Photo of Gary Schwartz

Columbia University’s Gary Schwartz named Case Comprehensive Cancer Center’s new director

A Columbia University oncologist renowned for his translational research, mentoring and leadership will become director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center (Case CCC) this spring.

Gary Schwartz, chief of the Hematology & Oncology Division at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) and deputy director of its Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, will succeed Stan Gerson, who has led the center since 2004.

“We look forward to welcoming Dr. Schwartz as director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center,” President Eric W. Kaler said. “The combination of his stellar expertise and depth of knowledge will advance the center’s innovative research which, ultimately, will lead to new discoveries that prevent, diagnose and treat cancers.”

Launched in 1983, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is an institutional consortium that today includes Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic. It oversees all cancer research conducted across the institutions, as well as the care of more than 65% of Northeast Ohioans being treated for cancer.

“I am grateful to Dean Stan Gerson, not only for his helpful guidance in selecting Dr. Schwartz, but also for his own years as director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center,” Kaler added. “The center thrived under Stan’s leadership and rose to be among the best in the nation. I am confident this will continue with Dr. Schwartz.”

In 2017 the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded the center a rating of ‘exceptional’—the highest level possible. Three years later, the NCI made the Case CCC the first in the country to receive a two-year merit extension of its grant. The extraordinary honor recognized the cancer center’s record of sustained excellence and ongoing progress.

“I am honored and excited to have this opportunity to lead the Case CCC,” Schwartz said. “I am also humbled to follow in the footsteps of Stan Gerson. My vision is to now lead the Case CCC with advances in cancer medicine, with the ultimate goal of curing this disease. This is possible through the extraordinary excellence of the consortium of institutions that constitute the Case CCC, through which the coordination of scholarship, research, education, and community outreach will be its primary core goals.” 

Schwartz has spent more than three decades pursuing novel approaches to treat and cure sarcomas—tumors that begin in bone and tissue—as well as melanoma (more commonly known as skin cancer). He currently directs Columbia’s Minority/Underserved Site NCI Community Oncology Research Program (MU-NCORP), as well as several other funded grant programs involving clinical trials of treatments for sarcoma. In addition, he is leading two federally supported training programs for more junior investigators pursuing cancer-related research.

“Dr. Schwartz is an exceptionally accomplished cancer investigator with extensive experience leading clinical research programs at major cancer centers,” said Gerson, also the university’s senior vice president for medical affairs. “I am thrilled we could attract him to this position.” 

In 2019 Schwartz received the American Cancer Society’s Eugene D. O’Kelly Award for his exceptional leadership in translational research, as well as his success in bridging the basic science and clinical aspects of drug development. Two years earlier, the Sarcoma Foundation of America honored him with its Nobility in Science Award, given annually to an individual who has “contributed in a significant way to the advancement of science, care and treatment for sarcoma patients.”

Schwartz has served on the NCI Investigational Drug Steering Committee as well as its Experimental Therapeutics Program (NExT). His service on editorial boards of several scientific journals includes work as associate editor for the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Clinical Cancer Research. He serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and is co-chair of the Experimental Therapeutics Committee for Rare Cancers. Schwartz has authored 251 papers and several book chapters, reviews and editorials.

“It is crucial for the mission of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center to collaborate and contribute to the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center as one of its consortium members and lead the way in discovering the next breakthroughs in treatment for our patients,” said Dan Simon, president of academic and external affairs, chief scientific officer and the Ernie and Patti Novak Distinguished Chair in Health Care Leadership at University Hospitals. “We are confident that Dr. Schwartz will be dedicated to advancing cancer care through clinical trials and research that develop and test innovative treatment options, with the ultimate goal of enhancing patient care.”

Schwartz earned his undergraduate degree at Haverford College, and then his medical degree from Albany Medical College of Union University. He went on to complete his residency at Northshore University Hospital and Medical Oncology Fellowship at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine (now the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai). 

“I have worked with Dr. Schwartz for many years. He brings extensive experience in developing new and more effective approaches to treating cancer, as well as a clear commitment to mentoring clinicians and researchers to establish their careers,” said Alex Adjei, chair at Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute and deputy director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. “I look forward to working with Dr. Schwartz to advance cancer care in Northeast Ohio, nationally and internationally.” 

Before being recruited by CUIMC to be the Irving Cancer Center’s associate director, Schwartz also spent 24 years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Department of Medicine. He became the Irving Cancer Center’s deputy director two years later.

“We are fortunate to have Gary joining as the Case CCC director,” said J. Alan Diehl, a center deputy director and its chief operating officer, as well as chair of the medical school’s biochemistry department. “His outstanding leadership experience will ensure the ongoing success of our exceptional comprehensive cancer center.”

Added Theodoros Teknos, deputy director at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, president and scientific director of UH-Seidman Cancer Center and the Jane and Lee Seidman Chair in Cancer Innovation at University Hospitals: “[We at] University Hospitals-Seidman Cancer Center are thrilled with the appointment of Dr. Gary Schwartz as the new Case CCC Director. His scientific acumen, extensive clinical trial experience and leadership skill will greatly enhance cancer related scientific discovery in Northeast Ohio and beyond.”