Dr. Renier Brentjens '85 has come back to Buffalo for "the opportunity of a lifetime."
Brentjens has been named the Deputy Director and Chair of Medicine at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Roswell Park describes Brentjens as "one of the most influential and accomplished figures in the field of cancer immunotherapy."
Brentjens, a native of the Netherlands who was raised in Buffalo and earned a master’s degree and dual MD/PhD in microbiology at the University at Buffalo after attending Canisius, will join Roswell Park in September.
Roswell Park President and CEO Candace S. Johnson called Brentjens "both an amazing physician and a research star."
"We couldn’t be more excited to welcome him back to Buffalo," Johnson said. "His achievements in cellular therapy have helped drive major shifts in how we treat many cancers today, and make an outstanding pairing with our own innovations in immunotherapy and cell-based therapy."
"Coming to Roswell Park in these roles is the opportunity of a lifetime," said Brentjens, who is a passionate Buffalo sports fan and classic car enthusiast.
"What has impressed me most are the totally original concepts for vaccines and cellular therapies coming from Roswell Park that no one else has come up with yet," Brentjens said. "Our goal is to achieve cures, long-term remissions and excellent quality of life for a lot more patients, and the teams at Roswell Park are going to be an incredible crew to move that vision forward."
Brentjens comes to Roswell Park from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where he served as Director of Cellular Therapeutics and Associate Chair for Junior Faculty Development in the Department of Medicine.
"This is a time of tremendous hope and promise," said Brentjens, one of a small group of researchers who helped to develop the first FDA-approved cellular therapies to incorporate adoptive cell transfer — an approach known as CAR T (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell) therapy.
Brentjens' work both in the lab and in clinical trials helped establish CAR T as a cancer treatment option. With CAR T, a patient’s immune cells are removed, re-engineered to fight cancer more effectively and reinfused to bolster the immune system’s response to cancer.
"Cellular therapy is in its infancy, but it’s already dramatically reshaping what we can achieve through cancer therapy," he said.
"We’re starting to master our ability to help the immune system, our own cells, help itself. I’m incredibly excited about the work this Roswell Park team is going to do in the next few years — the time we are going to be able to give back to patients with even advanced cancers, the cures that are within our reach today."
At Roswell Park, Brentjens will serve as Deputy Director, The Katherine Anne Gioia Endowed Chair in Cancer Medicine, Chair of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Immunology.
Anne Gioia, a member of Canisius High School Board of Trustees, and Donna Gioia created the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation 25 years ago after Anne’s daughter Katherine, the namesake of Dr. Brentjens’ endowment, passed away at 5 years old after a battle with a very rare cancer.
"Their goal was to make sure that families affected by cancer have hope – have options and compassion and support as they battle something so difficult," said Johnson. "Their generosity and their example of how to work hard to create a resource that will keep giving back to our community has been incredible, and continues through their support of the important work that Dr. Brentjens now leads at Roswell Park. Anne and Donna, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your passionate fight on behalf of families affected by cancer."