March 12, 2015
Patrick Hwu is named head of Cancer Medicine
BY Ron Gilmore
Patrick Hwu, M.D., chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Sarcoma Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, has been named division head of Cancer Medicine.
Hwu’s selection came after a competitive national search to fill the position that was served by Richard Champlin, M.D., on an ad interim basis. Champlin will continue to serve as chair of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.
“Dr. Hwu is an internationally respected physician-scientist who has 25 years of experience in the fields of tumor immunology, targeted therapies and translational studies,” said Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., provost and executive vice president. “He’s a seasoned leader and has successfully chaired two departments and served as co-director of MD Anderson’s Center for Cancer Immunology Research and its immunotherapy platform. He has also held endowed positions, including the Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Distinguished University Chair in Cancer Research. We’re delighted that he will be leading this vital division, and are thankful for Dr. Champlin’s skillful leadership during our search for a new division head.”
Hwu earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and served as a house officer in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He completed a fellowship in oncology at the National Cancer Institute, where he continued to work for 10 years as a principal investigator leading tumor immunology studies. He joined MD Anderson in 2003 as the first chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology.
“Dr. Hwu is an accomplished clinician, researcher and administrator who is well positioned to take the Division of Cancer Medicine — already recognized as a global leader — to the next level,” said Raymond S. Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs, The University of Texas System.
An expert in tumor immunology, Hwu has translated multiple concepts from the laboratory to the clinic and helped to launch the field of gene modified T cells, publishing research on the first chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) directed against cancer. Clinical trials using CAR-transduced T cells now are being studied in many types of cancers, and MD Anderson has established an adoptive T cell therapy program, treating more than 80 melanoma patients with T cells to date.
In addition, Hwu has produced novel, ongoing clinical trials based on his team’s findings, including a study of combination T cell and dendritic cell therapy and a study of T cells modified with chemokine receptor genes to enhance their migration to the tumor. His most recent preclinical studies have focused on combinations of immune checkpoint blockade and T cell therapy, as well as rational combinations of targeted therapies and immunotherapies. Both of these concepts are being translated to the clinic.
“Dr. Hwu and I worked closely together at the NCI for 13 years. He is one of those rare visionaries when it comes to expanding the frontiers of cancer medicine,” said Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Tumor Immunology Section and chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research. “He is a brilliant scientist and leader. I congratulate him on this important position and look forward to working with him in his new leadership role at MD Anderson.”
During Hwu’s 11-year tenure as Melanoma Medical Oncology chair, the department evolved from a purely clinical group to an NIH-funded academic program performing novel laboratory and translational clinical research. The department has grown from 40 faculty and staff to more than 120, and its peer-reviewed grant funding has increased from $200,000 to more than $6 million.
An internationally recognized cancer leader, Hwu serves on the advisory board for a number of institutions, including the Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.