One of the most influential and accomplished figures in the field of cancer immunotherapy has returned to his Western New York roots to take on leadership roles in both research and clinical care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
One of the most influential and accomplished figures in the field of cancer immunotherapy has returned to his Western New York roots to take on leadership roles in both research and clinical care at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, will join Roswell Park in September as Deputy Director, The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology.
Dr. Brentjens comes to Roswell Park from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he served as Director of Cellular Therapeutics and Associate Chair for Junior Faculty Development in the Department of Medicine.
“This is a time of tremendous hope and promise,” says Dr. Brentjens, one of a small group of researchers who helped to develop the first FDA-approved cellular therapies to incorporate adoptive cell transfer — an approach known as CAR T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapy.
“Cellular therapy is in its infancy, but It’s already dramatically reshaping what we can achieve through cancer therapy,” he adds. “We’re starting to master our ability to help the immune system, our own cells, help itself. I’m incredibly excited about the work this Roswell Park team is going to do in the next few years — the time we are going to be able to give back to patients with even advanced cancers, the cures that are within our reach today.”
“Renier is both an amazing physician and a research star, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome him back to Buffalo,” says Roswell Park President, CEO and M&T Bank Presidential Chair in Leadership Candace S. Johnson, PhD. “His achievements in cellular therapy have helped drive major shifts in how we treat many cancers today, and make an outstanding pairing with our own innovations in immunotherapy and cell-based therapy.”
His work both in the lab and in clinical trials helped establish CAR T as a cancer treatment option. His ongoing efforts expand on those early advances by pursuing opportunities to combine CAR T, in which a patient’s immune cells are removed, re-engineered to fight cancer more effectively and reinfused to bolster the immune system’s response to cancer, with other forms of immunotherapy and to extend the benefits of this approach to additional cancer types.
As Deputy Director, Dr. Brentjens will lead Roswell Park’s basic, translational and clinical research programs and oversee planning and execution around Roswell Park’s Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute. In his role as Chair of Medicine, he will lead a team of more nearly 100 oncologists, advanced practice providers and administrators who support diagnosis, treatment and consultation for Roswell Park patients with virtually every cancer type.
Born in the Netherlands and raised in Buffalo, Dr. Brentjens graduated from Canisius High School and later went on to complete a master’s degree and dual MD/PhD in microbiology at the University at Buffalo. After residency at Yale New Haven Hospital and a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center/Weill Cornell Medical College, he joined the staff there in 2002.
A passionate Buffalo sports fan and classic car enthusiast, Dr. Brentjens looks to involve himself in the Western New York community.
“Coming to Roswell Park in these roles is the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Dr. Brentjens. “What has impressed me most are the totally original concepts for vaccines and cellular therapies coming from Roswell Park that no one else has come up with yet. Our goal is to achieve cures, long-term remissions and excellent quality of life for a lot more patients, and the teams at Roswell Park are going to be an incredible crew to move that vision forward.”
Anne Gioia and Donna Gioia created the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation 25 years ago after Anne’s daughter Katherine, the namesake of Dr. Brentjens’ endowment, passed away at 5 years old after a battle with a very rare cancer.
“Their goal was to make sure that families affected by cancer have hope – have options and compassion and support as they battle something so difficult,” notes Dr. Johnson. “Their generosity and their example of how to work hard to create a resource that will keep giving back to our community has been incredible, and continues through their support of the important work that Dr. Brentjens now leads at Roswell Park. Anne and Donna, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your passionate fight on behalf of families affected by cancer.”