UT Health Cancer Center announces new director

Dr. Ruben Mesa, new UT Health Cancer Center director
Ruben Mesa, M.D.

Ruben A. Mesa, M.D., will bring more access to clinical trials, a strong focus

on patient-centered cancer care, and an increase in NCI research funding to San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (June 13, 2017) ― The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, today announced that Ruben A. Mesa, M.D., has been named director of the UT Health Cancer Center, beginning in August 2017.

Dr. Mesa is professor of medicine and chair of the Division of Hematology & Medical Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Mesa to our cancer center, to UT Health and to San Antonio,” President Henrich said. “In addition to his superb leadership, Dr. Mesa is an international expert on myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) and will bring with him a sizeable patient-centered research program to San Antonio.” Dr. Mesa has been a principal investigator or co-principal investigator of more than 70 clinical trials for patients and has led efforts in obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for several new cancer drugs. “Dr. Mesa’s activities include significant roles serving as a patient advocate in cancer care helping communities, states and governments better understand and plan for the burden of this dreadful disease. He is highly engaged and demonstrates a commitment to serving the needs of patients compassionately,” continued Dr. Henrich.

MPNs are a group of bone marrow disorders that often lead to leukemia. MPNs include myelofibrosis, polycythemia vera, essential thrombocythemia, as well as conditions which overlap with other chronic leukemias such as myelodysplasic syndrome and chronic myeloid leukemia.

“San Antonio is a warm, unique community and I look forward to working with colleagues whose commitment aligns with putting patients first and continually striving to alleviate the burden of cancer through the highest quality patient care, scientific discovery and integrity, and providing a medical education with clear distinction in new, innovative models for clinical education,” said Dr. Mesa. “We are aligned in our mission to end cancer. We will continue to make life-changing breakthroughs in cancer research and care for Texans and beyond. This is an exceptional opportunity to take full advantage of the tremendous assets of the UT Health Cancer Center and our affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Center to defeat this disease,” he said.

Dr. Mesa earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in nuclear engineering and physiology, with minors in radiation biophysics and bioengineering, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his medical degree, completed his residency in internal medicine and fulfilled his fellowship in hematology/medical oncology from the Mayo Graduate School at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in internal medicine and medical oncology.

He began his career in 1991 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where he worked for 18 years before moving eight years ago to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona as chairman of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology. During that time, the division doubled its number of physicians, allied health staff and advanced-practice nurse practitioners, while quadrupling its patient care activities and research funding. He was named deputy director of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in 2012. The organization developed Arizona’s largest stem cell transplant program, brought in state-of-the art proton-beam therapy and maintains the broadest and deepest clinical trial portfolio for cancer patients in the state. During that time, the Arizona Mayo campus became a partner organization of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and Association of American Cancer Institutes.

Area of research

Dr. Mesa has been involved in MPN research for more than 20 years. He serves as chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s panel that published the first U.S. guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of myelofibrosis in the Journal of the National Cancer Center Network in the fall of 2016. He presented the new guidelines at the NCCN’s Annual Congress: Hematologic Malignancies, last fall.

With more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific publications, Dr. Mesa has been principal investigator or co-principal investigator of more than 70 clinical trials for patients with MPN or other myeloid disorders. He was a major research leader contributing to the FDA’s approval of ruxolitinib for polycythemia vera and myelofibrosis. He is leading the investigation of several other drugs for these types of cancers. He is co-principal investigator of the NCI program project grant-funded MPN Research Consortium, chairs the Standing Science and Education Committee for the International Society of Hematology and is involved in leadership of the American Society of Hematology.

The UT Health Cancer Center is one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers in Texas. The cancer center offers clinical trials and comprehensive cancer treatment to patients in 38 counties of South Texas, including a large population of Hispanic patients. The cancer center recently received a $9.1 million grant to study the cancer biology of breast and prostate cancers. The center is also well known for its annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which is the largest meeting of basic and clinical breast cancer researchers in the world, as well as its Institute for Drug Development.

On Nov.1, 2016, the UT Health Science Center signed an affiliation agreement with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a fellow UT System institution which is ranked the top cancer center in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The affiliation is on track to become operational this fall. Through the affiliation, the UT Health Cancer Center will build its cancer treatment programs with a goal of making travel outside of San Antonio for cancer care unnecessary.

Dr. Mesa and his wife of 25 years, Kris, will relocate to San Antonio. They have two children, Ruben, 20, and Katie, 18, who are both attending college.

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