Dr. Owen Witte, founding director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA and a renowned cancer researcher, was selected today by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Cancer Panel, which monitors the development and execution of the National Cancer Program.
The members of the panel are selected based on their training, experience and background as exceptionally qualified to appraise the National Cancer Program.
“These men and women have demonstrated knowledge and dedication throughout their careers,” President Barack Obama said of Witte and other nominees to key administrative posts in a White House statement Tuesday. “I am grateful they have chosen to take on these important roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
The three-member President’s Cancer Panel reports directly to the president. Of the three members, at least two are distinguished scientists or physicians.
“I am honored and grateful to be nominated by President Obama to serve on this prestigious panel, and I look forward to helping guide the future of cancer research policy,” said Witte, also a leading scientist with UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We’ve made significant progress in developing new and more effective therapies for cancer in the last decade and that momentum will only grow stronger in the future.”
Witte’s two-year term on the panel will begin in January.
A Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, Witte has made significant contributions to the understanding of human leukemias and epithelial cancer stem cells. He discovered the tyrosine kinase activity for the ABL gene and the demonstration of the BCR-ABL oncoproteins in leukemias.
Witte’s research focused on the interrelated problems of cell growth regulation and differentiation, and in understanding the function of cancer-causing genes found in human leukemias and epithelial cancers. This fundamental research became the foundation for the later development of Gleevec, the first targeted therapy for chronic myelogenous leukemia. More recently, Witte has concentrated on defining the stem cells for epithelial cancers of the prostate and other organs to help define new and more effective therapies.
Witte’s focus on stem cell research grew out of his long-term interest in understanding the cells in which cancers and leukemias originate. He hopes that research coming out of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center will change the understanding of many human maladies and that the discoveries will result in new treatments for lethal diseases.
In addition to serving as director for the UCLA stem cell center, Witte currently holds the UCLA David Saxon Presidential Chair in Developmental Immunology. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received national recognition for his research, including the Milken Foundation Award, the Rosenthal Award of the American Association for Cancer Research, the Dameshek Prize of the American Society of Hematology, the Alpert Foundation Prize and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s de Villiers International Achievement Award.
A professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, Witte joined the UCLA faculty in 1980. He graduated from Cornell University and earned his medical degree at Stanford. He did his postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Nobel laureate, David Baltimore.