President Obama Names Physician-Scientist Charles Sawyers to National Cancer Advisory Board

Pictured: Charles Sawyers

Physician-scientist Charles Sawyers

President Barack Obama announced on December 6 his intent to appoint Memorial Sloan Kettering physician-scientist Charles Sawyers as one of six new members of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB).

“I am grateful these accomplished men and women have agreed to join this Administration, and I’m confident they will serve ably in these important roles,” President Obama said in a White House press release. “I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

The NCAB and the President’s Cancer Panel are the only advisory bodies at either the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services whose members are appointed by the President. The primary task of the NCAB is to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and ultimately the President of the United States on a range of issues affecting the nation’s cancer program and, specifically, NCI operations. The NCAB reviews and recommends grants and cooperative agreements following technical and scientific peer review.

Revolutionizing the Molecular Treatment of Cancer

Dr. Sawyers, Chair of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, is widely recognized as someone who is revolutionizing the molecular treatment of cancer. His research involves investigating the signaling pathways that promote the growth of cancer cells, with an eye toward designing new treatments.

His laboratory discovered the recently approved prostate cancer drug enzalutamide (Xtandi®), and Dr. Sawyers has been instrumental in the development of two drugs for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia: imatinib (Gleevec®) and dasatinib (Sprycel®), which work by blocking the activity of BCR-ABL, the mutant protein that causes the disease.

Dr. Sawyers is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and is President-Elect of the American Association for Cancer Research. He is past President of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award, and the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

Dr. Sawyers received his MD degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1985. He joined Memorial Sloan Kettering in 2006 after nearly two decades at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Dr. Sawyers will be a wonderful addition to the NCAB – a body that advises on some of our nation’s most pressing issues in cancer research and treatment,” says Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Craig B. Thompson. “His appointment is also a fitting tribute to a man whose work has made profound contributions to research in cancer-related molecular therapeutics.”