Internationally Recognized Leukemia Physician and Researcher Starts as Sylvester Director
Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., one of the world’s premier leukemia and stem cell transplant researchers and clinicians, is the new director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a key post for the Miller School and UHealth-University of Miami Health System.
Nimer, the former Alfred P. Sloan Chair in Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, brings 30 years of pioneering research and clinical experience and an unquenchable passion for improving the lives of patients with cancer, and their families.
“The focus will not be solely on taking care of the cancer, it will be on taking care of the patient,” said Nimer, whose patient-centered philosophy has won him as much acclaim as his clinical and laboratory accomplishments. “That means trying to understand as fully as possible each patient’s cancer – the biology driving the cancer, and the impact of the cancer on the patient’s life – in order to develop a personalized therapeutic approach suited to each individual.”
Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth, said Nimer, who headed the Division of Hematologic Oncology at Sloan-Kettering for a dozen years, is the ideal physician-scientist to lead Sylvester into its third decade and to designation as one of the nation’s official comprehensive cancer centers by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute.
“Stephen possesses a unique combination of outstanding clinical skills and visionary scientific acumen in cancer research that will lead Sylvester to become the next top comprehensive cancer center in the U.S.,” Dean Goldschmidt said. “He brings a true patient-centered approach to clinical care and leading-edge research that makes a real difference for our fellow humans. Cancer patients across South Florida and around the world will benefit from his expertise and leadership.”
“Dr. Nimer will be a spectacular leader for the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said UM President Donna E. Shalala. “This is a momentous development for the Miller School, the University of Miami, and all of South Florida.”
Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., has served as interim director of Sylvester since W. Jarrard Goodwin, M.D., stepped down as director after 14 years at the helm. Rosenblatt said Dr. Nimer’s “rare combination of scientific and clinical talent will help advance Sylvester’s reputation and programs. His arrival will allow Sylvester to find its rightful place among the world’s premier cancer centers, and his leadership will usher in a new era for our cancer center, which I and our faculty anticipate with great enthusiasm.”
Nimer, formerly vice chair for faculty development at Sloan-Kettering’s Department of Medicine, said he plans to develop and expand a number of services at Sylvester, including programs for breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and hematological malignancies, among others. He also plans to recruit more than 30 new scientists and physicians, and develop key core facilities and expand the clinical and laboratory research capabilities.
He specifically hopes to recruit additional experts in areas such as bone marrow transplantation, mouse models of human cancer, and molecular diagnostics, as well as additional surgeons skilled in complex, curative and restorative procedures, such as breast reconstruction. He also will expand efforts in cancer prevention, screening and early diagnosis and in identifying those factors that predispose people to develop cancer.
Jack Lord, M.D., Chief Operating Officer of the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth, said the addition of Dr. Nimer’s expertise, track record and team will act as “an innovation accelerator for the life-changing science that the Sylvester Cancer Center has long delivered to this community.”
“It is another example of the Miller School of Medicine’s international leadership in the world of medical science,” Lord said.
Nimer, who was also a member of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, a professor of pharmacology and medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and an attending physician at Memorial Hospital, has conducted extensive clinical and basic science research into the treatment and genetic basis of adult leukemia and bone marrow failure states, defining the regulatory mechanisms that control the production of blood cells and exploring ways to improve the results of bone marrow transplantation.
During nearly two decades at Sloan-Kettering, he established the inpatient hematology service and the autologous stem cell transplant program for adults with hematologic malignancies, which focused primarily on patients with non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow. He participated in the pivotal clinical trials that led to the FDA approval of lenalidomide for 5q-myelodysplastic syndromes or MDS, and decitabine for intermediate or high-risk MDS patients.
Furthermore, he and his laboratory team established several novel research programs identifying signaling pathways that could be targeted to treat patients with myeloid malignancies, such as acute myelogenous leukemia. They also focused on determining how cancer cells resist chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology, Nimer earned a degree in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975, and received his M.D. degree with honors from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in 1979. He completed his training in internal medicine and hematology/oncology at the UCLA School of Medicine, joining the UCLA faculty in 1986.
By the time he moved to Sloan-Kettering in 1993, he was acting director of UCLA’s bone marrow transplant unit, and had served as director of the Transplantation Biology Program of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Elected to the prestigious American Society of Clinical Investigators at age 42, Nimer is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians and serves on the editorial board of several medical journals, and on the medical boards of several foundations, including the Aplastic Anemia and MDS International Foundation, the Bone Marrow Foundation, and the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Foundation, which he chairs.
The recipient of numerous awards for his research and the author of more than 200 scientific publications, Nimer also has been featured in several books about patients and their doctors, including “How Doctors Think.”
Jayne S. Malfitano, daughter of Sylvester benefactor Harcourt Sylvester Jr., whose $27.5 million gift in 1986 endowed the University’s cancer center, expressed both her family’s gratitude to Dr. Goodwin for guiding Sylvester through an unprecedented expansion of services, facilities and community outreach, and their excitement for the next era.
“My family is thrilled that Dr. Nimer will be leading the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center as we continue to grow, and provide the highest level of health care, just as my father envisioned more than 25 years ago,” said Malfitano, president of The Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation.
Speaking for past and future patients, Joan B. Scheiner, the chair of Sylvester’s Board of Governors who was successfully treated for metastatic soft tissue sarcoma at Sylvester, called Nimer’s appointment “a seminal moment in the 20-year history of the cancer center.”
“Dr. Nimer is a brilliant physician and scientist whose vision for UM Sylvester knows no bounds,” Scheiner said, also expressing her and the Board of Governors’ gratitude to Goodwin. “It is through Dr. Goodwin’s inspirational leadership that we have grown into the world class comprehensive cancer center we are today. He has positioned us to reach unlimited heights as we welcome our new director, Dr. Stephen Nimer from Memorial Sloan-Kettering, an iconic institution.”