Jan Schnitzer

Professor, Medicine, UC San Diego

Dr. Jan E. Schnitzer is the Scientific Director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, located in San Diego, California. The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is an independent, nonprofit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical research to eliminate cancer. The SKCC was recently awarded a $14.4 million Program Project Grant, over five years, from the National Cancer Institute, with Dr. Schnitzer as the Principal Investigator of this grant. Dr. Schnitzer’s research has identified “zip code” molecules for cancer that allow drugs to be “mailed” directly to solid tumors via their blood vessels. Dr. Schnitzer’s lab discovered several years ago techniques to purify specific small parts of cells and tissue that are directly in contact with circulating blood and mediate transport into the tissue. Through proteomic analysis of this material, it is now becoming clear that drugs that target specialized cell surface transport vesicles called caveolae can be rapidly transported across restrictive endothelial cell barriers for penetration throughout solid tumors. This selective targeting and delivery into tumors greatly facilitates drug effectiveness while eliminating the usual side effects of conventional chemotherapies.

Dr. Schnitzer joined the faculty of San Diego’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in 1999. He is Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Director of Vascular Biology and Angiogenesis Program and Scientific Director. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Schnitzer was Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (1994-1999), and an Assistant Professor at the University of California School of Medicine and Institute of Biomedical Engineering (1990-1994). Dr. Schnitzer received a BSE in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and an M.D. (1985) from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School. He did his postdoctoral training at Yale University Medical School in the Department of Cell Biology.

Dr. Schnitzer has been studying protein interactions at the surface of endothelial cells lining blood vessels and how specialized membrane vesicles called caveolae function to transport endogenous molecules as well as possibly targeted drugs, nanoparticles and gene vectors from the circulatory blood across the endothelial cell barrier to reach underlying tissue and even tumor cells.

As the Scientific Director at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Dr. Schnitzer is responsible for many administrative duties in addition to running his laboratory of approximately 30 scientists and technicians. He is the author of over 65 publications and book chapters and serves on many NIH and NCI Grant Review Panels. He also lectures at major symposia worldwide as an invited speaker and has received numerous honors and awards.

Dr. Schnitzer’s endeavors at San Diego’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center have contributed greatly to the National Cancer Institute’s ranking of SKCC as one of the top cancer centers in the United States in the application of genomics and proteomics to the treatment of cancers.