Directors

The Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance co-directors provide executive-level coordination for the alliance, fostering research collaborations across the state and promoting excellence in cancer research for Florida’s residents.

UF HEALTH CANCER CENTER

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D

Director, The University Of Florida Health Cancer Center; The Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Foundation And David B. And Leighan R. Rinker Chair

Jonathan D. Licht

SYLVESTER COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D.

Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Executive Dean for Research and a Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

niemer

Director Biographical Summaries

University of florida HEALTH CANCER CENTER

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D

Director, The University Of Florida Health Cancer Center; The Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Foundation And David B. And Leighan R. Rinker Chair

Jonathan D. Licht, MD, is a medical oncologist, scientists, and the Director of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center, holding the Marshall E. Rinker, Sr. Chair. Dr. Licht became the UFHCC director in October of 2015, previously serving as Chief of Hematology/Oncology at Northwestern University at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

His laboratory studies aberrant gene regulation as a cause of cancer and development of treatment strategies to reverse abnormal, cancer-causing gene functions. Continuously funded by the National Cancer Institute and  prominent research foundations  for over 30 years, he has published over 200 papers, cited over 32,000 times, largely in the field of blood cancers. Additionally, he has served as mentor to over 60 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty members.  

Dr. Licht is Principal Investigator of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Specialized Center of Research. He has served on the editorial boards of  Cancer Discovery, Cancer Blood Discovery, Cancer Cell, and Oncogene and is the inaugural Editor of Chef of the new journal Blood Neoplasia . Dr. Licht is chair of the Taskforce for Hematological Malignancies of The American Association for Cancer Research, and is co-chair of the Medical/Scientific Board of the LLS. In 2023 he led UF to become an NCI-designated Cancer Center in recognition of clinical and basic science research excellence, service to the community and development of programs to train research and health care professionals.

MOFFITT CANCER CENTER

John Cleveland, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President, Center Director and Chief Scientific Officer

John Cleveland, Ph.D., is the executive vice president and center director at Moffitt Cancer Center, one of 53 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country and the only one based in Florida. 

Dr. Cleveland is responsible for elevating Moffitt’s research enterprise and reputation for world-class bench-to-bedside science. He will set the strategy and vision for research, overseeing 100 research labs and approximately 175 renowned faculty at Moffitt. He is the principal investigator of Moffitt’s Cancer Center Support Grant, which brings in approximately $3 million in NCI funding by delivering transdisciplinary science and driving impact locally, regionally and beyond. 

His research interests include cancer cell checkpoints, cancer cell metabolism, cancer prevention and therapeutics, and the regulation and role of apoptosis and autophagy in the development and maintenance of cancer.

Cleveland is an exceptional scientist and leader, bringing 40 years of experience to this role. He joined Moffitt in 2014 as associate center director of Basic Science. Prior to Moffitt, Cleveland was professor and chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at The Scripps Research Institute. He also held various leadership roles with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He began his career working with the NCI, the federal agency charged with leading the National Cancer Program.

Cleveland is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Society of Hematology. He is a Moffitt Distinguished Scholar and holds the Cortner-Couch Endowed Chair for Cancer Research from the University of South Florida School of Medicine. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Maine and his doctorate in immunology and microbiology from Wayne State University School of Medicine.

SYLVESTER COMPREHENSIVE CANCER CENTER — University of Miami Health System

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D.

Director of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Executive Dean for Research and a Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dr. Nimer has been studying the transcriptional regulation of normal and malignant hematopoiesis for decades, with the aim of understanding how the normal processes of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation are regulated and how these processes are aberrant in the myeloid malignancies. Overall, his lab has focused on defining genes that contribute to the development and progression of myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and on identifying novel ways to target hematologic cancers and make them more responsive to treatment.

As a physician-scientist, Dr. Nimer has cared for patients with MDS, AML, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma for over three decades. This melding of clinical studies and care, with both basic laboratory and translational studies, reflects the fundamental focus of his career.

Since coming to the University of Miami-Miller School of Medicine in 2012 and assuming the Directorship of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the center received the prestigious National Cancer Institute designation in July 2019. Sylvester is the only cancer center in South Florida to achieve this designation and the second in the state of Florida. Dr. Nimer is currently supported by two NCI R01 grants and a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) multi-project Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) award. In November 2019, Dr. Nimer was named the inaugural Oscar de la Renta Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. In November 2021, Dr. Nimer assumed the role of Executive Dean for Research for the Miller School of Medicine, and in May 2022, he assumed a secondary appointment as Professor of Chemical, Environmental & Materials Engineering.

Prior to his arrival at the University of Miami-Miller School of Medicine, Dr. Nimer was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York for nearly 20 years, where he held the Alfred P. Sloan Chair and served as Head of the Division of Hematologic Oncology, Vice Chairman for Faculty Development, and Chief of the Hematology Service. He was also a Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Dr. Nimer has been elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigators and the Association of American Physicians. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and serves on the editorial board of several medical journals. In April 2021, Dr. Nimer was inducted into the Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine of Florida. Dr. Nimer is also the Chairman of the Myelodysplastic Syndrome Foundation, and the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research.

Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cheryl L. Willman, M.D.

Executive Director, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Cheryl Willman, Executive Director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Programs (nationally and globally) and Director of the Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, is an internationally renowned physician scientist and a pioneer in the field of cancer individualized medicine with a track record of innovation and successful translation of discoveries to clinical trials. She has co-led several key NCI initiatives that are improving the lives of patients with cancer and addressing disparities in cancer care as well as cancer incidence and mortality among diverse and underserved populations. Dr. Willman has served in many leadership roles including NCI’s Board of Scientific Advisors and the Scientific Advisory Board of the NCI Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research. Dr. Willman also has held and currently holds national leadership positions in AACR, ASH, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She was a founder of the field of Molecular Diagnostic Pathology, President of the Association of Molecular Pathologists, and is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. Prior to joining Mayo Clinic, Dr. Willman served as the Director and CEO of the University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Willman received her medical degree from Mayo Medical School and completed her residency and postdoctoral training in pathology and cancer research at Mayo Clinic, University of New Mexico, and University of Washington.

Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center

ROXANA S. DRONCA, M.D.

Site Director, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida

Roxana Dronca, M.D., serves as Site Director of Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida.  She is also a distinguished Professor of Oncology and a consultant in, and chair of, the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Florida. With over 15 years of experience as a practicing medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Dronca specializes in advanced skin cancers and genitourinary malignancies.

Her extensive background encompasses hematology-oncology, clinical and translational research, with a focus on investigator-initiated studies and multiinstitutional clinical trials for patients with advanced malignancies. Dr. Dronca’s primary research interests lie in tumor immunology, cutaneous melanoma, and rare melanoma subtypes. She is dedicated to unraveling the intricate interactions between the immune system and cancer, studying systemic immune regulation in patients with advanced malignancies, and pioneering innovative approaches to cancer therapy through individualized immunotherapy.

A key area of Dr. Dronca’s research involves the PD-1/PD-L1 signaling pathway and its implications in impaired host immunity in advanced cancer patients. Collaborating closely with Dr. Haidong Dong, co-discoverer of PD-L1, and other Mayo Clinic researchers, she explores T-cell responses to anti-PD-1 therapy in melanoma patients, investigates mechanisms of clinical activity and resistance to immunotherapeutic agents, and develops rational approaches to overcome resistance in human cancers.

In the earlier phase of her career, Dr. Dronca served as the Mayo Clinic principal investigator on phase I and phase II clinical trials with the anti-PD-1 agent Pembrolizumab, contributing significantly to its FDA approval for treating patients with advanced melanoma. Her work has been published in prestigious journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, JAMA, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Annals of Oncology, and the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight. Furthermore, she secured an R21 grant in 2015.

In recent years, Dr. Dronca has expanded her contributions to cancer care delivery research and implementation science. Co-leading institutional efforts, she played a pivotal role in envisioning and establishing the Mayo Clinic Cancer CARE (Connected Access and Remote Expertise) Beyond Walls Program. This platform-enabled solution aims to revolutionize cancer care delivery by providing therapy, supportive services, ancillary testing, and remote monitoring within a patient’s home, bridging the gap between traditional healthcare settings and modern telehealth technologies. As the leader of Cancer services at Mayo Clinic in Florida, Dr. Dronca laid the foundation for this innovative initiative and serves as the Enterprise and Cancer Center physician lead, demonstrating her commitment to creating a patient-centric model of cancer care that integrates digital technologies with traditional therapeutic approaches.

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