Cheryl L. Willman, M.D.
Director & CEO
UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center
Department of Pathology
The Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research
The University of New Mexico
2015 STC.UNM INNOVATION FELLOW
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Willman has served as the Director and CEO of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC). She pioneered the development of the clinical, research, education, and community outreach programs of the UNMCCC, culminating in 2015 in its designation as one of the nation’s 50 NCI Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers. With outreach programs in Las Cruces, Silver City, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Farmington, Alamogordo, and Roswell/Carlsbad, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center provided care for more than 11,000 cancer patients last year, treating nearly 60 percent of the adults and 70 percent of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer.
In addition to her role in the UNM CCC, Dr. Willman is an internationally recognized physician-scientist and a national leader in cancer precision medicine and leukemia research. Her research focuses on the use of genomic and computational technologies to identify novel cancer-causing DNA mutations that can be translated to better cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. As a co-leader of a national initiative in genomic sequencing researching high risk leukemias, she and her collaborators discovered novel leukemia-causing mutations. These mutations are frequently seen in children and adults of Hispanic ethnicity and American Indian genetic ancestry, providing insights into why these individuals fail to respond to treatments developed primarily through studies of non-Hispanic whites. Her most recent discoveries have been translated to 5 NCI NCTN-sponsored clinical trials for pediatric and adult leukemia. She now leads a consortia of scientists focused on discovering the genomic/genetic, environmental, and behavioral mechanisms of cancers (hepatobiliary, genitourinary, colorectal) that disproportionately affect Hispanics and American Indians in the American Southwest Plains, which may underlie their significantly higher cancer incidence and poorer outcomes.
TriCore Reference Laboratories licenses Dr. Willman’s pediatric and adult leukemia technologies to develop tests that are provided to physicians and their patients.