Dr. Jedd Wolchok, an internationally acclaimed medical oncologist whose innovations in immunotherapy have revolutionized melanoma treatment, has been recruited as the Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, effective Sept. 12.
In his new role, Wolchok will lead an expansive, multidisciplinary research and clinical enterprise dedicated to translating groundbreaking discoveries on the underlying causes of cancer into cutting-edge treatment approaches and personalized therapies to improve patient outcomes. Wolchok will also expand the exemplary care delivered at the institution’s flagship Upper East Side Manhattan location and further enhance care for patients in Brooklyn and Queens.
Wolchok currently serves as chief of the Immuno-Oncology Service and the Lloyd J. Old /Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), and he is a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. He succeeds Dr. Massimo Loda, chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, who has served as interim director since last year’s departure of Dr. Lewis Cantley, the center’s founding Meyer Director.
“Dr. Wolchok is a distinguished physician-scientist and an esteemed leader in oncology, whose innovative research in immunotherapy has transformed the prognosis for countless melanoma patients and will undoubtedly have lasting implications for other types of cancer. We are thrilled he will be heading the Meyer Cancer Center,” said Dr. Augustine M.K. Choi, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine. “His expertise and vision will be crucial as the institution enhances cancer research and treatment efforts throughout the city, providing critical care and hope to cancer patients, and building on the center’s outstanding reputation as a leader in this field.
“We would also like to thank Dr. Loda for his dedicated service as interim director of the Meyer Cancer Center over the past year,” Choi added. “His strong leadership and vast experience in this area of medicine have allowed the center to continue its vital, groundbreaking work in cancer research and care.”
Created in 2014 with a $75 million gift from Sandra and Edward Meyer and the Sandra and Edward Meyer Foundation, the Weill Cornell Medicine Meyer Cancer Center, in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian, unifies cancer research throughout Weill Cornell Medicine and has more than 140 core members, including basic scientists, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and other clinicians.
“Dr. Wolchok is a renowned physician-scientist and exceptional leader whose pioneering research in immunotherapy has fundamentally changed the way we approach cancer care and improved the lives of countless patients. We are delighted to welcome him as the new director of the Meyer Cancer Center,” said Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian. “His leadership and experience will be instrumental in elevating the groundbreaking work of the Meyer Cancer Center and further enhancing the innovative, personalized and compassionate cancer care we provide to patients in all the communities we serve. We would like to express our gratitude to Dr. Loda for his dedication and leadership in helming the center as interim director for the past year.”
Wolchok is a pioneer in a cancer treatment approach that harnesses immune cells to fight the disease, with a specific focus on melanoma. A clinician-scientist, he investigates innovative immunotherapy strategies in laboratory models of melanoma and has served as principal investigator of multiple clinical trials. Immunotherapy has now emerged as a fourth pillar of standard cancer therapy, alongside surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Wolchok played a pivotal role in the clinical development of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved immunotherapy ipilimumab for advanced melanoma and more recently designed and led a global phase 3 trial of the first combination of immunotherapies, known as immune checkpoint blocking antibodies, aimed at reactivating the immune response to melanoma. These approaches have resulted in therapeutic success in multiple cancer types after initial studies in melanoma.
The institution has also appointed Taha Merghoub, a highly accomplished and innovative research scientist who has been Wolchok’s scientific partner at Memorial Sloan Kettering for over 15 years as well as a professor of immunology research in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, as deputy director of the Meyer Cancer Center. Merghoub, who was also recruited as the Margaret and Herman Sokol Professor of Oncology Research as well as a professor of pharmacology, will lead a laboratory at Weill Cornell Medicine, which investigates the development of immune-based therapies to treat cancer. Merghoub strives to understand why immunotherapy is effective in some patients but not others and aims to develop new mechanism-based combination therapies that can overcome treatment resistance.
“Through the generosity and vision of Sandra and Edward Meyer, the Meyer Cancer Center serves as the backbone of Weill Cornell Medicine’s cancer ecosystem, as we advance our mission to provide the best care for our patients and find cures for these devastating diseases,” said Jessica M. Bibliowicz, chairman of the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows. “Dr. Wolchok is a proven leader and innovator in this field and the ideal choice for this position, harnessing the incredible, collaborative achievements in cancer research and treatment and elevating it to the next level of excellence.”
“Bringing the standard of care and the research portfolio that exists at the Meyer Cancer Center to patients in Brooklyn and Queens is a key priority for me to ensure that all New Yorkers receive ‘A-team’ cancer treatment that is based upon the latest research,” Wolchok said. “I’m honored to lead our physicians and scientists across all of oncology to continue driving discoveries that change medicine.
“This is an opportunity for me to enhance the impact of my efforts so far in my career,” he said. “I’ve been proud to be a Weill Cornell Medicine faculty member throughout my time at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and this new role will allow me to learn more about the institution from the inside, build a bigger cancer team and share what I’ve learned.”
In his new role, Wolchok will elevate the Meyer Cancer Center’s activities, recruiting leading cancer researchers and clinicians, with a focus on enhancing both faculty diversity and broadening the reach of health care to diverse patient populations. He will strive to bolster the center’s educational programs to train generations of physicians and scientists. He will also prioritize expanding the center’s clinical trial enterprise, seeking to create a balanced portfolio “that has high impact across the populations that we serve,” he said, including investigator-initiated trials, National Cancer Institute cooperative group trials, as well as trials sponsored by industry. These trials will extend to NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, to better reach patients who live in traditionally underserved communities and increase access to the most advanced treatments where it’s convenient for them.
“I am a proud physician-scientist, and neither one of those descriptors is more important than the other,” said Wolchok, who noted that he will continue to see patients. “At the Meyer Cancer Center, I hope to achieve a true balance, and with real-time communication between our clinicians and researchers, we will be able to achieve the highest degree of success.”