After completing his medical training in the United States, Dr. Salem returned to the American University of Beirut in 1971 and established the first fellowship training program for cancer research and treatment in the Middle East. Between 1972 and 1986, he trained more than twenty physicians, most of whom eventually came to MD Anderson Cancer Center for further training. Some are currently on the staff at MD Anderson.
In the early 1970s, when the treatment of cancer was still a heresy , Dr. Salem worked hard to introduce a new concept, that cancer is not only a treatable disease but also a potentially curable one. Now, more than forty years later, this concept has become common knowledge.
Dr. Salem was one of the first researchers to recognize that cancer may start as a benign process and can be totally reversed if diagnosed and treated at this stage. This daring concept led to the introduction of a new discipline in cancer research called chemoprevention. Also, Dr. Salem was one of the first scientists to see the link between infection and cancer. His team’s studies on immunoproliferative small intestinal disease in the 1970s were the first to show that repeated chronic infection in childhood led to the development of lymphoma in the small intestine ten to fifteen years later. He was first to show that infections can cause cancer. In 2005, two Australian physicians who worked extensively on the bacterium H. pylori’s relationship to stomach cancer won the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology.
Dr. Salem has conducted more than three hundred conferences on cancer therapy in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. He has chaired more than fifty sessions on cancer research and lymphomas at international and national cancer conferences. In 1993 he was invited by the International Union Against Cancer to chair the international faculty of its postgraduate chemotherapy course.
During his professional career, Dr. Salem has been actively engaged in teaching students, residents, and Fellows. For many years, he chaired a monthly multidisciplinary cancer conference that was open to physicians throughout the city of Houston. He currently moderates cancer conferences at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.