Following a national search, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has appointed Marco Davila, MD, PhD, as Senior Vice President and Associate Director for Translational Research and Vice-Chair for Cellular Therapies.
Dr. Davila comes to Roswell Park after spending seven years at another National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. While there, this physician-scientist served as a senior member of the Department of Blood and Marrow Transplantation and director of the cell therapy facility.
At Roswell Park, Dr. Davila will lead a group focused on translating cell therapies for patients composed of experts across many clinical and research disciplines. This clinical team will be specially equipped to manage the care of patients receiving cell-based therapies and will work to develop new cancer treatments that will enhance both treatment outcomes and patients’ quality of life.
Roswell Park is the only facility in the Buffalo area approved to provide FDA-approved CAR T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapies — Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel), Breyanzi (lisocabtagene maraleucel), Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel) and Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) — to its patients. Roswell Park is also the only academic medical center in Upstate New York equipped to manufacture cells and vectors, allowing Dr. Davila and his team to develop and assess new CAR T approaches and other cellular therapies for patients.
While completing residency and a fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Dr. Davila served as a clinical fellow on the team of Renier Brentjens, MD, PhD, now Deputy Director at Roswell Park. The pair worked closely to develop some of the first CAR T-cell therapies — a form of immunotherapy — for patients with blood cancers. Their work led to a groundbreaking trial for patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and discoveries that paved the way for the first FDA approvals for CAR T-cell therapies for cancer in 2017.
“Dr. Davila is a gifted physician and a consummate translational scientist. He is highly attuned to his patients’ needs and priorities but also capable of great scientific imagination as he envisions new treatment strategies and designs the studies to develop them,” says Dr. Brentjens, who also serves as The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine at Roswell Park.
“What excites me most about joining Roswell Park is that they’ve already invested significant resources into being a site that can support the clinical investigation of homegrown and industry-sponsored cell therapies,” says Dr. Davila. “I’m really excited to have that opportunity to work with the cell-therapy teams as well as the leadership at Roswell Park to take advantage of these facilities and personnel to advance our gene and cell therapies and also work with biotechs, startups, pharmaceutical companies, to bring these exciting therapies to the patients of Roswell Park.”
The FDA has approved CAR T therapies for treating some leukemias, lymphomas, and multiple myelomas, but these treatments have not yet shown broad benefit for patients with solid-tumor cancers such as lung, breast, ovarian, or prostate malignancies. Dr. Davila will work to create new cell-based therapies for all tumor types and to support the work of collaborators outside Roswell Park.
“Dr. Davila has made substantial contributions to our field as a physician, innovator and collaborator, and will be a catalyst for Roswell Park’s work to develop new treatments offering improved treatment outcomes and enhanced quality of life for cancer patients,” says Candace S. Johnson, PhD, President, CEO and M&T Bank Presidential Chair in Leadership at Roswell Park.
Dr. Davila earned his doctorate in immunology and his medical degree from Duke University. He completed an internship and residency in medicine with New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and a fellowship in medical oncology with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Vice Chair for Cellular Therapies Senior Vice President and Associate Director for Translational Research Department of Medicine
My research is dedicated to developing gene-engineered cell therapies that target cancer cells in pre-clinical models. The goal of this research is to identify optimal cell therapies that can then be evaluated in cancer patients.