Pfizer hires ex-FDA, MD Anderson researcher as clinical oncology lead

Pfizer’s been making a few changes to its cancer exec team over the past few years, and today it’s making another as Vassiliki Papadimitrakopoulou, M.D., join as the new clinical development leader at its oncology unit.

Papadimitrakopoulou, who starts Sept. 23 and will be based in New York, comes to Pfizer from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where she was a professor of medicine in the department of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology.

There, she led clinical and translational research projects predominately focused on overcoming drug resistance in advanced disease. She has also recently been a member of the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee.

“Dr. Papadimitrakopoulou’s extensive experience leading the design and implementation of innovative clinical development programs in oncology, managing multidisciplinary research teams, and spearheading collaborative efforts within and across the global oncology community, will be a tremendous asset to Pfizer’s Oncology development activities as we work to bring transformative new therapies to millions of people with cancer,” said Chris Boshoff, M.D., Ph.D., chief development officer at Pfizer Oncology.

When asked about her role, Pfizer told FierceBiotech: “This role is a senior leadership position within Global Product Development Oncology accountable for driving the strategy, implementation and successful delivery of all clinical components of the portfolio across all phases of drug development.”

She will report to Chris Boshoff, Pfizer Oncology’s chief development officer of GPD Oncology.

This comes several months after the U.S. Big Pharma hired Jeff Settleman to lead its entire oncology R&D group. Settleman, who joined from Calico Life Sciences, will run all cancer programs from discovery to clinical proof of concept.

These programs had been overseen by Robert Abraham since 2011, but with Abraham retiring at the end of the year, Settleman is set to take over the responsibilities and become head of Pfizer’s 800-person oncology R&D site in La Jolla, California.

Since 2011, Pfizer has won approval for 10 new oncology drugs and established Ibrance and Xtandi as two of the best-selling cancer treatments. Yet, while sales of those drugs and other cancer medicines are growing quickly, the immuno-oncology boom has to a large extent passed Pfizer by, despite its efforts with Germany’s Merck and their checkpoint inhibitor Bavencio that has failed to outshine the likes of Keytruda and Opdivo.

The team tasked with changing that has experienced some churn. Dim­it­ry Nuyten recently stepped down as Pfizer’s immuno-oncology clinical development lead to take up the chief medical officer post at Aduro BioTech. And oncology CMO Charles Hugh-Jones jumped ship last year, landing at Allergan.