Appointment of the Cancer Center Director

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

It is with great pleasure that we announce Jan Kitajewski, PhD has been appointed to serve as the Director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center effective November 13, 2020, pending approval of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. From his postdoctoral training with a Nobel Laureate to his extensive experience in cancer research, Dr. Kitajewski is an extraordinary leader, well-suited for this important role. His experience as an academic leader, cancer researcher and esteemed member of the Cancer Center community makes him an outstanding individual to lead the efforts of the UI Cancer Center as it pursues National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation.

Since December, Dr. Kitajewski has admirably served as interim director of the UI Cancer Center.  During this time, he has established new pilot funding, successfully managed an External Advisory Board visit, engaged community members, and worked diligently to strengthen the Center by actively recruiting and retaining talented oncology physician scientists and other faculty critical to our pursuit of NCI application. This last year, his laboratory successfully secured an industry-sponsored research agreement to develop a novel cancer therapeutic antibody. Dr. Kitajewski was recruited in 2016 as head of the department of physiology and biophysics in the College of Medicine. As he assumes his role with the Cancer Center, Dr. Kitajewski will retain his current responsibilities as the Sweeney Professor of Basic Sciences and head of the department. As head, Dr. Kitajewski has spearheaded the recruitment of many new faculty members – expanding departmental focus in cardiovascular biology, obesity, cancer, and cell biology. He additionally oversaw the launch of a new Master of Science in Medical Physiology program and a new vascular biology, signaling, and therapeutics T32 funded training program.

Before coming to UIC, his leadership responsibilities while serving as the Charles and Marie Robertson Professor of Columbia University included acting as Co-Director of the Cancer Signaling Networks program at Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), Director of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Director of the Women’s Cancer Program. At Columbia, Dr. Kitajewski gained 12 years of experience as a program leader and led 3 rounds of NCI review, receiving an exceptional score in 2014. He has also served on review panels for National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Defense (DOD) research grants, program projects and training grants, and NCI intramural program research evaluations.

After earning his PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University, Dr. Kitajewski completed a postdoctoral fellowship in molecular oncology working with Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus at the University of California, San Francisco. As a scientist, Dr. Kitajewski has received continuous funding from the NIH for 25 years and he has been the recipient of the Irma T. Hirschl-Monique Weill-Caulier Career Scientist Award, the DOD Breast Cancer Program Career Development Award, and American Cancer Society Junior Faculty Award.

His work has uncovered mechanisms of embryonic, ovarian, retinal and tumor angiogenesis and contributed to our understanding of fertility, preeclampsia, vascular malformations, retinopathies, tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. He also recently completed service as the President of the North American Vascular Biology Organization (NAVBO).

Having worked with Dr. Kitajewski already, we are extremely confident in his ability to seamlessly lead our Cancer Center at this important time. As a nationally known researcher and a thoughtful leader that is highly regarded by his peers, both internally and externally, we are energized by his approach and his continued commitment to the “community to bench” mission of the UI Cancer Center and the pursuit of health equity.


Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs

Mark Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, MBA
Executive Dean, University of Illinois College of Medicine

For more information, please contact:
Margaret Moser

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