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Wafik El Deiry


Wafik El-Deiry, MD, PhD, FACP is the Associate Dean for Oncologic Sciences at the Warren Alpert Medical School, Director of the Cancer Center at Brown University, and Director of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology at Brown University and affiliated hospitals. He is an American Cancer Society Research Professor, Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Professor of Medical Science, and Mencoff Family University Professor at Brown University.

He is also a licensed practicing physician-scientist and Medical Oncologist with clinical privileges at The Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

Until December, 2018, he served as the Deputy Cancer Center Director for Translational Research, co-Leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program, Professor of Oncology, and the William Wikoff Smith Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. From March 1, 2010 through September 30, 2014 Dr. El-Deiry was the Rose Dunlap Professor of Medicine and Chief of Hematology-Oncology at Penn State University. In 2009, El-Deiry became one of 40 active American Cancer Society Research Professors and continues to serve the ACS whenever possible. He earned MD/PhD degrees from University of Miami School of Medicine and completed internal medicine residency and medical oncology fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Dr. El-Deiry elucidated the genomic DNA-binding consensus sequence for the p53 tumor suppressor protein. This work published in Nature Genetics in 1992 has helped identify numerous genes as direct p53 targets and effectors of tumor suppression. He went on to discover cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p21(WAF1) as a p53 target gene and cell cycle inhibitor that explained the mammalian cell stress response. p21 was the first mammalian CDK inhibitor to be discovered, work that eventually led to discovery and development of a new class of now FDA approved CDK inhibitor drugs. The discovery of p21, published in 1993, has been the most highly cited original work published in Cell. El-Deiry joined University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1994, earning tenure by 1999 and rising to Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology and Genetics in 2005. He was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator from 1995-2004. Dr. El-Deiry served as co-Leader of the Radiobiology & Imaging Program at the Abramson Cancer Center from 2004-2010.

Dr. El-Deiry made important contributions in cell death signaling and our understanding of the sensitivity of tumors to chemotherapy including the original discovery of TRAIL death receptor 5 (DR5) as a p53 target and mediator of extrinsic cell death after DNA damage. This work, published in Nature Genetics in 1997 linked the p53 tumor suppressor to the innate immune pathway of suppression of cancer and its metastases. Later work unraveled various determinants of sensitivity to TRAIL as a therapeutic, brought out the tumor susceptibility and inflammation phenotype of DR5-knockout mice, and suggested various combinatorial therapeutic strategies including sorafenib plus TRAIL or TRAIL receptor agonist antibodies.

He discovered and brought first-in-class TRAIL-pathway activating small-molecule ONC201/TIC10 into clinical trials for patients with cancer. The first manuscript on the new drug was published in Science Translational Medicine in 2013 and this demonstrated that TIC10 (later called ONC201) treatment of tumor cells led to transcriptional upregulation of the TRAIL gene, independent of the p53 status of tumor cells, through a pathway involving ERK and Akt inhibition, dephosphorylation and nuclear translocation of Foxo3a and transcriptional activation of the TRAIL gene. By 2016 in work published in Science Signaling, the lab discovered that ONC201 activates an integrated stress response, involving eIF2-alpha kinases PKR and HRI, ATF4 induction and CHOP-dependent DR5 transcriptional activation. These results suggested that ONC201 activates both the TRAIL gene and the DR5 gene in priming cancer cells for drug-induced cell death. ONC201 entered clinical trials by 2014 and has been found to have anti-tumor activity in patients with GBM (DIPG with H3K27M mutations), prostate cancer, endometrial cancer and other tumor types.

El-Deiry has >400 peer-reviewed publications and 5 edited books. In 2021 his H-index is 118 and he has >80,000 citations in Google Scholar. He is a member of the Interurban Clinical Club (President 2013-2014), American Society for Clinical Investigation (1999-) and Association of American Physicians (2008-). He won the Michael Brown Award from University of Pennsylvania (1998), the Elizabeth and John Cox Award from Georgetown (2005), the 2009 Kuwait Prize for "Cancer Diseases." El-Deiry is an elected member of the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars (2014-). He received teaching and mentoring awards from the Penn State College of Medicine. He specializes in the care of patients with colorectal cancer, and patients with rare genetic drivers of other tumor types.

His recent activities include service as Chair of an NIH Study Section (MCT2; 2018-2019), and as a Member of the Conquer Cancer Foundation Review Board (ASCO; 2015-present). He recently served as a member of ASCO’s Annual Program Committee (Tumor Biology Track Leader, 2017), and as a member of the American Cancer Society (ACS) Council for Extramural Grants (2015-2018; Ad Hoc in 2020). He was honored as ‘Faculty Member of the Month’ by F1000Prime in August, 2018. Dr. El-Deiry serves as Associate Editor for Molecular Oncology for the Oncology Newspaper HemOnc Today, as the Frontiers in Oncology's Specialty Chief Editor for the Cancer Molecular Targets and Therapeutics Section and as the Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Cancer Biology and Therapy. Dr. El-Deiry has trained many students and post-doctoral fellows, physician-scientists, and continues to mentor junior scientists and faculty in basic and translational cancer research.

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