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Experts in Transplantation, Engineered Cells and Pediatrics Join Growing Roswell Park Cell Therapy Program

Drs. Brian Betts, Shernan Holtan and Kanwaldeep Mallhi named to leadership roles within emerging cell therapy hub

  • GvHD experts Brian Betts and Shernan Holtan continue to optimize transplant
  • They will develop new engineered therapies as part of emerging cell therapy hub
  • Kanwaldeep Mallhi cares for children and adolescents with cancer and blood disorders

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Three physician-scientists who have relocated to Buffalo, New York, to join Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center will apply highly specialized transplantation and cell therapy (TCT) expertise to both patient care and the development of New York State’s first cell therapy manufacturing and research hub. Brian Betts, MD, has joined Roswell Park as Vice Chair of Strategic Initiatives within the Transplant & Cellular Therapy Section, Department of Medicine; Kanwaldeep Mallhi, MD, was named Associate Professor of Oncology and Clinical Director of Pediatric Transplantation and Cellular Therapy in the Department of Pediatrics; and Shernan Holtan, MD, will join the Roswell Park faculty in February as Chief of Blood and Marrow Transplant in the Department of Medicine.

They join a growing list of experts in all aspects of cell therapy and transplant recruited to join the program led by cell-therapy pioneers Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, and Marco Davila, MD, PhD, including immune analysis expert Peter Maslak, MD, and cell therapy engineering/manufacture expert Yeong “Christopher” Choi, PhD, MBA. In October, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced New York State’s investment of $30 million toward expansion of the Roswell Park GMP Engineering & Cell Manufacturing Facility, which will support the clinical and research programs of these experts, as well as cell therapy investigators and companies from around the country.

“We could hardly be more proud or excited about the team we’re building at Roswell Park,” says Dr. Brentjens, who has served as Roswell Park Deputy Director and Chair of Medicine since September 2021. “The depth and diversity of expertise in all aspects of cell therapy research and clinical application, the infrastructure for cell therapy investigation, production and collaboration, the support from Dr. Candace Johnson and our Board — all of it adds up to an incredibly appealing and supportive environment for innovators looking to break new ground in cancer cell therapy.

“Brian, Kanwal and Shernan are exceptional physicians-scientists who’ve already done incredible work to make these new therapies work for more patients, and their addition to the Roswell Park faculty makes our program one of the most comprehensive teams in academic cell therapy.”


Brian Betts, MD, Leads TCT/Medicine Initiatives as Vice Chair

Board-certified in internal medicine, medical oncology and hematology, Dr. Betts joined Roswell Park this summer from the faculty of the University of Minnesota, where he did his internal medicine residency. After earning his medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School, he went on to complete a fellowship in medical oncology and hematology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Betts has done extensive research on ways to prevent and reduce graft versus host disease (GvHD) and other complications of stem cell transplant, and on development of engineered T-cell therapies for cancer. Along with Dr. Davila he helped to develop CD83 CAR therapy, and in collaboration with Dr. Holtan he has helped to improve outcomes for patients following stem cell transplant.

“I chose stem cell transplantation and immunology mainly because I like the science behind it, and also because I can actually do stuff in the lab and bring it to patients and see advances happen in real time,” says Dr. Betts.

Shernan Holtan, MD, to Join Roswell Park From Masonic Cancer Center

Dr. Holtan will join Roswell Park’s Department of Medicine on Feb. 5 as Chief of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. She comes to Roswell Park from the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center, where she was Chair of the Allogeneic Transplant and Regenerative Medicine Disease Oriented Committee and principal investigator on a major Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network grant.

After earning her medical degree from the University of Nebraska Medical School, Dr. Holtan went on to complete an internal medicine residency and fellowships in blood and marrow transplant and medical oncology at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota).

“Dr. Holtan has spearheaded practice-changing work in prevention of graft-versus-host disease, a common complication of blood and stem cell transplantation,” says Dr. Betts. “Her clinical discoveries led to important new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and she’ll continue to pioneer ways to reduce organ toxicity and relapse after transplantation and to expand transplant and cell therapies for nonmalignant conditions.”

Kanwaldeep Mallhi, MD, Named Clinical Director of Pediatric Transplantation and Cellular Therapy

Dr. Mallhi is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist with the Roswell Park Oishei Children’s Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Program, specializing in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular therapies such as immunotherapy and gene therapy for children and adolescents with hematologic cancers and nonmalignant blood disorders.

Recruited by Department of Pediatrics Chair Kara Kelly, MD, to join Roswell Park as Clinical Director of the Pediatric Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (TCT) Program from Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Mallhi will also hold a faculty position at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Mallhi earned her medical degree from the Chicago Medical School at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. Board-certified in both the U.S. and Canada in general pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology, she completed residency at the Jacobs School as well as fellowships in pediatric bone marrow transplantation, from the University of Minnesota, and in pediatric hematology/oncology, from the University of British Columbia.

“My goal is to expand access to curative therapies for children, adolescents and young adults with nonmalignant disorders and provide innovative treatments such as gene therapy for sickle cell disease, thalassemia and primary immunodeficiencies,” says Dr. Mallhi, whose clinical expertise centers on cellular therapy treatments for high-risk hematologic cancers and nonmalignant disorders, such as hemoglobinopathies, bone marrow failure syndromes, inherited inborn errors of metabolism, and primary immunodeficiency disorders.


Check out the Meet the Team video with Dr. Brian Betts

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