We are delighted to announce the appointment of Adekunle “Kunle” Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, as the BSD Dean for Oncology, Director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, effective March 1, 2021.
Dr. Odunsi is a distinguished cancer researcher and physician. He is currently the Deputy Director, The Robert, Anne & Lew Wallace Endowed Chair in Cancer Immunotherapy, Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy, Professor, Department of Immunology and Chair and the M. Steven Piver Professor, Department of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. His numerous honors and awards include election to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018 and the Rosalind Franklin Excellence in Ovarian Cancer Research Award in 2019. Dr. Odunsi has authored or co-authored more than 360 publications and contributed to several books and book chapters. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Cancer Research Institute and the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation Alliance, among others. He serves or has served on 10 editorial boards and multiple NIH study sections, and held numerous visiting professorships and guest lectureships. He also holds leadership positions in several national organizations such as Co-Chair of the NCI Cancer Moonshot Immuno-Oncology Translational Network and Chairperson-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research’s Cancer Immunology Working Group.
Dr. Odunsi received his MD degree from the University of Ife, College of Health Sciences, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and his PhD from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, United Kingdom. He completed his residencies in obstetrics and gynecology at the Rosie Maternity and Addenbrooke’s Hospitals, University of Cambridge, in the U.K., and Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Connecticut. His fellowship in gynecologic oncology was at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Buffalo, New York, where he joined the faculty in 2001 and has remained since.
Dr. Odunsi’s research interests focus on understanding the mechanisms of immune recognition and tolerance in human ovarian cancer, and translation of the findings to clinical immunotherapy trials. He has pioneered several pre-clinical and first-in-human clinical trials testing vaccination strategies to elicit antigen-specific responses and prolong remission rates in patients with ovarian cancer. His laboratory has identified important mechanisms of immune suppression within the ovarian tumor microenvironment, and has developed strategies to counteract such. Dr. Odunsi has implemented protocols for multi-institutional immunotherapy clinical trials under the umbrella of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Program of the Cancer Research Institute/Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, NCI Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network, and the NCI Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network. He is the principal investigator of an NCI-funded Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in ovarian cancer completely focused on overcoming mechanisms of immune resistance. Strategies being pursued by Dr. Odunsi and his group to promote durable anti-tumor immunity include the clinical development of “next generation” adoptive T-cell immunotherapies utilizing mature T cells and hematopoietic stem cells, and counteracting multiple innate and adaptive immune resistance mechanisms. Dr. Odunsi will continue this work at the University of Chicago.
As Dean for Oncology and Director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Odunsi will have strategic and broad oversight responsibility for all programmatic aspects of cancer at the University of Chicago including the three primary missions of research, patient care and education, and will be responsible for ensuring that all three mission components flourish and are robustly integrated. I am confident that Dr. Odunsi will be able to build upon the foundation established over many decades by the outstanding cancer programs at the University of Chicago, and lead them to new levels of eminence.