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Healio – Cancer organizations praise nomination of Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, as NIH director

Healio – Cancer organizations praise nomination of Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, as NIH director

President Joe Biden today announced his intention to nominate NCI director Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, as director of the NIH.

Bertagnolli — a surgical oncologist — assumed the NCI director role in October, becoming the first woman to serve in that position.

If the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirms her nomination, she would succeed longtime NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, who stepped down from the role in December 2021.

“Dr. Bertagnolli has spent her career pioneering scientific discovery and pushing the boundaries of what is possible to improve cancer prevention and treatment for patients, and ensuring that patients in every community have access to quality care,” Biden said in a statement. “As director of the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Bertagnolli has advanced my Cancer Moonshot to end cancer as we know it.

“She has brought together partners and resources from different sectors to launch groundbreaking efforts in cancer prevention and early detection, a national navigation program for childhood cancers, and additional programs to bring clinical trials to more Americans,” Biden added. “Dr. Bertagnolli is a world-class physician-scientist whose vision and leadership will ensure NIH continues to be an engine of innovation to improve the health of the American people.”

Before her role at NCI, Bertagnolli served as Richard E. Wilson professor of surgery in the field of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School. She also served as a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and as a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer and Sarcoma Disease Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The nomination had been expected for a few weeks. Several published reports in mid-April indicated Biden’s intention.

Several cancer organizations expressed support for Bertagnolli’s nomination.

“Dr. Bertagnolli will bring to the NIH a strong appreciation for the value and importance of basic science to advancing translational research and clinical discoveries,” Philip D. Greenberg, MD, FAACR, president of American Association for Cancer Research, said in a press release. “Her impeccable credentials as a researcher and clinician, along with her staunch commitment to patients, will help ensure that the NIH continues to lead the way in supporting biomedical research that is so vital for preventing disease, improving health, and reducing suffering from illness.”

A press release issued by Friends of Cancer Research cited the “invaluable experience” Bertagnolli would bring to the NIH.

“At this critical time for innovation at the NIH, Dr. Bertagnolli will be the visionary leader we need,” Ellen Sigal, chair and founder of Friends of Cancer Research, said in the release. “Dr. Bertagnolli is a physician scientist and a patient herself, and deeply understands the intricacies and personal impact of biomedical research. In a short period of time, she has proven her leadership at the NCI, and I have no doubt she will do the same at the helm of NIH.”

The American Society for Radiation Oncology also issued a statement expressing its support for the nomination.

“Dr. Bertagnolli is a strong advocate for research, innovation and equity, as her work at the helm of the National Cancer Institute demonstrates,” Geraldine M. Jacobson, MD, MBA, MPH, FASTRO, chair of the ASTRO board of directors, said in the statement. “The radiation oncology community looks forward to working with Dr. Bertagnolli in her new role at the NIH on efforts to improve American health care, such as initiatives to increase clinical trial diversity and accelerate research toward cancer cures.

“Given that more than half of people diagnosed with cancer will receive radiation therapy, we are particularly eager to work with her to ensure that radiation oncologists contribute meaningfully to achieving President Biden’s goal of reducing cancer mortality by 50% over the next 25 years,” Jacobson added. “We believe that Dr. Bertagnolli is the ideal person to lead the NIH at this critical time, and we urge the Senate to confirm her nomination as soon as possible.”