On Monday, Jan. 6, world-renowned researcher Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., joined the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB as the center’s new director.

“I am so excited to be in Birmingham and, specifically, UAB because the people in this community seem genuinely and passionately committed to doing whatever they can to improve the treatments for those with cancer and decrease the burden of cancer in the state of Alabama,” Sleckman says. 

Dr. Barry Sleckman

As one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated ”comprehensive” cancer centers in the country, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is home to more than 400 physicians,  scientists and physician-scientists who work every day to provide innovative therapies and treatments to thousands of patients each year.

As director, Sleckman will hit the ground running and focus his efforts on the successful renewal of the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant, which is the most prestigious federal grant that can be earned by an institution with significant cancer research and patient care programs.

The renewal also extends the Cancer Center’s elite “comprehensive” designation, which is characterized by scientific excellence and the ability translate this excellence into novel treatments and approaches that improve access to the very best in cancer care.

For the NCI core grant renewal, the Cancer Center undergoes a competitive and rigorous peer review process, which includes a written and in-person site evaluation that happens every five years.

“We live in an era when new targeted therapies are coming online rapidly, and it is critical to educate our entire community about the importance of being treated at a place where patients have access to the very latest therapies and clinical trials that lead to durable cures of what were recently incurable diseases,” Sleckman says.

More recently, the Cancer Center opened its Infusion Therapy Clinic on Nov. 20, 2019, and is now preparing for the grand opening of Alabama’s first proton therapy facility on Jan. 13.

“What I know for sure is that we are the beneficiaries of the success that comes from our community collaborators –­ as evident, for example, in our relationship with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, which supports us and allows us to do unprecedented work,” Sleckman says.

“Another example of our ongoing commitment to the community is our ArtBLINK Gala, which is just around corner,” Sleckman says. “Our corporate sponsors and the community at large provide us with the opportunity to support high-priority research areas, which includes launching young investigators into cancer research and recruiting new faculty.”

Before moving to UAB, Sleckman served as the associate director of the Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

“Our patients are at the very center of all the work we do,” Sleckman says. “Ultimately, I am here to facilitate that the best, most promising research makes its way directly to our patients.”