We are pleased to announce the appointment of Taofeek K. Owonikoko, MD, PhD, as the new Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Owonikoko will also serve as Associate Director for Translational Research and Co-Leader of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at Hillman. He will also hold the Stanley M. Marks – OHA Endowed Chair in Hematology/Oncology Leadership. Dr. Owonikoko will begin his appointment on July 1, 2021.
Dr. Owonikoko will lead a division of over 65 faculty, who are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in hematology and oncology clinical care and research. He will be a key member of the senior leadership team at Hillman, helping oversee our translational research, development of novel therapeutics, and expediting efforts to expand our clinical trials across the entire Hillman network. As division chief, he will also work with the leaders in the department of medicine to identify, cultivate and mentor the next generation of clinical and research leaders in oncology by creating a robust pipeline of training and mentoring programs.
Dr. Owonikoko is a physician-scientist, board-certified in Medical Oncology, Hematology and Internal Medicine with a clinical focus on treating patients with lung cancer. His research interests are in pre-clinical biomarker discovery in lung cancer and other solid tumor types, and translation of promising laboratory findings into clinical trials in collaboration with academic and industry partners. He has received extramural grant funding in support of his laboratory and translational research from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and private foundations.
Dr. Owonikoko was appointed after an extensive national search and joins us from Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University where he currently serves as Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Hematology and Oncology, leader of the Thoracic Oncology Program and co-leader of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at the Cancer Center. He previously held the position of the Medical Director of the Phase I Clinical Trials Program at Winship where he saw to the growth of the early phase clinical trials through the design and execution of innovative investigator-initiated trials and first-in-human trials in collaboration with pharmaceutical sponsors. He is a member of the ECOG-ACRIN Thoracic and Developmental Therapeutics Core Committees and was recently selected by the NCI CTEP to serve as the facilitator for the thoracic oncology Disease-Focused Clinical Investigator (DFCI) working groups across the entire ETCTN network.
A native of Nigeria, Dr. Owonikoko received his MBChB (MD equivalent) from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and his PhD from Heinrich Heine University in Germany. He then went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins University followed by residency in internal medicine at Drexel University. He is no stranger to Pitt and UPMC, having completed his hematology/oncology fellowship training here. While in Pittsburgh he conducted translational research in small cell lung cancer with Dr. Merrill Egorin, who served as one of his co-mentors. He also holds a Master of Science in Clinical Research degree from Emory University.
Dr. Owonikoko has co-authored over 220 publications and serves on the editorial boards of Cancer, Translational Lung Cancer Research and Journal of Thoracic Disease. He is also an associate editor for Frontiers in Oncology and Cancer Medicine, and is the incoming section editor for Medical Oncology and Clinical Trials for Cancer. He has received numerous awards, including the Michaele C. Christian Oncology Development Lectureship and Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2020, the Heine Hansen Award for Small Cell Lung Cancer research from the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and the Leadership Development Program award from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO). He will begin a four-year term on the ASCO Board of Directors in June, 2021.