Dr. Nancy Davidson of U Pitt to lead clinical oncology for Fred Hutch / University of Washington Cancer Consortium

She will serve as bridge builder across treatment, clinical and translational cancer research at Fred Hutch, UW Medicine, Seattle Children’s and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to work toward ‘a world without cancer’
Dr. Nancy Davidson
Dr. Nancy Davidson Photo courtesy of University of Pittsburgh

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center today announced that Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, has accepted the position of executive director of clinical oncology for the Fred Hutch / University of Washington Cancer Consortium, one of 47 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers nationwide. Her appointment will become effective Dec. 1.

In her new role, Davidson will serve as a bridge builder across the cancer treatment, clinical, translational, basic sciences and public health research programs of consortium members Fred Hutch, UW School of Medicine, UW School of Public HealthSeattle Children’s and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, or SCCA, the cancer treatment arm of Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s.

Davidson is a world-renowned physician-scientist in cancer biology and treatment, especially in the field of breast cancer. Prior to joining the Pitt faculty, she served as the Breast Cancer Research Professor of Oncology and founding director of the Breast Cancer Program at Johns Hopkins. She is a member of the scientific advisory boards for many foundations and cancer centers. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, she is a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and current president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Dr. Davidson brings a wealth of experience and insight not only as an internationally recognized expert in breast cancer, but also through her highly successful leadership roles as the director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, past president of ASCO and current president of the AACR,” said Dr. Gary Gilliland, president and director of Fred Hutch. “She is ideally suited to further enrich the already outstanding interactions between the SCCA, UW Medicine and Fred Hutch. I am eagerly looking forward to working with her,” said Gilliland, who is director of the NCI-designated Fred Hutch/UW Cancer Consortium.

Davidson is the latest in a wave of world-class hires made since Gilliland became president of Fred Hutch in January 2015, all aimed at Fred Hutch’s mission of finding cures for cancer. A little more than a year ago, Gilliland predicted that there would be curative therapies for most, if not all, cancers in a decade. Davidson’s expertise and caliber helps make that even more possible.

Davidson said she is “excited about the opportunity to work with [consortium members] toward a world without cancer.”

“I have the good fortune to join the cancer team at one of the top public universities and cancer centers in the world. … I have had the opportunity to serve as a member of the External Advisory Board for Fred Hutch for about five years and have been very impressed with the breadth and impact of scientific discovery across the continuum, from basic science to clinical research to population-science research. The chance to become a part of the team at SCCA / Fred Hutch / UW, whose collective mission is the pursuit of better, longer, richer lives for patients with cancer, was very attractive. The opportunity to think about how the great science of the Fred Hutch and UW can be harnessed to provide evidence-based and patient-centric care at SCCA proved to be irresistible for me.”

A personal sense of urgency

The urgency of finding better treatments and cures for cancer is also very personal for Davidson. In 2011, her sister, Leslie Davidson, died at age 53 just two weeks after being diagnosed with non-small-cell carcinoma of the lung. She had never smoked.

“My hope and goal in life is that no one should have to suffer from such a catastrophic illness,” she said.

Davidson will serve in a variety of leadership roles for Hutch / UW consortium institutions.

At Fred Hutch, she will be senior vice president, member, and director of the Clinical Research Division, where she will foster excellence in research, clinical service, education, and training. This division for the past several years has been under the interim leadership of Dr. Oliver "Ollie" Press, a world leader in radioimmunotherapy research.

At UW School of Medicine, she will be professor and head of the Division of Medical Oncology, where she will be responsible for faculty mentoring, recruitment, and oversight, as well as strategic planning and implementation.

At SCCA, Davidson will serve as president and executive director and be responsible for directing and managing the organization’s affairs, including planning, organizing and coordinating cancer care, clinical research, and education. She will also care for patients with breast cancer as part of the breast cancer team at SCCA.

Davidson will replace Dr. Fred Appelbaum, who for 20 years was director of the Fred Hutch Clinical Research Division, head of the UW Division of Medical Oncology, and president and executive director of SCCA, a position he's held since the alliance was established in 1998. Appelbaum will remain executive vice president and director of the Hutch.

“We are grateful for the many contributions of Dr. Fred Appelbaum and are confident that Dr. Davidson brings the right balance of patient-focused care, scientific excellence and medical acumen to help Seattle Cancer Care Alliance realize our vision of leading the world in translating scientific discovery into the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure of cancer,” said Richard McCune, chair of the SCCA board of directors.

She will report to Gilliland and to Dr. William Bremner, professor and chair of medicine at UW School of Medicine. As head of medical oncology at UW, Davidson will replace interim head Dr. Marc Stewart, who is also a clinical researcher at Fred Hutch and medical director of SCCA.

"Dr. Nancy Davidson is a proven leader committed to excellence and collaboration," said Dr. Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine and dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine. "She will bring together our collective strengths to accelerate the translation of research discoveries that will transform the care of patients with cancer." 

“I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Nancy in a number of capacities and have consistently been impressed with the breadth and depth of her scientific and clinical knowledge,” Appelbaum said. “That she has served as the president of both the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Association for Cancer Research is emblematic of the respect she receives from the entire oncology community.”

Davidson, who is board-certified in internal medicine and medical oncology, has been on the faculty of Pitt since 2009 and is Hillman Professor of Oncology, Associate Vice Chancellor for Cancer Research and Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Chemical Biology.

“We thank Dr. Davidson for her leadership over the seven years, under which the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute expanded its deep bench of scientists, added important new research grants to remain on the leading-edge of cancer research, and cemented its standing as our region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Dr. Arthur S. Levine, Senior Vice Chancellor for the Health Sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine at U Pitt. “We wish Nancy well in her new role and appreciate that she is leaving UPCI in such a strong position to lead cancer research well into the future.”

A top opinion leader

Davidson has a reputation as a top opinion leader in the field of breast cancer biology and treatment and has authored editorials, commentaries and reviews to provide perspective for key research papers as well as critical areas in breast cancer biology and treatment.

Her many awards, honors and appointments include: serving as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (2007-2008), receiving the seventh Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Science from the National Cancer Institute (2008), election to the National Academy of Medicine (2011) and Association of American Physicians (2010) and being listed among Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers (2014-2015).

Davidson received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and her undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Wellesley College.

Kristen Woodward, a science editor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been in communications and media relations at Fred Hutch for more than 15 years. Before that, she was a managing editor at the University of Michigan Health System and a reporter/editor at The Holland Sentinel, a daily in western Michigan. She has received many national awards for health and science writing. She received her B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University. Reach her at kwoodwar@fredhutch.org.

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