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New cancer center director wants to increase University of Florida’s research

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Anticipating a bigger role in the fight against cancer in the coming years as Baby Boomers age, the University of Florida has hired a new director for its cancer center.

Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., takes the reins at the University of Florida Health Cancer Center Oct. 1. An expert in blood cancers, Litcht brings with him a $2 million research portfolio that includes funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Litcht identified expanding the National Cancer Institute-funded research portfolio and extending investigator-initiated clinical trials to as many people as possible to improve treatment outcomes for patients as his priorities in a university press release.

There were 106,166 new cancer cases in Florida in 2012, according to information from the Department of Health. The majority of those cases, or 63,340, were reported in people aged 65 and older.

Licht currently serves as the associate director for clinical sciences at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. His research focuses on aberrant gene regulation as a cause of blood cancers and ways to reverse the effect of the gene.

Paul Okunieff, M.D. announced in January that he would be stepping down from the UF Health Cancer Center to focus his efforts on research and academics; he chairs the University of Florida Department of Radiation Oncology.

In all, 16 people applied for the director position said Lindy Brounley, communications director UF Health Cancer Center. Of those, the university interviewed four candidates.

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