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Park named to new role as deputy director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Aug. 19, 2021, 9:50 AM

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD

by Tom Wilemon

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Professor of Medicine, has been named deputy director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

His elevation to deputy director follows his promotion to director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in October 2020. He will continue to lead the division in addition to serving in the new position.

“Dr. Park has brought us new and innovative approaches to cancer care, including molecular tumor boards that are providing highly personalized treatment for our patients both within and beyond our ever-expanding catchment area,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, director of VICC, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development. “He is a physician who is deeply committed to his patients and an internationally respected researcher. He is a team builder who catalyzes collaboration.”

Park was recruited to Vanderbilt in 2018 from the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. His research team identified a high frequency of PIK3CA mutations in breast cancer that led to the development of PI3K inhibitors, approved for breast cancer by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019. He also pioneered cell-free DNA “liquid biopsies” that use mutations as diagnostic tools to guide therapies. His work, including the generation of genetically modified cell lines, has been widely cited, and requests for his cell lines have led to important discoveries by other investigators. He has also made fundamental contributions to the field of drug resistance, including hormone therapy resistance.

Park developed and leads the VICC Hereditary and Oncologic Personalized Evaluation Molecular Tumor Board (VICC-HOPE-MTB), which meets weekly to discuss challenging cancer cases from both within and outside Vanderbilt. In addition, he leads the international virtual VICC MTB, called “Our Cancer Genomes,” which meets online monthly to discuss patient cases submitted by the international cancer community.

Park is the director of Precision Oncology, associate director of Translational Research and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program at VICC.

“I am thrilled and humbled to accept and serve as deputy director for VICC.  It is very apparent that VICC and VUMC have succeeded in personalizing health care for countless patients with cancer. I hope to further this vision by ensuring every patient with cancer has the opportunity to receive state-of-the-art diagnostic testing and therapies to afford the best outcomes for patients with cancer and their families,” said Park.

The deputy director position was previously held by W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, who focused on research integration and career development when she served as the prior director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology.  Rathmell, the Hugh Jackson Morgan Chair in Medicine, has since been promoted to chair of the Department of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at VUMC.

“Dr. Rathmell did an exceptional job as deputy director,” Pietenpol said. “I’m continually grateful for the superb mentoring she provides to our physicians and researchers, the key role she plays in recruiting new faculty, and the passion with which she integrates research initiatives with our clinical care.”

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