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New medical director named to lead cancer center Thoracic Oncology Program


A new medical director has been appointed to oversee UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program. Jonathan Wesley Riess replaces David R. Gandara who will soon be co-directing a new center in experimental cancer therapeutics. Riess’ appointment is effective Dec. 15, 2021.

Jonathan Riess
Jonathan Wesley Riess is the new medical director for the cancer center’s Thoracic Oncology Program

“I am pleased to appoint Dr. Riess to lead what has become the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind in Northern California. His expertise in thoracic oncology will bring novel clinical trials to our patients that incorporate targeted therapy and immunotherapy and will enhance our world class clinical care for people with thoracic malignancies,” said UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara, Jr.

Lara added, “We are grateful for the innovative leadership provided by Dr. Gandara and inspired by the reputation he cultivated for our leading-edge thoracic oncology program, substantially improving outcomes for patients that only a decade ago had very low survival rates.”

The Thoracic Oncology Program provides a wide array of clinical and research services. They include prevention strategies, new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to cancers found in the lung, thymus gland and esophagus and other thoracic cancers such as mesothelioma. The program is nationally recognized for excellence in lung cancer treatment.

Riess' clinical interests include lung cancer and other thoracic cancers (mesothelioma and thymoma). He currently serves on the Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer/Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma/Thymomas and Thymic Carcinomas Panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

“It is an honor to be named medical director of the Thoracic Oncology Program. We have a phenomenal multidisciplinary team of world class clinicians and investigators providing superb clinical care and conducting groundbreaking research,” said Riess. “I’m committed to leveraging our existing advances in novel diagnostics, targeted therapies and immunotherapy treatments to build upon the progress we have made in improving patients’ survival and quality of life. I will strive to continue the momentum gained under the exceptional leadership of Dr. Gandara.”

Riess' research interests encompass novel diagnostics, targeted therapies and immunotherapy in lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. He is the past recipient of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award given to researchers who are working to improve the lives of people with cancer through extensive involvement in NCI-funded collaborative clinical trials and whose leadership, participation and activities promote clinical trials and research. He is also the past recipient of the Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and Van Auken Foundation Young Innovators Team Award, a former Paul Calabresi K12 Scholar and was recently awarded an NCI R01 grant for an NCI-sponsored clinical trial.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit