Newswise — NYU Langone Medical Center has announced that internationally recognized surgeon and scientist Diane M. Simeone, MD, will join its Perlmutter Cancer Center on March 1 to serve as associate director for translational research and to lead its newly established pancreatic cancer center.

Currently director of the gastrointestinal oncology program at University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Dr. Simeone has had a long and distinguished career in pancreatic cancer research and treatment. Her laboratory was the first to identify pancreatic cancer stem cells, a discovery that might explain why current drug therapies are ineffective against the disease. She also leads a prolific research program on pancreatic cancer prevention, early detection and therapeutics, and holds major leadership positions with organizations advancing pancreatic cancer research and advocacy worldwide.

“Dr. Simeone’s recruitment signifies the unwavering commitment of Perlmutter Cancer Center to transform the landscape of pancreatic cancer detection and treatment,” says Dafna Bar-Sagi, PhD, Vice Dean for Science and Chief Scientific Officer at NYU Langone, and an acclaimed pancreatic cancer investigator. “As a highly accomplished physician scientist, Dr. Simeone will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between what we learn in the lab and how we translate it to the bedside.”

As director of the new pancreatic cancer center, Dr. Simeone will set its overall clinical and research direction with the goal of establishing NYU Langone and Perlmutter Cancer Center as a major site for cutting edge clinical trials for the disease. In her laboratory, she will continue to investigate the molecular events important in pancreatic cancer development -- with the goal of identifying “biomarkers” for early detection and new therapies that improve patient survival. On the clinical side, she will maintain her focus on the management of pancreatic neoplasms, while as the cancer center’s associate director for translational research she will expedite the progression of laboratory studies or research on all types of cancer to clinical practice.

“The incidence of pancreatic cancer is dramatically increasing, and by 2020, it will be the second highest cause of cancer death in the U.S.,” says Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, director of Perlmutter Cancer Center. “Unfortunately, the medical community has limited ability to prevent pancreatic cancer, detect it at an early stage or treat it effectively. That is why we have identified improving pancreatic cancer outcomes among our top priorities at Perlmutter Cancer Center. Dr. Simeone’s recruitment and the creation of a pancreatic cancer center that joins laboratory researchers and clinicians in a joint effort to cure this terrible disease are critical to executing this goal.”

Dr. Simeone joins an already strong pancreatic cancer team at Perlmutter Cancer Center, whose laboratory researchers are world leaders in pancreatic cancer biology, metabolism and immunology, while its clinicians are experts in new approaches to imaging, as well as the surgical and medical management of the disease. Besides adding her own research program to this group, Dr. Simeone will help recruit additional investigators and clinicians with a focus on pancreatic cancer.

“I am very excited to join the team at NYU Langone, an institution with visionary leadership that has set an extraordinary trajectory to enable faculty to tackle complex problems like cancer,” Dr. Simeone says.

About Dr. SimeoneAn undergraduate alumna of Brown University, Dr. Simeone earned her medical degree from Duke University, and completed a general surgery residency at University of Michigan Medical Center (UMMC), before joining its faculty in 1995. She has held progressively important roles at UMMC and its Comprehensive Cancer Center up to her current position.

Dr. Simeone is the incoming chair of the Board of Directors of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, one of the country’s leading organizations advancing the battle against the disease through research funding, community engagement and government advocacy. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, serves on the National Cancer Institute’s Pancreatic Cancer Task Force, and previously was president of the Society of University Surgeons and the American Pancreatic Association.

Her more than 165 published studies have appeared in leading peer-reviewed journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, Cancer Cell, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“With scientific advances in many areas of cancer biology and genomics, we have an unprecedented opportunity to drive those discoveries to have real impact in patients, even in lethal diseases like pancreatic cancer,” Dr. Simeone says. “It is our obligation to step up to that challenge, and I am eager to have that opportunity at NYU Langone.”