Just over a decade into his career, David Sallman, ’07, MD ’10, exemplifies excellence as a researcher who seeks to translate his findings to the care of patients with hematologic malignancies, or cancers that begin in blood-forming tissue.
Growing up in Stuart, Florida, Sallman was influenced early on by his future father-in-law, a private practice oncologist. With an interest in science and an eye toward medicine, Sallman applied for the seven-year accelerated medical program offered through USF’s Judy Genshaft Honors College. He was already a year into medical school at the Morsani College of Medicine when he received his undergraduate degree in 2007.
His interest in research was fostered during his undergraduate years by Julie Djue, PhD, a basic research scientist at Moffitt Cancer Center after the two were paired through an Honors class that connected undergraduates with research scientists at the university. By the time he earned his MD in 2010, Sallman had already published several research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Sallman credits these research experiences with helping him secure a residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the best programs in the U.S.
With his residency complete, Sallman returned to Tampa and Moffitt Cancer Center in 2013 for a fellowship in hematology and medical oncology. While he entered his fellowship thinking he’d specialize in lymphoma, two mentors drew him to myelodysplastic syndrome, a group of disorders caused when something disrupts the production of blood cells, and myeloid blood cancer, a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells.
Sallman is now an assistant member in the Department of Hematology and myeloid section head at Moffitt Cancer Center. He is also an assistant professor in the Department of Oncologic Sciences at USF.
In his research, Sallman focuses on patients with myelodysplasia, seeking to prevent poor outcomes such as the development of leukemia. He has developed international expertise assisting individuals with a mutation called TP53, a molecular subset of patients with myelodysplastic syndrome and acute myeloid leukemia who have the poorest outcomes. He has several grants and clinical trials exploring the use of novel agents to treat these patients.
As a fellow from 2013-2016, Sallman wrote the first large clinical trial in the world focused on patients with the TP53 mutation in collaboration with a group in France. Those results were published in the top oncology journal, Journal of Clinical Oncology. Sallman later led the first randomized phase three trial in the world for that group of patients.
Currently, he is leading the trial of an immune therapy drug called magrolimab in high-risk patients and sits on the steering committee of three ongoing pivotal phase three trials. If positive, it would be the first approved medicine for high-risk myelodysplastic syndromes since 2006.
Sallman’s work has already been recognized with several prestigious awards and grants. He received the Junior Faculty Research Award for Clinical Science from Moffitt Cancer Center in 2020. He also received the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation Young Investigator Award in 2017 and an Early Career Investigator award from the Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation in 2018.
He has been extremely successful in turning his discoveries into numerous high-impact publications — 122 in his career so far. Amongst his publications, Sallman was the chief editor of the Handbook of Hematologic Malignancies, a concise guide on all major blood cancers that serves as the main Moffitt resource to teach about malignant hematology.
In addition to research, Sallman is active as a mentor and teacher and in service to Moffitt and the wider oncology community. So far in his career, he has already mentored about a dozen young doctors and seen three of them go on to faculty positions at other institutions. He finds it satisfying to foster these young scientists through their first publications, just as previous mentors did for him.
He has been invited to lecture on the national/international level about the treatment of patients with TP53 mutations and presented his research findings at major meetings across the world.
Amongst numerous high-profile committee appointments, he serves on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines Panel for Myelodysplastic Syndromes.
Sallman is married to his eighth-grade sweetheart, Kristina, and they stay busy raising their family, including two daughters and a son.
For his outstanding career advancement in academic medicine, including his internationally recognized research programs, the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Society recognized Sallman with the 2022 Early Career Achievement Award in Academics.