Dr. Lisa Newman, chief of the section of breast surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok, the Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, in partnership with NewYork-Presbyterian, have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).
One of the most prestigious honors in health and medicine, the academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.
“I feel absolute and total elation,” said Dr. Newman, who is also a professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and a surgical breast oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “I am humbled as well because so many incredibly talented researchers who I have long admired are members of the National Academy of Medicine. To be elected by such an illustrious body of scientists and physicians is extremely meaningful to me personally and to the team of researchers with whom I collaborate and therefore share this honor.”
“I was incredibly thrilled and humbled by being invited to join the National Academy of Medicine,” said Dr. Wolchok, who is also a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. “It's such a prestigious and widely respected honor. I'm most enthusiastic about the recognition that my appointment will bring to Weill Cornell Medicine, the Meyer Cancer Center and to the trainees here. If it brings additional attention to the work that's going on here, and in the field of immunotherapy in general, then I think everybody can benefit.”
Leading the Charge of Breast Cancer Research
Dr. Newman leads the multidisciplinary breast oncology programs at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. A researcher who has extensively investigated ethnicity-related breast cancer disparities for more than 20 years, Dr. Newman is the founding medical director for the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes, headquartered at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Her work is especially significant given that the breast cancer mortality rate is 40 percent higher for Black Americans than white Americans. While much of the disparity is related to the socioeconomic disadvantages that are more prevalent in the African American community, she says, differences in tumor biology and the genetics of breast cancer also contribute to outcome differences.
“With the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes, we've been investigating the genetics of African ancestry and how that predisposes women to a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer known as triple negative breast cancer,” she said.
As part of this work, she also oversees an international breast cancer research and training program for physicians and facilities in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda and Antigua.
Dr. Newman is an alumnus of Harvard University, where she attained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She earned her medical degree and completed her general surgery residency training at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn. She completed surgical oncology fellowship training at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and soon after joined the faculty as an assistant professor. She was associate director of the Walt Breast Center at the Karmanos Cancer Institute/Wayne State University for two years, until she was recruited to serve as director of the Breast Care Center for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she remained for 13 years. She then served as director of the Breast Oncology Program for the multi-hospital Henry Ford Health System, until her recruitment to Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian in 2018. She has retained adjunct professorships with both the University of Michigan and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Going forward, Dr. Newman will continue expanding breast cancer disparities research and supporting the career development of others interested in the field. “I'm really excited about opportunities to mobilize NAM resources towards strengthening this area of research,” she said. “I’m also excited about using my position in the academy to improve gender balance and the diversity of the oncology research workforce, which will translate into better patient care and better quality of the research that we do.”
Taking Charge of Melanoma
Dr. Wolchok is a clinician-scientist and medical oncologist who specializes in melanoma. His research and innovations in immunotherapy have transformed the way patients are treated for the disease. At the Meyer Cancer Center, Dr. Wolchok leads 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.
Dr. Wolchok has dedicated most of his career to understanding how physicians can best use the immune system as a therapeutic option for cancer and why immune cells may or may not recognize cancers. He said he’s extremely proud of this work focusing on new medicines that can mobilize the immune system to control the disease. One of the recent studies he designed and led was a global phase 3 trial of the first combination of immunotherapies aimed at reactivating the immune response to melanoma. He was recently funded by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. and Stand Up 2 cancer as well as the Mark Foundation.
Dr. Wolchok helped establish immunotherapy as a standard of care for cancer treatment. His work was instrumental in the clinical development leading to the approval of ipilimumab – the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy -- and the combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab for advanced melanoma. Today, his lab, which is co-led by Dr. Taha Merghoub, focuses on investigating novel immunotherapeutic agents in pre-clinical laboratory models.
“I’m intent upon pushing the frontier of immunotherapy forward to an even further degree. We’re continuing to discover how the immune system can best be tooled to control cancer,” said Dr. Wolchok, who is director of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Swim Across America Laboratory and also co-directs the Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory with Dr. Merghoub. “I’m very excited about some of the recruitments that we’ve had over the past year at the Meyer Cancer Center and the plans we have to expand our efforts in cell therapy.”
Dr. Wolchok received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, and his doctorate in microbiology from NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and medical degree from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, where he also completed his residency in internal medicine. After a fellowship in medical oncology-hematology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, he joined its faculty—as well as Weill Cornell Medicine’s—and served there for more than 25 years, ultimately rising to the position of chief of the Immuno-Oncology Service and the Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation, until his recruitment to Weill Cornell Medicine.