Dr. Gilberto Lopes works to get cancer therapies to patients where and when they are needed
By Bob Woods
Photography by CLUTCH Content Partners
Gilberto Lopes, M.D.
ylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is at the forefront of developing new medications and treatments for cancer patients. Yet ensuring that therapies are available — to anyone, anywhere — is also a core directive of its researchers and practitioners.
That all-inclusive goal epitomizes the role of Gilberto Lopes, M.D., Sylvester’s and the Miller School’s chief of medical oncology, medical director for international programs and associate director for global oncology. “Treating people living with cancer is what our life mission is all about,” said Dr. Lopes, whose personal backstory moved him to become an oncologist. Both his parents lost their mothers to cancer when they were teenagers. “That changed their lives and inspired my decision to become a doctor and cancer researcher,” he said. During medical school in his native Brazil, his first mentor, Dr. Sergio Azevedo, was an oncologist “and the kind of doctor you aspire to become. I worked in his clinic for three years, an experience that gave me a strong foundation for being an oncologist.”
The arc of Dr. Lopes’ career has led to a leadership position with the Access to Oncology Medicines (ATOM) Coalition, a global health initiative aimed at increasing access to essential cancer medicines in low- and lower-middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Founded in 2022 by the Union for International Cancer Control in partnership with Sylvester, ATOM collaborates with governments, public health organizations and pharmaceutical companies not only to make cancer drugs available, but also to establish sustainable diagnostic and pathology capabilities, as well as training and education programs.
This past summer, Dr. Lopes spoke at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting, where he highlighted ATOM’s work. “Our most important accomplishment so far,” he reported, “was obtaining a voluntary licensing agreement with Novartis for nilotinib, a drug to treat chronic myeloid leukemia. This is the first-ever voluntary license for a cancer medication, and the first step in making innovative treatments more available in the poorest countries in the world. We also have selected four generic manufacturers to produce more affordable versions of the medication. It’s so important for us at Sylvester to provide cancer drugs to patients where and when they are needed.”