Luis A. Diaz, MD, has been named the Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). An accomplished physician, pioneering researcher, and leader in the field of clinical oncology, Dr. Diaz most recently served as an associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Diaz formally assumes the role as David Spriggs, MD, steps down after nearly 13 years.
Dr. Diaz is an internationally recognized physician-scientist with a special interest in cancer genetics and immuno-oncology. His work has involved the clinical development of tumor-derived DNA as a biomarker for cancer screening, early detection, monitoring, and the measurement of early residual disease. In his new position, Dr. Diaz will maintain a clinical practice within the Gastrointestinal Oncology Service in addition to expanding clinical programs and laboratory-based research efforts.
“Dr. Diaz is an exemplary clinician and researcher, and his tremendous skill, compassion, and energy will have a powerful, positive impact on our patients and staff, as well as on our research efforts,” said Philip Kantoff, MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at MSK. “Dr. Diaz will play a pivotal role in improving our patients’ experience.”
Dr. Diaz received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan. He completed his residency training at the Osler Medical Service at Johns Hopkins and medical oncology training at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
He has pioneered several diagnostic and therapeutic genomic approaches to cancer, and he specializes in the treatment of pancreatic and colorectal cancers. With colleagues, he developed the basis for a molecular Pap smear, a promising way to detect early-stage ovarian and endometrial cancers based on genetic markers. He has also harnessed the power of cancer mutations as potent antigens and championed the use of checkpoint inhibitors in the treatment of patients with tumors that have exceptionally high mutational burdens. In addition, his landmark proof-of-principle study using PD-1 blockade in patients with mismatch repair deficiency showed dramatic responses in patients who had failed standard therapy, resulting in a breakthrough status designation by the FDA.
“Dr. Diaz has an exciting vision for the future of clinical oncology, a vision that fuses new, cutting-edge research with an exceptional commitment to transforming patient care,” said José Baselga, MD, PhD, MSK’s Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer. “He is an accomplished and compassionate physician, and his advanced research skills will help us create better treatments for our patients.”
At Johns Hopkins, Dr. Diaz was the Director of the Swim Across America Laboratory and a member of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics and Therapeutics, as well as a member of the groups that received the 2013 AACR Team Cancer Award for Pancreatic Cancer Sequencing, the 2014 Team Cancer Award for Malignant Brain Tumors, and the 2017 Team Cancer Award for the development of Liquid Biopsies in Cancer. Also in 2017, his team was awarded the Team Cancer Award for Colorectal Cancer. Dr. Diaz will spearhead Stand Up To Cancer’s (SU2C) Colorectal Cancer Dream Team, which has received up to $12 million in funding from SU2C. The announcement was made at a special event during the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
“I am honored and thrilled to be leading such a brilliant group of clinicians and researchers here at MSK, and to be taking the reins from Dr. Spriggs,” said Dr. Diaz. “MSK has some of the most gifted physicians and scientists, and one of the strongest research programs in the world. I want to instill a culture of collaboration, exploration, and discovery by making mentorship opportunities for young scientists available, as well as by creating better communication between researchers and departments across MSK. I am eager to work with my colleagues to advance the care and outcome of our patients.”
“Dr. Spriggs has served magnificently as the Head of the Division for Solid Tumor Oncology for nearly 13 years. During that period, he recruited and mentored service chiefs and faculty, and he helped the division double in faculty size, clinical activity, and research funding,” said Dr. Kantoff. “MSK is indebted to Dr. Spriggs for his years of dedication and service.”