Media Contact: Nicole Fawcett 734-764-2220

U-M Cancer Center director to step down

Wicha to focus on his research after 27 years at the helm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — After 27 years leading the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, founding director Max S. Wicha, M.D., has announced that he will step down as director.

“It has been my honor and privilege to lead the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center over all of these years, as it has developed into one of the leading cancer centers in the nation,” Wicha says.

While serving as director, Wicha has continued to maintain his laboratory research and clinical practice seeing patients with breast cancer. In 2003, he was part of the team that first identified breast cancer stem cells.

He will continue both his clinical practice and his active research lab, which has grown to include about 30 people. His team’s cancer stem cell research has advanced into testing of anti-stem cell compounds in clinical trials as potential new therapies for advanced cancer. 

Wicha founded U-M’s Cancer Center in 1986 and shepherded it to its first National Cancer Institute “cancer center” designation in 1988. Wicha, the longest-serving cancer center director in the country, has since seen the Cancer Center through six NCI Cancer Center Support Grant renewals. U-M’s grant and “comprehensive cancer center” status were most recently renewed in 2011 with an “outstanding” rating.

The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a cancer center this year, currently receives more funding from the NCI than any other university-based cancer center. The center’s clinical cancer programs have grown dramatically over the last decade while achieving patient satisfaction scores that rank among the best in the University of Michigan Health System. 

“These attributes position us well to meet the challenges generated by the rapidly changing landscape in health care delivery. Over the past 25 years, we have witnessed remarkable advances in science and technology that hold the promise of revolutionizing cancer treatment. The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center is well positioned to remain at the forefront of this revolution,” Wicha says.

Wicha’s decision is timed to allow for a new center director to prepare for the next core grant renewal in 2016. A national search will be conducted to identify a new Cancer Center director. The search is expected to take about a year and Wicha will remain as director until his successor is named.

Read Dr. Wicha's blog post for Medicine That Speaks, in which he looks back at U-M's 25 years as an NCI cancer Center


About the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center:

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 400 faculty members delivering the highest quality, compassionate care to today’s patients and researching ways to improve the treatments of tomorrow. It’s our mission: the conquest of cancer through innovation and collaboration. The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs for both research and patient care. It is one of 41 centers designated "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute and one of 23 institutions that make up the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which sets national guidelines for consistent, high-quality and cost-effective cancer care. Learn more at or call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125.

NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute Michigan Medicine as the original creator and include a link to this article.

Media Inquiries:  734-764-2220 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET 

734-936-4000 after hours, weekends, and holidays (ask for the PR person on call) for embargoed news, videos & more