Barry Sleckman, MD, PhD, a world-renowned researcher, has been named director of the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Ravi Bhatia, MD, who has served as interim director of the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, will resume his role as deputy director of the center and director of the Division of Hematology-Oncology.
Sleckman, currently an associate director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, will begin his new role this January.
"UAB is a phenomenal institution and a rapidly growing research powerhouse," Sleckman said. "It's an honor to have an opportunity to lead a cancer center that is recognized as among the nation's best. We will continue the work to achieve the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center vision to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. To do this, we must catalyze important cancer discoveries across diverse centers, departments and schools on the UAB campus and then translate these discoveries into innovative therapies in partnership with the UAB Health System."
Sleckman's research has revealed many novel pathways that function in DNA double strand break repair, including one that prevents DNA breaks from being resolved as chromosomal translocations or deletions that can lead to cancer. In addition, his laboratory was the first to show that the cellular response to DNA double strand breaks can regulate cell-type-specific pathways involved in normal cellular functions. These pathways can be disrupted, for example, in cancer patients receiving genotoxic therapies such as radiation.
"The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center provides a tremendously positive impact on Birmingham, our state and the Southeast, and Dr. Sleckman will continue to build upon our research and clinical capabilities and help us meet the future challenges," said Selwyn Vickers, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.
Sleckman completed his MD and PhD in immunology at Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in infectious diseases at the Brigham and Women's Hospital. In addition to his role as associate director, Sleckman held positions as professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
After completing his postdoctoral training in molecular immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Frederick Alt at Boston Children's Hospital, Sleckman started his own laboratory in 1998 as an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine before moving to Weill Cornell in 2015.
"Directing the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the most vital roles in advancing UAB's multifaceted mission," said UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D. "With Dr. Sleckman's outstanding leadership, we look forward to building upon the center's longtime impact and reputation as a global leader in translational research and patient care."
"Dr. Sleckman is an excellent choice to lead the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center," said Will Ferniany, PhD, CEO of the UAB Health System. "In the years ahead, the promise of proton therapy, precision oncology, advanced genomics and new therapeutics should reduce the burden of cancer on patients and their families, and on the health care system as a whole."
The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is one of the original eight National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. It is one of only 50 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers. It has been continuously funded for 47 years.
The center offers a full array of treatment options from multidisciplinary clinics with experts from across cancer fields to the latest state-of-the-art technology. The center is home to a faculty of 400 clinicians and scientists, many of whom are internationally and nationally recognized for their expertise in oncology. The O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center treats approximately 20,000 patients annually, with an estimated 5,000 new patients each year.