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Patrick Hwu, president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center, to be the Next Guest at the Conversation with a CEO

By Keith Morelli

Patrick Hwu

TAMPA (October 5, 2021) -- Not satisfied that the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center already has an international reputation as a leading cancer research hospital, Patrick Hwu plans to take it not only to the next level, but to the top tier of research facilities on the planet – and, perhaps, beyond.

“Moffitt will become the cell therapy capital of the universe,” said Hwu, president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center for less than a year. He appears to have the pedigree and the skills to mount a serious attempt at achieving that lofty goal. He is an internationally recognized tumor immunologist who has made a career out of leading groundbreaking research and clinical efforts in the field.

“My one and only goal is to drop the death rate of cancer,” he said. “I realized early on that could be done in many ways, including treating patients and research, but ultimately, we need to train the next generation in all aspects of cancer care. I think I can be most effective in leading and inspiring the next generation.”

Hwu is slated to be the next guest in the Muma College of Business’s Conversation with a CEO series on Oct. 21. The event is free and open to the public, though registration is required. To register, click here. The forum is casual as Dean Moez Limayem chats with guests about their lives, careers and leadership philosophies. The event will take place in the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, 124 S. Franklin St., in downtown Tampa, from 8:30-10 a.m.

In November 2020, Hwu, who has 33 years of oncology experience, stepped out of his role as a researcher to head up the premier cancer research center here in Tampa. The new job does take away from his research time, he said. To make up for that, he brought along an impressive list of researchers from his previous job with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he was the division head of Cancer Medicine. Not only is he the CEO Hwu treats melanoma patients and maintains his own laboratory.

“I am fortunate to have an incredible team in my lab,” he said. “When I left Houston, I had to break the news to my lab of twelve that I was leaving for a great opportunity at Moffitt. I was incredibly honored that over half of them uprooted their lives to join me here. One of the amazing things about Moffitt is our bench to bedside approach and our proximity to our patients, research and administration.” That is a unique combination that draws serious cancer researchers from around the world.

Making Moffitt a top-tier, globally recognized cancer research center lies in the work done in the lab, where Hwu’s team works on specialized treatments that hold the promise of a cancer cure in the future.

“This type of treatment involves taking a type of immune cell called T cells out of the body,” he said, “engineering them in the lab to attack cancer and infusing them back into the patient.”

He will continue the groundbreaking research that has set Moffitt apart from many other cancer centers.

“We already are the only center that publishes their outcomes because we are that proud of the work we do,” he said. “Our future is expanding that care to as many patients as possible- via satellite clinical locations and technology.

“Since 2001, Moffitt Cancer Center has been Florida’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, an honor that just recently was renewed with a  score that was higher than ever. Moffitt is one of only 52 recognized Comprehensive" Cancer Centers in the United States.

“National Cancer Institute-designated centers are recognized for their scientific excellence,” Hwu said. “They bring together the best scientists and physicians to advance research and patient care. They are a major source of discovery and development of more effective approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. This allows us to provide the most advanced treatments, including access to a wide range of cutting-edge clinical trials.”

Hwu has held various leadership roles during 17 years at MD Anderson in Texas, including chair of the Department of Sarcoma Medical Oncology, co-director of the Center for Cancer Immunology Research and the first chair of the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology. Known for leading transformative research in the clinic, Hwu helped pioneer the field of gene-modified T cells, publishing research on the first chimeric antigen receptor directed against cancer. He has more than 270 peer-reviewed publications.

Beyond medical research, Hwu served as editor of his school newspaper, interned at the Charleston Gazette and once considered a career in journalism. He also studied classical piano growing up and plays the keyboards in The ReMissions, a band made up of Moffitt employees who play various events and venues, including roof tops.

Find out more about Hwu, his leadership strategies and his career at the Conversation with a CEO. To register, click here.