President Biden Appoints MSK’s Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr., MD, to National Cancer Advisory Board

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Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr.

President Biden announced the appointment of seven distinguished clinicians and researchers to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which plays an important role in guiding the Director of the National Cancer Institute in setting the course for the national cancer research program. President Biden is committed to ending cancer as we know it – including by making sure his Administration is investing in research and development that will help advance breakthroughs to prevent, detect, and treat diseases like cancer. The National Cancer Advisory Board will complement the Administration’s efforts to build on the spirit and learnings of the Cancer Moonshot, which President Biden led in the Obama-Biden Administration. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr., MD, was among those appointed.

John Carpten, Chair
Dr. John D. Carpten currently serves as Professor and Chair for the Department of Translational Genomics and is the Royce and Mary Trotter Chair for Cancer Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, CA. He also serves as Associate Director of Basic Sciences for the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Carpten has been honored with numerous awards. He was named a Science Trailblazer by Spectrum Magazine in 2006, and was awarded Susan G. Komen Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in 2014 for his untiring work in ensuring that all people are equally represented in science and innovative healthcare. Dr. Carpten was also awarded the 2018 AACR MICR Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship for his outstanding research in cancer disparities and his efforts in developing the careers of minority scientists. He also currently serves as a member of the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Counselors, a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up To Cancer, a member of the Board of Directors for Tower Cancer Research Foundation, and as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Break Through Cancer Foundation. 

Nilofer S. Azad, Member
Dr. Azad is a Professor of Oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC), where she serves as Co-Director of the Developmental Therapeutics Clinical Research Program and the Cancer Genetic and Epigenetic Core Research Program. After completing her fellowship in Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Institute, she joined the SKCCC faculty and has led multiple national and international clinical trials of novel drugs for cancer patients.   She is a member of both the Epigenetics and Colon Cancer Stand Up 2 Cancer Dream Teams, serving as a Principal on the latter, and has held multiple leadership positions in national and international organizations.

Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr., Member
Dr. Luis Alberto Diaz, Jr. is the Head of the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology and the Grayer Family Chair at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).  He is a renowned investigator for his work on novel clinical applications of cancer genetics.  He helped pioneer the application of circulating tumor DNA as a cancer diagnostic and led the discovery and development of immune checkpoint blockade for cancer patients with mismatch repair deficient tumors.  This work has helped thousands of the patients worldwide.

Christopher R. Friese, Member
Dr. Christopher Ryan Friese is the Elizabeth Tone Hosmer Professor of Nursing at the School of Nursing, Professor of Health Management and Policy at the School of Public Health, and Associate Director for Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the Rogel Cancer Center, all at the University of Michigan, where he has served since 2008. He serves as the inaugural director of the Center for Improving Patient and Population Health. From 2005-2008, Dr. Friese was a postdoctoral fellow in cancer control at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Friese holds advanced certification as an oncology nurse and has maintained an active clinical practice since 1997, working in some of the nation’s leading cancer centers, including the Rogel Cancer Center, the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. Dr. Friese received a B.S.N. and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Amy B. Heimberger, Member
Dr. Amy B. Heimberger, MD, FAANS, is the Jean Malnati Miller Professor of Neurological Surgery, Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern University and Scientific Director of The Malnati Brain Tumor Institute at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research program focuses on immune therapeutic strategies for patients with Central Nervous System (CNS) malignancies and she studies tumor-mediated mechanisms of immune suppression. She has been intricately involved in a wide variety of bench-to-bedside immune therapeutics, including those that were developed in her laboratory and arising from her own patents. She has expertise in the IND process and has been the PI of multiple clinical trials including the advocation for window-of-opportunity designs to evaluate the CNS tumor microenvironment.

Ashani Weeraratna, Member
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Lesotho in Africa, Dr. Weeraratna first came to the United States in 1988 to study biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Oncology at the Department of Pharmacology of George Washington University Medical Center. Weeraratna has also undertaken a global analysis of how the aged microenvironment promotes metastasis, using a unique resource of normal skin fibroblasts from healthy donors of differing ages, proteomics analysis, and animal models, and the clinical implications of these data may also result in a change in clinical practice, as they are finding age-related differences in responses to both targeted and immunotherapy. She is President of the Society for Melanoma Research, and a fierce champion of and a mentor for junior faculty, people of color and women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Karen Winkfield, Member
Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD is an Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and Professor of Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC). She is an implementation scientist focused on leveraging her expertise in community engagement to improve health equity. Dr. Winkfield currently co-leads the Inclusive Participation Workgroup of the NIH CEAL teams against COVID19 disparities and in 2020 was named Executive Director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, a strategic partnership between Meharry Medical College, VUMC, and community partners focused on eliminating health disparities.