Meir Wetzler, 60, Roswell Park Hematologic Oncologist
Meir Wetzler, 60, chief of the Leukemia Section at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, died Feb. 23, nearly two weeks after a skiing accident in Denver, Colo.
Remembered as a brilliant and compassionate physician, he worked with cooperative groups and pharmaceutical companies to make clinical trials available to leukemia patients at Roswell Park. At the time of his death, he was principal investigator at the institute for clinical trials for CML, acute myeloid leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelofibrosis.
His research focused on autocrine and paracrine growth factor regulatory loops in the pathogenesis of leukemia, and signal transducer and activator of transcription proteins in leukemogenesis.
During his tenure at Roswell Park, he was named numerous times to the Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. list of America’s Top Doctors, most recently this year.
Colleagues remember him as someone who often appeared serious but had a playful side, evidenced every year when he and members of his team dressed in themed costumes and slid into a pool of gelatin to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Western New York.
Often the team paraded through the Roswell Park inpatient rooms in costume, “because it was good for the patients’ morale to do something fun,” recalled pathology resource technician Linda Lutgen-Dunckley.
“He oversaw clinical activities departmentally and co-chaired the Ambulatory Services Executive Committee,” said Alex Adjei, chair of the Department of Medicine and senior vice-president for clinical research.
“He co-chaired the Scientific Review Committee and chaired the Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee. Meir also oversaw the leukemia tissue bio-repository and ran a research laboratory. In addition to doing all of this, he carried a full clinical load and took outstanding care of his patients,” he said. “Meir touched us all in so many different ways; Roswell Park has lost a dedicated son.”
“He gave a piece of himself in everything he did, from his research to his care for patients to his interactions with his team of colleagues,” said Kara Eaton-Weaver, executive director for Patient and Family Experience. “Meir was a transformational leader who built a culture of empathy, compassion and integrity and innovation. His character is an inspiration to us all.”
Wetzler was also an accomplished athlete, passionate about snowboarding, skiing, and running, and participated in many triathlons, including several Ironman triathlons. He motivated friends and colleagues to exercise for better health.
Originally from Israel, Wetzler earned his medical degree in 1980 from Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem and served his residency at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot. From 1988-1992 he completed fellowships in clinical immunology/biologic therapy and medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was board-certified in both internal medicine and medical oncology.
Wetzler joined the Leukemia Division at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 1994.
At the time of his death, he held additional posts as assistant research professor in the Immunology Program of Roswell Park’s Graduate Division; professor of medicine in the School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences of the State University of New York at Buffalo; and adjunct faculty member in the Physician Assistant Department of D’Youville College in Buffalo.
Wetzler was the author or co-author of more than 100 journal articles, book chapters, and abstracts, and served as a referee for Blood, Cancer, Stem Cells, Leukemia Research, and American Journal of Hematology.
He was a member of the Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia Treatment Committee of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network; a member of the Leukemia Core Committee of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (formerly the Cancer and Leukemia Group B); and a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Hematology, and Israel Medical Association.
Wetzler is survived by his wife, Chana, and their four children: daughters Mor and Shira, and sons Adam and Modi.