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Renowned clinical investigator selected as director for the Georgia Cancer Center

3/01/2019, Augusta University

Dr. Jorge Cortes, an international leader in clinical research in leukemia who is deputy department chair in the Department of Leukemia in the Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, has been named director of the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

Cortes, who joins the leadership of the Georgia Cancer Center and Medical College of Georgia Sept. 1, also will serve as a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Cancer.

“Dr. Cortes is a humble, respected individual whose name is globally synonymous with advances in the treatment of chronic and acute leukemia,” says Dr. David Hess, MCG dean. “He has a commitment both to science and to patients and a passion for serving the underserved. He is an intent listener who is deliberate in his decision-making and I believe a natural fit to lead the Georgia Cancer Center.”

“I am delighted with the appointment of a fellow cancer center director in Georgia,” says Dr. Walter J. Curran Jr., who in 2012 was designated a GRA Eminent Scholar in Cancer. “I look forward to working with Dr. Cortes and the entire cancer care team at the Medical College of Georgia,” says Curran, who is executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Curran, a 1982 MCG graduate, was honored with MCG’s Distinguished Alumnus Award for Professional Achievement in 2017.

The new cancer center director and prolific clinical investigator has authored or coauthored nearly 1,000 journal articles and helped develop mainstays in leukemia treatment like tyrosine kinase inhibitors, a frontline treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia. Cortes led the development of the second generation tyrosine kinase inhibitor bosutinib and the third generation ponatinib, which are widely used today. He also led the development of omacetaxine, a drug approved for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia where tyrosine kinase inhibitors have stopped working. Most recently, he led the development of glasdegib, a smoothened inhibitor approved for the treatment of older patients who have acute myeloid leukemia as well as other conditions, like heart disease or moderate kidney disease, that preclude use of standard intensive induction chemotherapy.

His current research emphases include development of new therapies for leukemia, developing predictive models for outcome, reducing the toxicity of cancer therapy, and improving quality of life of patients with leukemia.

Cortes has served as a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the National CML Society since 2010, and a member of the Board of Directors of the International CML Foundation since 2009. Last year, Cortes received the John Goldman Prize from the foundation for his lifetime contributions to treating patients with CML.

He is a scientific committee member of the Society of Hematologic Oncology, or SOHO, and a reviewer for the American Society of Hematology Scholar Award Program Study Section. He served as a member of the National Board of Directors for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society from 2007-13 and recently completed his tenure as associate editor for Blood, the official journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Cortes is a member of the editorial board for multiple journals including Clinical Cancer Research, American Journal of Hematology, Journal of Hematology and Oncology and BMC Cancer. 

He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of The Max Foundation based in Buenos Aires, which provides oncology products to underserved populations worldwide. Cortes also is president and founder of the Latin American Leukemia Net, based in Mexico City, an organization that focuses on patient education in Latin America.

A faculty member at MD Anderson for 23 years, Cortes has directed the leukemia fellowship program since 2000 and chaired the CML Section in the Department of Leukemia since 2002 and the AML Sections for a decade. He holds the Jane and John Justin Distinguished Chair in Leukemia Research.

Cortes received his medical degree from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico in Mexico City in 1986. He completed his internal medicine residency, including a year as chief resident, and a hematology fellowship at Instituto Nacional de la Nutricion Salvador Zubiran, also in Mexico City. He jointly completed the second year of his fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston followed by a hematology/oncology fellowship at MD Anderson.

As director of the Georgia Cancer Center, Cortes will provide leadership and drive new developments in the basic science, translational research and clinical trial programs. He will also help build new and existing cancer care clinical programs to meet the needs of patients across the state of Georgia. Cortes will also play a key role in expanding and developing educational programs to meet the future need for medical and surgical cancer specialists, radiation oncologists and support staff for Georgia. He will also serve as a community catalyst for the Georgia Cancer Center by spending time in the communities where patients live and work.

The Georgia Research Alliance grows Georgia’s economy by expanding university research capacity and seeding and shaping startup companies around inventions and discoveries. For over 25 years, GRA has worked to strengthen the university research enterprise in Georgia by working in partnership with the University System of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Economic Development to create the companies and jobs of Georgia's future.

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