Newswise — Richard G. Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert in oncology and endocrinology, has been named director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia. The announcement was made today by Thomas Jefferson University President Robert L. Barchi, M.D., Ph.D.
With this appointment, the cancer programs at Jefferson are being restructured and the role of the cancer center director expanded. Dr. Pestell will also become professor and chair of the newly created Department of Cancer Biology, associate dean for cancer programs at Jefferson Medical College and vice president for Oncology Services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Dr. Pestell comes to Jefferson from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he was the Center's director. He was also the Francis L. and Charlotte Gragnani Chair of the Department of Oncology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and associate vice president for Georgetown University Medical Center. An active scientist, Dr. Pestell will also bring a cadre of researchers from Georgetown.
A specialist in hormone-related cancers, Dr. Pestell works toward the eventual discovery of novel therapies for diseases such as breast and prostate cancer. His current research focuses on developing new treatments that specifically target cancerous cells and reduce side effects associated with common cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation.
In his basic science research, Dr. Pestell has made significant contributions to understanding cell cycle regulation and the aberrations that can lead to cells turning cancerous. His work is aimed at identifying molecular markers of pre-malignant disease to develop preventive approaches to cancer.
On December 1, 2005, Dr. Pestell will assume his responsibilities in the newly restructured Jefferson cancer program. At that time, interim Kimmel Cancer Center director and noted molecular biologist Renato Baserga, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at Jefferson Medical College, will step down and resume his fulltime teaching and research activities.
At Jefferson, Dr. Pestell will build on the Kimmel Cancer Center's current strengths in basic cancer biology research while emphasizing growth in the important areas of translational and clinical research. He will also focus on expanding Jefferson's clinical programs in cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Barchi praises Dr. Pestell as both a world-class researcher and clinician. "We are extremely pleased to have someone with Richard Pestell's scientific and clinical talent, impressive record of achievement and academic vision to lead the Kimmel Cancer Center," he says. "His recruitment is pivotal for the cancer program in realizing the goals set forth in Jefferson's strategic plan."
Thomas J. Lewis, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, sees Dr. Pestell's appointment as "a catalyst for enhanced collaboration between Jefferson's scientists and clinicians and renewed growth in our clinical cancer programs."
"Jefferson is known for training superb clinicians and for an unwavering commitment to both clinical and basic research," says Dr. Pestell. "I'm very excited about the opportunity to build upon the Kimmel Cancer Center's tradition of accomplishment and to facilitate the translation of basic research discoveries into meaningful advances in patient treatment and care."
His record of research funding is outstanding; his current support, including five National Institutes of Health R01 grants, totals more than $20 million.
Dr. Pestell has a history of increasingly impressive academic achievement. He completed clinical and research training at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital and he was assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago from 1993 to 1996. He left Chicago that year to become associate professor and later professor in the Department of Medicine and Developmental and Molecular Biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he stayed until going to Georgetown in 2002. He was chair of the Division of Endocrine-Dependent Tumor Biology at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 2000 to 2002.
As associate dean for cancer programs at Jefferson Medical College, Dr. Pestell will have an opportunity to put his academic experience to use. "Dr. Pestell's breadth of experience will be an asset that will strengthen the medical college," notes Jefferson Medical College dean Thomas J. Nasca, M.D.
The author of more than 220 research papers and reviews, Dr. Pestell has published in such prestigious journals as Cell, Science, Nature Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He sits on the editorial boards of a number of journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the International Journal of Oncology. He was a member of the editorial board of Cancer Research from 2003 to 2004, when he became a senior editor of the journal.
The winner of numerous awards and honors, Dr. Pestell received the Endocrine Society of Australia's highest honor, the Keith Harrison Award, in September. He received the Irma T. Hirschl Weil Caulier Career Scientist Award in 1998, has been an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation since 2000, and was the Diane Belfer Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research at Georgetown in 2002.
Dr. Pestell holds memberships in a number of scientific organizations, including the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Endocrine Society (USA) and the Endocrine Society of Australia.
A native of Australia, Dr. Pestell received his M.B.B.S. at the University of Western Australia in 1981. He earned a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in 1991 and a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree in 1997, respectively, from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He was a postdoctoral clinical and research fellow in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a postdoctoral research fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School, respectively, from 1991 to 1993.
The Kimmel Cancer Center (KCC) at Jefferson is one of a select group of National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the nation. Designated a Clinical Cancer Center, it took its name in 1996 when businessman and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel made a generous donation to the Jefferson Cancer Center to expand its research activities.
KCC has well funded basic science programs in cell biology, signal transduction, molecular biology and genetics, immunology and structural biology, developmental therapeutics, melanoma, leukemia/lymphoma, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer and genitourinary cancer. KCC conducts a variety of initiatives in clinical research, including programs in urologic cancer, prostate brachytherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, targeted therapeutics, clinical pharmacology, and cancer prevention and control. It is the cornerstone of the Jefferson Cancer Network (JCN), a consortium of institutions dedicated to improving cancer care and clinical research. The JCN established the Jefferson Oncology Group (JOG), a cooperative program to enhance clinical and translational cancer research, including clinical trial development.
KCC conducts approximately 100 to 120 clinical trials each year aimed at prevention and treatment of cancer. The majority of trials focus on such cancers as brain and central nervous system, cervical, colorectal, head and neck, lung, melanoma, ovarian, breast and prostate.