Jonathan Lewis (oncologist)

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Jonathan J. Lewis, M.D., Ph.D.
Occupation Surgeon, biomedical researcher, entrepreneur, CEO, cancer drug developer

Jonathan J. Lewis, M.D., Ph.D., is a surgeon, biomedical researcher and entrepreneur. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1959. Lewis was trained in surgery in South Africa, Britain, and the United States, and he is a fellow of both the Royal College of Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons. His sub-speciality was cancer, and he spent a decade at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City both treating patients and conducting research.[1]


Lewis received his MB. B.Ch. from University of Witwatersrand in 1982 and his Ph.D. degree in the Molecular and Cell Biology of Growth Factor Signal Transduction from the University of Witwatersrand and Yale School of Medicine in 1990. During this time he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1987. At Yale he trained under Elton Cahow and William Collins, and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center he trained under Murray Brennan. At Sloan-Kettering, he completed postdoctoral research in the labs of David Golde and Alan Houghton.[2]


During his time at Yale University, Lewis was part of a group known as the “Legends of Yale” which includes Walter Longo, professor of surgery at Yale University; Steve Leach, Paul K. Neumann Professor in Pancreatic Cancer at Johns Hopkins Medical School; Jim Goldenring, vice chairman for research at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Margrét Oddsdóttir, previously chairman of surgery of the Reykjavík University in Iceland. Oddsdóttir died of breast cancer in January 2009, and during her treatment she was under the care of Larry Norton and Lewis care until her last day. In her honor, Yale has set up a memorial lectureship for which is a board member. The ninth edition of Schwartz's Principles of Surgery textbook was dedicated to her.


Dr. Lewis has treated a diverse and notable group of patients throughout his career. Known as an outstanding rugby player, Lewis treated Kitch Christie, the head coach of the South Africa national rugby union team the Springboks that won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, together with his surgical mentor Murray Brennan and research mentor David Golde. Lewis successfully operated on Christie prior to him undergoing experimental therapy. This team, its captain Francois Pienaar and Nelson Mandela became a symbol of the rainbow nation of the new South Africa. They all became close as Christie died in 1998. He later cared for Chief Justice Ismail Mahomed for pancreas cancer. Mahomed was the country's first non-white judge of the Supreme Court of South Africa and was subsequently made the Chief Justice by President Nelson Mandela. He helped look after Gordon Brown, who played second row for Scotland and the British Lions. There are several "wall plaques" at Sloan-Kettering from patients and their families in gratitude of Lewis. Amongst the most notable is one from the family of a young lady who had been left for dead, had no insurance or health coverage, but despite this underwent an enormous and successful operation and is alive today. Another is from the family of a former NYPD chief who died from pancreas cancer.[3] It is believed that he waited for Lewis to get back from the Manchester United treble victory in 1999, celebrated the victory with him, and then died later that day. Recently, he helped care for Kate McGarrigle, encouraging her to perform with her family at the Royal Albert Hall on December 9, 2009, just six weeks before her death in January 2010.[4]

Research and scientific contribution[edit]

Over the years, his research laboratory and interests overlapped with several biotech and large pharmaceutical companies, and he was associated with the development of several successful and innovative cancer drugs.[5][6] Following his career as a surgeon, Dr. Lewis was recruited to head a biotech startup, and he currently serves as CEO and executive chairman of ZIOPHARM Oncology.[7]

Lewis' work has been involved in better understanding the biology and treatment of several difficult-to-treat cancers and helping to advance the treatment of cancer. This includes the use of one of the first peptides and DNA vaccines with active immunotherapy using T cells to treat cancer,[8] a better understanding of the biology and role of surgery in retroperitoneal sarcoma,[9] the liberal and correct use of re-resection in extremity sarcoma,[10] the development of several novel small molecule cancer drugs, the potential use of vaccines in pancreatic cancer,[11] and to the use of lower-cost small molecule oral drugs globally to treat cancer. He is also involved in policy leadership and innovative cost-effective therapeutic approaches in general[12] and has worked with Harold E. Varmus and Brook Byers to support Arlen Specter with increased biomedical research funding.[13]

Lewis has several hundred publications, which include work in the biology and treatment of sarcoma, the biology and treatment of pancreatic cancer, molecular cancer vaccines, gene therapy and the translation of laboratory findings to the clinic. He has written chapters and sections in 15 major textbooks and has published one book. He has published on a peer-based assistance program for officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the effects of 9/11. He has also written on health policy and directed the use of funding in healthcare. His scientific research papers and book chapters are cited in numerous medical journals as well as text books.[14]

Positions and appointments[edit]

Lewis has lectured and taught at multiple major academic institutions, medical centers and business schools. He was a lecturer on physiology and biochemistry at University of Witwatersrand School of Medicine, instructor in surgery in the Department of Surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, a professor at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in Surgery and Medicine, attending surgeon in both the Departments of Surgery and Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and he is currently CEO and executive chairman of ZIOPHARM Oncology. He has also worked as a specialist advisor and board member with several large pharma and biotech companies and numerous charitable and non-profit organizations. Included amongst these are the Congressional Business Council, Hope Funds for Cancer Research, POPPA/NYPD and Yale Biotechnology and Pharma Society.[1]


Lewis has been involved in multiple leadership roles in non-profit organizations in cancer and law enforcement, including the NYPD and FBI, in particular relating to PTSD. He has successfully helped to raise almost a half a billion dollars towards these causes and has also helped strategically. He is very involved with children with cancer, often hosting families from all over the world at his home as they go through cancer treatment in the United States.[15]

Honors and awards[edit]

Lewis has received numerous honors in medicine and science. These include the Sulliman Medal for Physiology and Biochemistry, the Gold Medal from the American Board of Surgeons, Yale University Ohse Award, NIH/NIDDK Traveling Fellowship Award (Impact of molecular genetics on molecular disease), the Trubshaw Medal in Surgery, the ASCO Young Investigator Award, The Sloan-Kettering Teaching Award, the Kristen Ann Carr Fellowship, Americas Top Surgeon, Winston Fellow in Biomedical Research, Sloan-Kettering Institute Clinical Scholars Award and the Sarcoma Foundation of America Hope and Vision Award.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "The Sarcoma Foundation Of America Honors Jonathan Lewis With 2009 Vision Of Hope Award". Medical News Today. 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  2. ^ Bowne WB, Antonescu CR, Leung DH, et al. (June 2000). "Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans: A clinicopathologic analysis of patients treated and followed at a single institution". Cancer 88 (12): 2711–20. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(20000615)88:12<2711::aid-cncr9>;2-m. PMID 10870053. INIST:1476351. [not in citation given]
  3. ^ "Press Release Archives #233-00 - MAYOR GIULIANI RENAMES STREET AFTER NYPD CHIEF PATRICK BRENNAN". Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  4. ^ Robert Everett-Green. "Goodbye sweet harmony". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  5. ^ Mary Anne Chute Lynch. "A New Generation of Cancer Vaccines - New York Times". Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  6. ^ Lewis JJ (October 2004). "Therapeutic cancer vaccines: using unique antigens". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 101 Suppl 2: 14653–6. Bibcode:2004PNAS..10114653L. doi:10.1073/pnas.0404839101. JSTOR 3373502. PMC 521987. PMID 15297620. 
  7. ^ "FDA Blesses Ziopharm Cancer Drug". Forbes. 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  8. ^ Lewis JJ, Janetzki S, Schaed S, et al. (August 2000). "Evaluation of CD8(+) T-cell frequencies by the Elispot assay in healthy individuals and in patients with metastatic melanoma immunized with tyrosinase peptide". International Journal of Cancer 87 (3): 391–8. doi:10.1002/1097-0215(20000801)87:3<391::AID-IJC13>3.0.CO;2-K. PMID 10897045. 
  9. ^ Heslin MJ, Lewis JJ, Nadler E, et al. (August 1997). "Prognostic factors associated with long-term survival for retroperitoneal sarcoma: implications for management". Journal of Clinical Oncology 15 (8): 2832–9. PMID 9256126. 
  10. ^ Lewis JJ, Leung D, Espat J, Woodruff JM, Brennan MF (May 2000). "Effect of reresection in extremity soft tissue sarcoma". Annals of Surgery 231 (5): 655–63. doi:10.1097/00000658-200005000-00005. PMC 1421052. PMID 10767786. 
  11. ^ Maki RG, Livingston PO, Lewis JJ, et al. (August 2007). "A phase I pilot study of autologous heat shock protein vaccine HSPPC-96 in patients with resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma". Digestive Diseases and Sciences 52 (8): 1964–72. doi:10.1007/s10620-006-9205-2. PMID 17420942. 
  12. ^ "At Ziopharm, Arsenic Is Not So Toxic". Businessweek. 2007-07-22. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  13. ^ Couzin J (December 1998). "Beefed-up NIH center probes unconventional therapies". Science 282 (5397): 2175–6. doi:10.1126/science.282.5397.2175. PMID 9890822. 
  14. ^ Search Results for author Lewis JJ on PubMed.
  15. ^ "Kristen Ann Carr Fund: Celebrity Supporters". Look to the Stars. Retrieved 2014-03-01.