Yusuf A. Hannun, a renowned molecular biologist and physician-scientist investigating the molecular mechanisms of cancer, has been appointed director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, the Joel Kenny Professor of Medicine, and Vice Dean for Cancer Medicine. Dr. Hannun comes to Stony Brook from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). His decade of leadership as deputy director of MUSC’s Hollings Cancer Center led to its emergence as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center in 2009.
As director of the Stony Brook Cancer Center, Dr. Hannun will oversee a program that includes 12 site-specific, multidisciplinary disease management teams that are dedicated to diagnosing and treating patients with breast, colorectal, gastrointestinal, hematological, pediatric cancers, and all other types of cancers. He will also oversee research programs conducted within the School of Medicine that support the disease management teams.
Kenneth Kaushansky, Senior Vice President for the Health Sciences, and Dean, School of Medicine, said that the recruitment of Dr. Hannun is key to the Stony Brook Cancer Center achieving NCI Cancer Center designation.
“Dr. Hannun was selected from an incredible field of applicants from around the nation to lead the Stony Brook Cancer Center,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “We are thrilled he chose Stony Brook. With his leadership, the Center’s clinical, research and educational missions will be brought to new heights. Dr. Hannun brought a remarkable transformation to the cancer center at MUSC by spearheading the growth of cancer research and bridging new findings with clinical care.”
Dr. Hannun’s arrival to Stony Brook is in conjunction with another essential component that will elevate research at the Stony Brook Cancer Center – the University’s plan to build a state-of-the-art Medical and Research Translation (MART) Building. The creation of the MART on the Stony Brook Medicine campus will be funded by the Simons Gift and SUNY 2020 Challenge Grant application. Work in the MART will focus, in part, on cancer research, advanced imaging and new technologies to advance cancer care.
The outpatient facility of the Stony Brook Cancer Center will be relocated to the MART upon building completion. Plans are for the MART to house a 30-room cancer clinic, a 30-station infusion center and 25 cancer biology-oriented labs.
Dr. Hannun said that Stony Brook is poised to achieve the highest excellence in cancer research and cancer medicine with its existing clinical expertise and the research programs. These involve the cancer clinical and research work of School of Medicine faculty, the University’s basic researchers, and the institution’s collaborative work with the nationally recognized research institutes of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
“Research is a vital tool to understanding the scientific underpinnings of cancer,” said Dr. Hannun. “When scientists better understand and define cancer biology and mechanisms of disease, we can create more effective and targeted treatments and prevention for specific cancers. At Stony Brook, we will broaden our entire spectrum of cancer research, from basic investigation to work that translates directly to the prospect of new medicines.
“The potential to create a cancer center that is world-class and can impact so many lives for the better is of huge value,” Dr. Hannun emphasized. “The clinical, research and community outreach activities already in place at the Stony Brook Cancer Center is like an engine ready to take off. I am excited to lead the charge to bring together physician investigators, trainees, medical students and staff who are committed to making significant inroads and advances in understanding, treating and preventing cancer.”
Dr. Hannun will conduct his own research and collaborate with University faculty involved with cancer research. Supported by five National Institutes of Health grants totaling $1.7 million, he will continue his research involving lipid mediators of cancer cell signaling. Much of this research involves the investigation of physiological and pathological roles played by a class of lipids known as the sphingolids. Dr. Hannun and colleagues discovered the signaling functions of these lipids and the vital roles they play in the cancer disease process, and cancer therapy, as well as in other areas of biomedicine such as neurobiology, inflammation and metabolism.
Dr. Hannun earned his MD degree with distinction in 1981 from the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. At American University he completed an internship and residency in internal medicine. In 1986 he immigrated to the United States to serve a fellowship in hematology and oncology at Duke University, where he rose to become the Wayne Rundles Professor of Oncology, director of the program in molecular medicine, and associate director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.