Internationally Renowned Statistician on Cancer Clinical Trials, Daniel J. Sargent, PhD, Dies

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Daniel J. Sargent, PhD

Daniel J. Sargent, PhD

In the 20th century, the field of statistics developed and was gradually applied to clinical research. The use of statistics allows clinical researchers to form reasonable and accurate inferences from collected information and to make sound decisions in the presence of uncertainty. Moreover, mastery of statistical concepts can prevent numerous errors and biases in medical research. The oncology community recently lost a leader in statistical research and cancer clinical trial design, Daniel J. Sargent, PhD. Dr. Sargent died unexpectedly following a brief acute illness on September 22, 2016. He was 46 years old.

Dr. Sargent was born on August 22, 1970, in Red Wing, Minnesota. At the age of 9, Dr. Sargent’s parents, Forrest and Faye Sargent, moved to Rochester, Minnesota, to start a family business: Sargent’s Landscape Nursery. While attending John Marshall High School, Dr. Sargent met Becky Warner, who became his high school sweetheart and later his wife. After graduating high school in 1988, they went on to attend college together at the University of Minnesota. They were married on August 21, 1993.

Years of Service With the Mayo Clinic

After receiving his undergraduate degree, Dr. Sargent received his PhD in biomedical statistics from the University of Minnesota, where he joined the Mayo Clinic in 1996. Dr. Sargent was a consultant in the Division of Biomedical Statistics and Informatics. He held the dual academic rank of Professor of Biostatistics and Oncology and served as the Section Head for the Section of Cancer Center Statistics since 2001.

Dan was internationally loved and respected as probably the finest trial statistician in GI oncology. He was a giant in the field with humility and approachability.
— David H. Ilson, MD, PhD

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Dr. Sargent’s research was in the area of oncology clinical trials, where he served as the Group Statistician for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology; Dr. Sargent also led multiple international groups including ACCENT in adjuvant colon cancer, the prospective IDEA in colon cancer, and the FLASH international consortia in follicular lymphoma.

In 2014, Dr. Sargent was awarded a $37.7 million, 5-year grant by the National Cancer Institute to lead the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Statistics and Data Center, which was located at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester.

Dr. Sargent was published extensively in colorectal cancer treatment, optimal clinical trial design and endpoints, and prognostic and predictive biomarkers.

Tributes From Colleagues

When Dr. Sargent’s untimely death was announced, tributes poured in from colleagues and friends. While extolling his intellect and devotion to elevating the statistical science behind the development of cancer clinical trials, there was unanimous praise for Dr. Sargent’s gentility and common decency. One such tribute was shared with The ASCO Post by David H. Ilson, MD, PhD, a gastrointestinal cancer expert from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“Dan was internationally loved and respected as probably the finest trial statistician in GI oncology. His intelligence, humanity, warmth, collegiality, and wit promoted great international collaborations, which have had a positive impact on treatment and survival outcomes of patients with GI cancers. He was a giant in the field with humility and approachability. He is irreplaceable, and I cannot wrap myself around the enormity of the loss to all of us with his passing.”

Colleagues said that although Dr. Sargent’s work was challenging, he treasured his family and friends. He enjoyed traveling abroad and exploring new places with his wife and their children. He enjoyed the outdoors, downhill or cross-country skiing, hiking up north with his family, playing tennis, cheering on his children, Alec and Paige, during their tennis matches, or fishing and playing golf with his son. ■