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The Critical Role of Physician-Scientists in Advancing Cancer Science: Recommendations for Continued Success


Physician-scientists serve several crucial roles by relating scientific discoveries in cancer to the clinical care of patients and/or the health of populations and vice-versa. In these roles, physician-scientists contribute to the advancement of cancer science through research, clinical care, education/mentoring, and/or administrative leadership across the course of their careers. Often, they serve at crucial translational interfaces between scientific discoveries that develop into newly approved devices, drugs, or guidelines to benefit patients. Additionally, physician-scientists often serve as interpreters or translators to describe the relevance, importance, and impact of science and scientific discoveries to patients and the broader public. 

However, as grant funding opportunities narrow, physician-scientists’ competitiveness versus “scientifically-focused” colleagues can be threatened. Similarly, as fiscal margins associated with cancer care come under greater pressure due to numerous internal and external forces (e.g., narrowing insurance networks, rising costs of cancer care, growing use of EHRs), physician-scientists are coming under increasing pressure to care for larger numbers of patients with greater case-complexity and often, with additional restrictions on time. 

Organized by the AACR Science Education and Career Advancement Committee, this interactive panel discussion will explore the critical role of physician-scientists and strategies for their continued success in the face of increasing competitiveness in all domains of their professional service—scientific, clinical, educational, and administrative. The session will offer key insights and pointers from a diverse group of successful physician-scientists on career development and funding mechanisms as well as perspectives from a cancer center director.

We encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity to hear from world-renowned cancer researchers about the critical roles of physician-scientists in cancer research and learn strategies for continued success in the face of increasing competitiveness in all domains of your professional service! If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our staff at


Please refer to the list of senior scientists below who are participating at the AACR Annual Meeting 2020 in San Diego, California.

Oliver Bogler, PhD

Oliver Bogler, PhD

Director, Center for Cancer Training

National Cancer Institute

Bethesda, Maryland

Oliver studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University, completed his PhD at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in London and did post-docs at the Salk Institute, and the Ludwig Institute, San Diego. He was on faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, Henry Ford Hospital and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where he also served as director of basic research for the Brain Tumor Center. His work focused on EGFR signaling and novel platinum compounds in glioblastoma.

In 2010, he became MD Anderson’s Vice President for Global Academic Programs supporting a network of 35 Sister Institutions in 22 countries and fostered cancer research and training across the globe. In 2011, he was also appointed Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, stewarded MD Anderson’s education mission and accreditation, and oversaw 300 people, who supported 1,700 faculty and more than 2,000 trainees and students. In 2018 he became COO at the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico, and helped democratize scarce expert knowledge to improve services to the underserved in healthcare, education and beyond. In 2020

Oliver joined the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Cancer Training which supports the goal of training cancer researchers for the 21st century.

Albert C. Koong, MD, PhD

Albert C. Koong, MD, PhD

Division Head and Chair, Radiation Oncology

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and a doctorate in cancer biology from Stanford University, Dr. Albert Koong earned a medical degree from Northwestern University. Subsequently, he returned to Stanford University where he completed a residency in radiation oncology and served on the faculty in the School of Medicine for 16 years. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sue and Bob McCollum Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology.

Currently, he serves as the division head and chair of radiation oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. He holds the Robert C. Hickey chair in clinical care.

Dr. Koong is an internationally recognized physician-scientist focused on developing cancer therapies that exploit differences between the tumor microenvironment and normal tissues. He leads an active laboratory research program investigating the role of the unfolded response (UPR) on tumor progression and metastasis. His laboratory has identified several classes of small-molecule inhibitors of this pathway as a cancer therapeutic strategy. His clinical research interests are centered on developing advanced radiotherapy techniques to treat gastrointestinal malignancies. He has served as the PI on multiple

Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, MD, PhD

Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Surgery

Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center

Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Mittendorf is a professor and associate chair for research in the Department of Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is also the director of the Breast Immuno-Oncology program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Mittendorf received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine where she completed general surgery training. After serving in the United States military she completed a surgical oncology fellowship at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mittendorf also holds a PhD in immunology from the University of Texas. Dr. Mittendorf focuses her clinical and laboratory efforts on the study of breast cancer with a specific interest in immunotherapy. She has been the PI on a number of clinical protocols informed by work from her laboratory including a multicenter trial investigating the a CD8+ T cell eliciting vaccine in combination with trastuzumab and a multicenter trial supported by SU2C evaluating the combination of ipatasertib and atezolizumab in triple negative breast cancer. The current focus of her laboratory work is to determine the impact of standard and experimental therapies on immunologic aspects of the tumor microenvironment to inform rational trials of immunotherapeutic agents.