New Surgical Oncology Chief Brings Expertise as Surgeon-Scientist

Apr. 17, 2020
Darren Carpizo, M.D., Ph.D.

Darren Carpizo, M.D., Ph.D., joined UR Medicine on March 1 as the new Chief of Surgical Oncology and Professor of Surgery and Oncology. He will also serve as Vice-Chair of Basic/Translational Research in the Department of Surgery and as the co-leader of the Hallmarks of Cancer research program at Wilmot Cancer Institute. The University Trustees are expected to approve his appointment shortly.

An expert in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery, Carpizo served on the faculty at Rutgers-Cancer Institute of New Jersey since 2008 where he served as the section chief of gastrointestinal surgical oncology and leader of the hepatobiliary oncology program. He treats cancers of the liver, bile duct and pancreas, as well as gastric and colorectal cancers, metastatic colon cancer to the liver, and gastrointestinal neuroendocrine tumors.

“These are aggressive cancers that require a high degree of complex, multidisciplinary oncologic management,” Carpizo says. “This is challenging, but also can be very rewarding. I wanted to apply myself to this field not only to try to help the patients afflicted with these cancers, but also to move the field forward through research.”

Carpizo’s research includes a focus on p53, the most commonly mutated gene in cancer. He is working to develop targeted drugs called zinc metallochaperones that can restore p53’s function as a tumor suppressor gene. Carpizo is also studying cancer cell dormancy and its role in enabling metastasis in pancreatic cancer.

In addition, Carpizo is the principal investigator for a multi-center phase II clinical trial investigating a novel immunotherapy combination consisting of a cancer vaccine and the drug nivolubmab (Opdivo) to treat metastatic colorectal cancer to the liver. He plans to open this trial at the Wilmot Cancer Institute.

“I am intensely curious and this drives my desire to understand what we do not know,” Carpizo says.  “What fuels this curiosity are my experiences in patient care, and these lead to new clinical trials that I lead and research conducted by my laboratory.”

Carpizo received his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his surgical residency at the University of California, Los Angeles.  During his residency, he completed a special program for training physician scientists called the STAR program (Specialty Training in Advanced Research), which included completing a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. He then went on to complete a Surgical Oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where he focused his training in the management of hepatobiliary and pancreatic cancers.

“Dr. Carpizo is a world-class surgeon-scientist, and I feel very fortunate to have recruited him to the Department of Surgery and to the Wilmot Cancer Institute,” said David C. Linehan, M.D., the Seymour I. Schwartz Professor and Chair of Surgery. “His skills as an exceptional surgeon and translational investigator clearly place him in an elite group of academic surgeons in the nation, and we as an institution will benefit immensely from his expertise.”