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Biden taps Brigham and Women’s surgeon to head National Cancer Institute

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, also a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer and Sarcoma Treatment Centers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will become the first woman and the 16th person to lead the agency.

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli Brigham and Women's Hospital

President Joe Biden has named a Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon as the next director of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the Department of Surgery and a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer and Sarcoma Treatment Centers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will become the first woman and the 16th person to lead the agency, the White House said in a statement.

In addition to working as a surgical oncologist and a clinical researcher, who has long advocated for increasing diversity in cancer research, Bertagnolli serves as the Richard E. Wilson Professor of Surgery in the Field of Surgical Oncology at Harvard Medical School.

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“I am incredibly grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as the next director of the National Cancer Institute,” Bertagnolli said in a statement. “I’ve had the good fortune of working with so many brilliant colleagues who care deeply about eradicating this disease and alleviating the suffering of those who face it. I’m looking forward to supporting them and bringing hope to the entire cancer community through the work of the NCI.”

In a statement from the White House, Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Health and Human Services, said, “I look forward to working with Dr. Bertagnolli to advance the President’s call to end cancer as we know it.

“Dr. Bertagnolli’s decades of cancer research expertise around patient-centered care and her work to create more inclusive clinical trials will be instrumental as we accelerate the rate of research and innovation to fight cancer,” Becerra continued. “Cancer knows no bounds and neither should our efforts to prevent cancer deaths. Together, we will reignite and advance the President’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to save lives.”

Brigham and Women’s Hospital leaders also shared their support of the news.

“We can think of no one better to lead the NCI and shepherd our nation’s collective efforts to eradicate cancer and alleviate the suffering of patients and loved ones affected by this disease,” Dr. Robert S.D. Higgins, president of Brigham and Women’s, said in a statement.

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“Dr. Bertagnolli’s credentials and tremendous accomplishments throughout her career have prepared her for this key role in our nation,” Higgins continued. “We are thrilled that President Biden recognized this and has appointed Dr. Bertagnolli to serve our nation in this important role.”

Dr. Gerard Doherty, chair of the Department of Surgery, praised Bertagnolli’s dedication to her work saying her “experience in delivering superb clinical care, fostering multidisciplinary collaboration and advancing scientific discovery make her an outstanding choice for this important leadership role.”

Bertagnolli has also “led several initiatives within NCI-funded Cancer Cooperative Groups, where she facilitated integration of tumor-specific molecular markers into nationwide cancer treatment protocols, improving the care and outcomes of patients across the country,” the hospital noted in a statement.

She currently serves as the group chair for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, a nationwide NCI-funded clinical trials group, and the CEO of Alliance Foundation Trials, LLC, a not-for-profit corporation that conducts international cancer clinical trials.

Dr. Doug Lowy, the acting director of the National Cancer Institute, shared his excitement over the announcement on Twitter, noting, “This is excellent news for NCI and the cancer research community.”

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