Richard Carvajal, an Expert in Rare Cancers, Appointed Director of Experimental Therapeutics

Dec 8, 2014


Richard D. Carvajal, MD, has been named director of the Experimental Therapeutics/Phase I program and melanoma service in medical oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, effective November 1, 2014. Dr. Carvajal, a medical oncologist, has extensive clinical expertise in melanomas and leadership experience in early-stage clinical trials for patients with advanced cancers, as well as in the development of novel therapies for rare cancers. He joins NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where he was director of Developmental Therapeutics and the Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn Chair for Junior Faculty.

“Dr. Carvajal has spearheaded the development of important treatments that have transformed the lives of patients with rare cancers,” said Gary Schwartz, MD, chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. “We are excited to have him on board, with his experience and talent for innovation, and we look forward to his future contributions to patient-centered health care as he leads our experimental therapeutics program. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge on the development of new agents for patients with a wide range of tumor types, including rare cancers. But, more important, he brings the compassion and humanism that characterize the doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia.”

Dr. Carvajal’s work has focused on uncommon, difficult-to-treat cancers, such as melanomas arising from the eye (uveal melanomas), from the mucosal surfaces of the body (mucosal melanomas), and from the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and surface beneath the nails (acral melanomas). His approach combines study of the underlying biology of cancer with personalized medicine, where genetic profiles of tumors are used to match individual patients with promising therapies.

His research has led to the first positive clinical trials of drugs for a number of cancers. The drugs include imatinib (Gleevec®), which was effective in treating patients with melanomas that have a mutation in the KIT gene, and selumetinib, which shrank tumors in half of treated patients with metastatic uveal melanoma, a disease that affects only 2,000 to 3,000 people each year.

“Ten years ago, limited treatments were available to those with rare forms of cancer,” said Stephen G. Emerson, MD, PhD, director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia. “Since then, we have made significant progress in our ability to provide care to these patients. Dr. Carvajal’s appointment will help NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia to continue leading the effort to find novel therapies for these diseases and to advancing personalized medicine.”

Dr. Carvajal received his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor. In addition to his faculty appointment at Sloan Kettering, Dr. Carvajal was an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology.

He has authored or co-authored more than 60 peer-reviewed papers, books, and book chapters and has been involved in close to 40 clinical trials of novel cancer drugs. He serves as co-chair of the International Rare Cancer Initiative Uveal Melanoma working group, a joint initiative of the National Cancer Institute, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, and Cancer Research UK to enhance international collaboration in the conduct of clinical trials for uveal melanoma.

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC)

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) of Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is dedicated to the cure of cancer through innovative basic, clinical, and population-based research and outstanding patient care. HICCC researchers and physicians are dedicated to understanding the biology of cancer and to applying that knowledge to the design of cancer therapies and prevention strategies that reduce its incidence and progression and improve the quality of the lives of those affected by cancer. Initially funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1972 and designated comprehensive in 1979, the HICCC is one of 41 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, of which only three are in New York State. The designation recognizes the Center’s collaborative environment and expertise in harnessing translational research to bridge scientific discovery to clinical delivery, with the ultimate goal of successfully introducing novel diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive approaches to cancer. For more information, visit

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit or

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and its academic partner, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The hospital is also closely affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area, according to U.S. News & World Report, and consistently named to the magazine’s Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation. For more information, visit

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