Peter H. Wiernik, MD ’65
April 30, 2016 — The UVA Medical Alumni Association recognized Peter H. Wiernik, MD, as co-recipient of its 2016 Walter Reed Distinguished Achievement Award during a presentation by UVA School of Medicine Dean David S. Wilkes, MD, on April 30 in Charlottesville. Dr. Wiernik received the award along with Charles W. Cummings, MD ’61.
The Walter Reed Distinguished Achievement Award recognizes professional accomplishments, outstanding innovation, and exemplary leadership in the field of medicine.
Dr. Wiernik is a 1965 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Throughout his career, he has conducted ground-breaking clinical leukemia research supported by grants and contracts from the National Cancer Institute, the Leukemia Society of America and others.
As director of the Baltimore Cancer Research Center of the National Cancer Institute, he was engaged in the clinical development of virtually every new antineoplastic agent from 1967-1983. He made major contributions to the development of the anthracyclincs in leukemias, and in solid tumors and developed key new regimens for treatment of acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemia.
At the Albert Einstein Cancer Center and Montefiore Medical Center in New York from 1983-1998, he developed interleukin-2 therapy as the only potentially curable treatment for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. He literally saved taxol from being discarded by the National Cancer Institute by designing the pre-treatment regimen that prevents its lethal toxicity. In addition, he convinced the National Cancer Institute to study the Chinese drug, all-trans retinoic acid for treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia in this country. He successfully treated the first such patient in the U.S. with this agent and led the first NCI-sponsored trial of this agent in pediatric and adult leukemia. The drug is now a standard component of therapy for this type of leukemia.
He continued his research at Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center and St. Luke’s, Roosevelt and Beth Israel Hospitals in New York. While at those institutions, he was the first to demonstrate major activity for the immunologic agent, lenalidomide in the treatment of lymphoma. He also described an association between lymphoma and breast cancer.
As director of the medical oncology and hematology fellowship programs at the Baltimore Cancer Research Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, Dr. Wiernik trained well over 100 fellows and the majority of those fellows have gone on to academic careers.
A recipient of numerous awards and professional memberships, he is still hard at work and this year will join the editorial board of Investigative Medicine. He has also contracted to produce the 6th edition of Neoplastic Diseases of the Blood, a large text he founded that has been remarkably successful with over 73,000 downloads of the chapters in the 5th edition.