January 25, 2002

Melanoma program gets new leader

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Melanoma program gets new leader

Dr. Jeffrey A. Sosman has joined the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to lead its program in treating melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Sosman joined the faculty Dec. 1 as professor of Medicine in the division of Hematology-Oncology. He will also lead a program in tumor immunology and serve as medical director of Vanderbilt-Ingram’s Clinical Trials Office, which manages more than 120 clinical trials of new therapies at any given time. His clinical practice will also include kidney cancer patients.

“Melanoma is one of the most quickly growing cancers in terms of incidence and one of the deadliest of all cancers when it spreads,” said Dr. David H. Johnson, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Oncology, director of the division and deputy director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “We are fortunate to have Jeff join us. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on melanoma and has been on the forefront of developing new therapies for the disease.”

In addition, Johnson described Sosman as a “thought leader” in the field of research to harness the body’s immune system to help fight cancer. “His interests cross several disease boundaries,” Johnson said. “Very importantly, he brings senior leadership to the division, where he joins other high-skilled and experienced faculty.”

Dr. Eric G. Neilson, Hugh J. Morgan Professor and Chair of Medicine, noted that Sosman will give Vanderbilt “a new important edge in providing melanoma care in the Southeast’s ‘skin cancer belt.’”

Said Neilson: “Jeff brings important expertise in our clinical services as an experienced clinician and trialist, and we are delighted to have him as part of our cancer program.”

Among the factors that made Vanderbilt attractive for Sosman, he said, is the strong foundation for melanoma treatment that already existed. “There’s a great division of Dermatology here, and you absolutely have to have that to have a strong melanoma program,” said Sosman. “We also have talented surgeons in Dan Beauchamp and Mark Kelley. But the most important thing was that Dave (Johnson) didn’t want to just fill a hole with someone to see melanoma patients. He had a vision for the program.”

Sosman comes to Vanderbilt from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, where he was associate professor of Medicine and director of Clinical Research since 1996. He previously had served nearly six years on the faculty at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine after completing his oncology training at the University of Wisconsin.

A graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., Sosman is board-certified in internal medicine, anatomic pathology and medical oncology.

During his post-graduate training, Sosman became interested in patient-oriented research and has since been committed to developing and conducting translational research, a critical linchpin in bringing scientific discoveries in the laboratory setting to the benefit of patients as quickly and safely as possible.

While at Wisconsin, he worked in the laboratory with Dr. Paul Sondel; he was involved in research that described the graft versus tumor effect that is so critical in the success of allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. He also participated in the early studies of interleukin-2.

“I liked to look at slides and I liked to do research, but it seems purposeless without some connection to the patient,” Sosman said. “I decided that I wanted to be a lab-based physician, to take an ability to understand what’s going on in the lab and an understanding of what’s going on with the patient and make that linkage.”

Sosman will collaborate with Dr. David Carbone, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, in the area of immunology, a field in which Carbone is conducting laboratory research and clinical trials in lung cancer. Sosman also anticipates collaborations with scientists in the Department of Microbiology, to understand the intricacies of how the body’s ability to fight cancer is suppressed.

He also envisions a multidisciplinary approach to melanoma, including collaborations with dermatology and surgeons both in clinical care and research. His own research interest is in novel therapies for advanced melanoma. He and Ann Richmond, Ph.D., professor of Cancer Biology and Medicine (Dermatology) are planning collaboration examining a novel agent P5341 in combination with chemotherapy.

While at the University of Illinois, Sosman also served on the Minority and Medically Underserved Committee of the SELECT prostate cancer prevention trial. He plans to continue to pursue his interest in the underserved population through the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance and the Meharry/Vanderbilt-Ingram cancer partnership.