Kitajewski named UI Cancer Center interim director

Jan Kitajewski has added a new title to his name.

Kitajewski, PhD, the Sweeney Professor of Basic Sciences and head of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and associate director for basic research at the University of Illinois Cancer Center, has agreed to serve as the interim director of the UI Cancer Center, effective Dec. 16. Kitajewski replaces Robert Winn, MD, who was recently named the new director Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center.

“Dr. Kitajewski’s experience as an academic leader, cancer researcher and esteemed member of the Cancer Center community makes him an outstanding individual to lead these efforts during this time of transition,” said Robert Barish, MD, MBA, vice chancellor for health affairs.

As department head, Kitajewski has spearheaded the recruitment of eight new faculty members – expanding departmental focus in cardiovascular biology, obesity, cancer and cell biology. He also oversaw the launch of a new Master of Science in Medical Physiology program and a new vascular biology, signaling, and therapeutics T32 funded training program. He has also made significant contributions to the efforts of the UIC Center for Cardiovascular Research and the Medical Scientist Training Program. Kitajewski’s laboratory is currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, and through industry support from Eisai Ltd.

Before coming to UIC in 2016, Kitajewski served as the Charles and Marie Robertson Chair at Columbia University, with his leadership responsibilities including acting as co-director of the Cancer Signaling Networks program at Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and director of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology. He served as a charter member for the Cardiovascular Differentiation and Development study section and served on ad-hoc review panels for NIH and DOD research grants, program projects and training grants, in addition to National Cancer Institute intramural program research evaluations.

After earning his PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University, Kitajewski completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular oncology working with Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus at the University of California, San Francisco. As a scientist, Kitajewski has received continuous funding from the NIH for 20 years, and is the recipient of the Irma T. Hirschl-Monique Weill-Caulier Career Scientist Award, the DOD Breast Cancer Program Career Development Award, and American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award.

Kitajewski’s work has uncovered mechanisms of embryonic, ovarian, retinal and tumor angiogenesis and contributed to the understanding of fertility, preeclampsia, vascular malformations, retinopathies, tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. His laboratory works actively to develop therapeutics for oncology use by targeting tumor angiogenesis, and his group developed Notch inhibitors. He recently completed service as the president of the North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO) and seeks to build strong networks of vascular biology researchers during his tenure.

“I want to thank Dr. Kitajewski and all members of the University of Illinois Cancer Center for their continued commitment to the pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation,” Barish said. “As UI Health and the University of Illinois Cancer Center continue to gain momentum, please know that our institutional commitment to achieving NCI designation remains strong.”

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