Robert E. Wittes, 58, currently is Director of the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, a post he has held since 1995, and Deputy Director for Extramural Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. He has responsibility for the NCI’s clinical and basic research programs, including the evaluation of new therapeutics and disease-oriented translational research. From 1974 to 1985, Dr. Wittes was a physician in Division of Solid Tumor Oncology in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Department of Medicine.
“Bob Wittes brings a unique perspective to his new role because of his long clinical experience at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and the knowledge of new cancer therapeutics gained while overseeing key elements of the nation’s cancer research effort,” said Dr. Varmus. “That balance will be essential in our efforts to maintain Memorial Hospital’s clinical excellence and to join our clinical research program effectively with the basic research conducted at the Sloan Kettering Institute.”
In speaking about his new appointment, Dr. Wittes said: “The key challenge in clinical oncology today is translating the emerging knowledge of cancer biology into effective and humane cancer care. No place in the world is better positioned to do this than MSKCC. With so many exciting possibilities at hand, I feel very privileged to be re-joining the Memorial family.”
A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Wittes first came to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 1972 as a medical oncology fellow. During his tenure at Memorial Sloan Kettering, he participated actively in clinical research and was instrumental in developing new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of testicular cancer, small-cell lung cancer, and head and neck cancer, among others.
Dr. Wittes joined the NCI in 1983 as head of the Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program and then served as Senior Vice President of Cancer Research at Bristol-Myers Squibb from 1988 to 1990. He rejoined the NCI in 1990 as Chief of the Medicine Branch and assumed his current duties in 1995. As Director of the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, Dr. Wittes has overseen the NCI’s programs in drug discovery and development, clinical trials, diagnostic imaging, radiotherapy, and molecular diagnosis. As NCI’s Deputy Director for Extramural Science, he is also responsible for the cancer centers program; the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program, which focuses on translational research; training; and complementary and alternative medicine.
“For over six years it was my pleasure to run the NCI in partnership with Bob Wittes, one of the most extraordinary physicians, oncologists and brilliant leaders I have ever met,” said Richard Klausner, Director of the NCI from 1995 to 2001 and now Director of the Case Institute of Health, Science and Technology. “It is a coup for MSKCC to have recruited Bob, and as Physician-in-Chief he will lead a great institution into the new world of molecular oncology while assuring the highest and most humane standards of patient care.”
Dr. Wittes succeeds David W. Golde, who last year announced his intention to step down as Physician-in-Chief.