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Park named director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center

Feb. 17, 2022, 12:00 PM

 

by John Howser

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine, and deputy director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), has been named the center’s new director.

Park will begin serving in this role on July 1, when he succeeds longtime VICC director Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Pietenpol, who also holds the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development, is assuming a new combined leadership role for VUMC as Chief Scientific and Strategy Officer.

“I am thrilled Dr. Park accepted the director position. He will lead the next phase of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s trajectory, and there is no doubt the future is bright,” Pietenpol said. “Since his recruitment from Johns Hopkins in 2018, Ben has brought us new and innovative approaches to cancer care, including molecular tumor boards that are providing precision oncology for our patients both within and beyond our ever-expanding catchment area. He is a highly respected physician scientist who is deeply committed to his patients, internationally known for his research, and a leader who catalyzes collaboration and excellence.”

Park, who was named VICC’s deputy director in 2021, is an internationally recognized physician scientist who holds multiple leadership roles within VICC, including serving as director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology and director of Precision Oncology.

VICC, a nationwide leader in personalized cancer care, is at the forefront of promising new therapies, offering patients access to more than 350 clinical trials at any given time through a team of more than 200 physicians. VICC is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and is one of 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. It is the only cancer center in Tennessee conducting research and caring for adults and children.

“I want to welcome Dr. Park into this important role on our senior leadership team. His decades of experience and distinguished accomplishments as a clinical and academic leader, including in the rapidly growing arena of precision oncology, make him the ideal person to lead our Cancer Center into the future,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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.

Park 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.

He developed and continues to lead 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 author or co-author of more than 170 peer-reviewed scientific publications and book chapters. He also has numerous inventions and holds four patents related to his research.

Park earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Chicago and his medical and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. He underwent residency training and a fellowship in hematology/oncology at the University of Pennsylvania followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer genetics from Johns Hopkins University.

“I am thrilled and honored to be chosen as the next director of VICC,” Park said. “Under Dr. Pietenpol’s leadership and vision, VICC is now positioned as the institution that provides state-of-the-art care for all patients with cancer. This stems from our ability to offer the most comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic options for our patients.

“Our team of world-class researchers in basic science, clinical trials and health outcomes, including addressing disparities in cancer care, truly allows VICC to ‘make health care personal’ for all patients in need.”

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