The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has selected Patrick Hwu, MD, the chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Sarcoma Medical Oncology, to be the new head of the Cancer Medicine division. With a prominent career in tumor immunology, Hwu joined MD Anderson more than 10 years ago and will begin in his new role on March 4.
Hwu’s nomination was the result of a nationally conducted process to replace the current interim head of the department, Richard Champlin, MD, who will maintain his position 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 the provost and executive vice president, Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD, in a press release.
“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 joined MD Anderson in 2003 to be the first chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology, focusing his studies on tumor immunology and helping to translate numerous concepts from the lab to the clinic. He was a pioneer in the studies of gene modified T cells and published his research on the first chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that targets cancer, which are currently being analyzed in several cancer types.
In addition, he is responsible for the development of novel and ongoing clinical studies based on his T cell findings, including trials focused on the combination of T cell therapy either with immune checkpoint blockade or with dendritic cell therapy. Hwu also contributed to accelerating the development of the Melanoma Medical Oncology department during his 11 years as chair, growing from a clinical group with 40 faculty members and $200,000 funding to an academically recognized program supported by the NIH, with over 120 members and $6 million in peer-reviewed grant funding.
Most recently, Hwu has been involved in a partnership between MD Anderson and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, through the facility’s Moon Shots Program. The three-year collaboration was established to develop therapies that unleash patients’ immune systems to attack cancers, and aims to draw on the strengths of both institutions to push ahead for more effective treatments for cancer patients.
“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,” stated the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System, Raymond S. Greenberg, MD, PhD. Steven A. Rosenberg, MD, PhD, the head of the Tumor Immunology Section and chief of the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Research, added that “he is one of those rare visionaries when it comes to expanding the frontiers of cancer medicine.”
Hwu has a medical degree granted by the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and was a house officer in internal medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. His fellowship in oncology was completed at the National Cancer Institute, the same facility where he worked for 10 years, serving as principal investigator on leading tumor immunology research. Currently he also holds the position of advisory board member at several institutions, such as the Moffitt Cancer Center and the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center.