Scott Lippman takes helm at UCSD Moores Cancer Center

About Moores Cancer Center

• UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center is home to 350 medical and radiation oncologists, cancer surgeons, and researchers.

• Established in 1979, it is one of just 40 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States, and the only one in the San Diego region.

• In 2005, the Cancer Center dedicated its new home on the east campus of UC San Diego, adjacent to Thornton Hospital. The facility unites cancer-related research laboratories, clinical trials, prevention and outreach programs, and clinical care under one roof.

• With its patient population growing 18 percent a year, a new 10-story state-of-the art facility adjacent to Thornton Hospital will meet projected needs for inpatient care, including surgeries and bone and marrow transplants. Jacobs Medical Center, under construction for a grand opening in 2016, will include a new Hospital for Cancer Care, designed with significant input from cancer patients and their families to create a healing, supportive environment.


Developing personalized cancer treatment is just one specialty Scott M. Lippman, M.D., 57, brings to his new job as director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. As he circles back to his California roots after decades of extensive cancer research in Texas, Lippman brings to the center, years of experience in clinical trials.

Lippman graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon and attended UC Irvine on a tennis scholarship.

He said he figured he would study medicine for a few years while he competed in the sport, his passion. Ultimately, he completed his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University.

After hematology training at Stanford, Lippman finished his hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of Arizona where he met his wife, Mary.

After they married, he accepted a position at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.

“I had to bring my wife kicking and screaming. She didn’t want to go,” he said. “I promised I’d be there about five years, and we were there 24 years.”

During that time, Lippman received numerous funds from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his research, serving as the principal investigator in clinical trials that included translational/molecular studies of cancer risk and personalized therapy using molecular-targeted drug development.

“What’s changed in terms of treatment in cancer is (the recognition, realization) that every patient is different,” Lippman said. “I really want to be able to make a clinical impact in such specialized treatment.”

He said the La Jolla location is a prime opportunity for delivering such care with its concentration of three NCI-designated cancer research centers – out of 41 nationwide.

He also wants to take advantage of the proximity to the county’s hundreds of biotech companies, explaining that 90 percent of drugs approved for cancer treatment come from biotech industries that he visions he will one day work with directly.

Lippman succeeds Dennis A. Carson, M.D., as director of the cancer center. Carson noted it was a hard job to fill because the patients are very ill and there’s a lot of responsibility that goes along with the university.

“Dr. Lippman’s expertise in patient care, administration, and also clinical research made him fit the bill,” Carson said. “He led a very big program in head and neck cancer, and lung cancer, and was very involved in treatment and drug trials.”

Carson said the new $670 million UCSD Jacobs Medical Center that is expected to open a phase of floors in 2015, will ultimately have more than double the beds the current center has, and about half of the patients will be UCSD patients as they move to a referral-based system.

“Moores has a huge influx of patients. It needs cancer-centric leadership,” he said. “Dr. Lippman has a lot of experience dealing with what’s happening now with cancer.”

Carson was trained as a scientist, and integrated his training for eight years when the focus of the school was research.

“But now, with the need to apply the research to cancer, things are changing. Now we need to implement the clinical trials,” Carson said.

Mary Lippman said the timing is right for her husband to relocate for this next phase of his career.

“It’s a great time for oncology to get the new beds that are coming with the new hospital,” she said. “Our family had many wonderful years in Texas, and it was a nice place to raise their three kids, but, I’m delighted to move to the San Diego area … and La Jolla … every once in a while, I feel like somebody will find out and send me back to Houston!”

Catriona Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology-oncology and director of stem cell research at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center is also happy about Lippman’s arrival.

“As you know, we’d like to do clinical trials,” Jamieson said. “So we were so excited to get Dr. Lippman here; he’s very well known for his translational research.”

Lippman said it’s been fun for him, personally, to come back and reconnect with old friends he used to compete with in tennis. Some of them are California’s best: John Holladay (USC), Larry Belinsky, founder of San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame, and Brian Teacher (UCLA).

“I got to know these people very well. It’s like I never left,” he said.