978, focusing on quantitative nuclear imaging, and received bachelor's and master's degrees from Queens University in Belfast.

He is survived by his wife, Alice; daughters, Laura and Allisun; sons-in-law, Edward Sfeir and Edward Jose; and four grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 am 21 April at Immaculate Conception of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Port Jervis, NY.

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