LITTLE ROCK - Internationally recognized medical oncologist Michael Birrer, MD, PhD, has been named vice chancellor and director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), succeeding Laura Hutchins, MD.
He formerly served as director of the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
As director of the UAMS Cancer Institute, Birrer will lead all cancer-related activities. There are about 150 UAMS faculty members engaged in cancer-related research and clinical activities.
Brirrer left a professorship at Harvard Medical School in an attempt to help a broader number of patients with cancer. He will also hold the position of Cancer Service Line director.
Christopher Westfall, MD, executive vice chancellor and dean of the UAMS College of Medicine said Birrer will help move the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute toward the goal of achieving designation by the National Cancer Institute.
NCI Designation is awarded through a highly competitive assessment process during which cancer centers must demonstrate outstanding depth and breadth of high-quality cancer research. Receiving designation brings substantial benefits, including the ability to access federal research funding and offer clinical trials not available to non-designated centers. It also is expected to result in a $72 million economic impact on Arkansas and create about 1,500 new jobs over five years.
Brirrer said that given state support, UAMS and philanthropic support, he estimates a $70 million investment over the next five years in the Cancer Institute, which will strengthen the chance at NCI designation.
Birrer completed his MD and PhD in 1982 in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Following a medical internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, Birrer entered the Medical Oncology Fellowship program at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. After his fellowship, Birrer was appointed senior investigator (with tenure) and established the molecular mechanism section in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.
In 2008, Birrer was appointed professor of medicine at the Harvard School of Medicine and assumed the position of director for both Gynecologic Medical Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Gynecologic Oncology Research Program at the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.
Recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in gynecologic oncology, Birrer's primary research interest is in characterizing the genomics of gynecologic cancers to improve the clinical management of these diseases.