Rare-Cancer Expert Richard Carvajal, MD, Appointed Director of Experimental Therapeutics


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Richard D. Carvajal, MD

Richard D. Carvajal, MD, has been named Director of the Experimental Therapeutics/Phase I program and melanoma service in medical oncology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center effective November 1, 2014. Dr. Carvajal, a medical oncologist, has extensive clinical expertise in melanomas and leadership experience in early-stage clinical trials for patients with advanced cancers, as well as in the development of novel therapies for rare cancers. He joins New York-Presbyterian/Columbia from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he was Director of Developmental Therapeutics and the Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn Chair for Junior Faculty.

“Dr. Carvajal has spearheaded the development of important treatments that have transformed the lives of patients with rare cancers,” said Gary Schwartz, MD, Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia. “We are excited to have him on board, with his experience and talent for innovation, and we look forward to his future contributions to patient-centered health care as he leads our experimental therapeutics program. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge on the development of new agents for patients with a wide range of tumor types, including rare cancers. But, more important, he brings the compassion and humanism that characterize the doctors at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia.”

Focus on Rare, Challenging Cancers

Dr. Carvajal’s work has focused on uncommon, difficult-to-treat cancers, such as melanomas arising from the eye (uveal melanomas), from the mucosal surfaces of the body (mucosal melanomas), and from the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and surface beneath the nails (acral melanomas). His approach combines study of the underlying biology of cancer with personalized medicine, where genetic profiles of tumors are used to match individual patients with promising therapies.

His research has led to the first positive clinical trials of drugs for a number of cancers. The drugs include imatinib (Gleevec), which was effective in treating patients with melanomas that have a mutation in the KIT gene, and selumetinib, which shrank tumors in half of treated patients with metastatic uveal melanoma. ■


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