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

Wednesday, May 19, 11:45 am-1:15 pm ET

Organized as a collaborative effort between the Associate Member Council (AMC), Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council, Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council, and 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.


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Session Co-Chairs:

Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

Tari A. King, MD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

Roger S. Lo, MD, PhD, University of California (UCLA), Los Angeles, California

This session will include an interactive panel discussion that 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.

2021 Participating Senior Scientists

Carlos Arteaga, MD, FAACR

Carlos Arteaga, MD, FAACR

Director and Associate Dean of Oncology Programs

UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center

Dallas, Texas

Dr. Arteaga is the director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is also the associate dean of oncology programs. An international leader in the field of breast cancer research, Dr. Arteaga has contributed to the understanding of breast cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis by identifying and characterizing key molecular pathways dysregulated in this disease. He was the first to report the role of IGF-I receptors and transforming growth factor – (TGF-β) in breast cancer and their use as therapeutic targets. He demonstrated that TGF-β, in addition to contributing to breast carcinogenesis, is also capable of driving epithelial to mesenchymal transition, establishment of metastasis, expansion of cancer stem cells, and resistance to chemotherapy. These observations have been significant for the development of molecularly targeted drugs designed to inhibit these signaling pathways. He also reported one of the first studies describing the synergistic effect of chemotherapy with anti-HER2 antibodies, a finding that contributed to the clinical development of trastuzumab for the treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing breast cancer.

Dr. Arteaga earned his medical degree from the Universidad de Guayaquil in Ecuador. He trained at the Emory University School of Medicine and at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He served for many years at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, where he led a successful translational research program, including an NCI/NIH SPORE in breast cancer. He has received many awards from the American Cancer Society, AACR, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Arteaga served as the AACR president in 2014-2015.

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 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 oversaw 300 people who supported 1,700 faculty and more than 2,000 trainees. In 2018 he became COO at the ECHO Institute at the University of New Mexico. In 2020 he joined the NCI as Director of the Center for Cancer Training.

Be open to opportunities to engage on important topics and areas, as your career may make interesting turns that allow you to bring value beyond what you initially set out to do.

Keywords: career development, training, education



Professor, Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention

UT MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Dr. Abenaa Brewster is a tenured professor in the department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) and has an adjunct appointment in the Department of Epidemiology. She is a medical oncologist in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center and her clinical interest is the management of breast cancer. Her research expertise involves using the tools of molecular epidemiology to investigate clinical, epidemiological and biological factors that determine breast cancer risk and survival. She is particularly interested in understanding how tumor biology, host genetic susceptibility, ethnicity and obesity influence a woman’s risk and survival after a diagnosis of breast cancer. She has experience in the conduct and data management of hospital and population based cohort studies and is the principal investigator and director of a longitudinal cohort study of women at high risk of developing breast cancer. She has received funding from the National Institute of Health, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Susan G. Komen Foundation and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Albert Koong, MD, PhD

Albert Koong, MD, PhD

Professor/Division Head and Chair of Radiation Oncology

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Dr. Albert Koong serves as Division Head and Chair of Radiation Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and holds the Olga Keith and Harry Carothers Wiess Distinguished University Chair in Cancer Research.

After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and a Doctorate in Cancer Biology from Stanford University, Dr. Koong earned a medical degree from Northwestern University. He then completed a residency in Radiation Oncology at Stanford University. and joined the faculty of the Stanford School of Medicine in 2001. Subsequently, he rose through the ranks and in 2011, he became the Associate Chair and Clinical Director of Radiation Oncology. In 2014, he was named the inaugural recipient of the Sue and Bob McCollum Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology. He was subsequently recruited to MD Anderson as the Chair of Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson in 2017.

Dr. Koong is an internationally recognized physician-scientist with long-standing interests in developing cancer therapies that exploit differences between the tumor microenvironment and normal tissues. His clinical research interests are centered on developing and applying advanced radiotherapy techniques to treat gastrointestinal malignancies, particularly in the pancreas and liver. He has led multiple Phase I and II studies in pancreatic and liver cancer to determine the role of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). He also served as the Co-Principal Investigator for a multicenter SBRT study that resulted in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) including stereotactic ablative radiation therapy in their guidelines for the treatment of locally advanced pancreatic cancer. In parallel with his clinical research, he has developed novel biomarker panels to inform clinical decision-making through prediction of disease outcome and response to therapy.

Dr. Koong leads an active National Cancer institute (NCI) funded laboratory research program investigating the role of the tumor microenvironment on tumor progression. He has developed genetic models demonstrating the importance of the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) pathway on tumor growth and metastases. This work led to the identification of several classes of potent small-molecule inhibitors of the UPR. Current studies are focused on developing these classes of compounds into effective cancer therapies.

Dr. Koong has published more than 200 research articles in peer-reviewed journals. He has served on numerous grant review panels, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). He is a past recipient of the Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award and the Richard T. Hoppe Leadership Award. He is a Fellow of both the American College of Radiology (FACR) and the American Society of Radiation Oncology (FASTRO).

Success in your professional life can only be reached by achieving balance in your personal life.

Keywords: clinical trials, tumor microenvironment, academic leadership

Elizabeth Mittendorf, MD, PhD

Elizabeth Mittendorf, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Surgery

Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center

Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf is the Robert and Karen Hale Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is also Co-Leader of the Breast Program for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Dr. Mittendorf received her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University where she also completed a General Surgery residency. She served in the US military before completing 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 principal investigator on several trials investigating a CD8+ T cell eliciting vaccine based on preclinical data generated in her laboratory. More recently she led the phase III IMpassion031 study that showed an increase in the pCR rate when the immunotherapeutic agent Atezolizumab was given in the preoperative setting for triple negative breast cancer patients. Her current laboratory work is investigating the impact of standard and experimental therapies on immunologic aspects of the tumor microenvironment. Dr. Mittendorf has also published extensively on subjects related to breast cancer and surgical management to include incorporation of biologic factors into staging, management of the axilla, and surgery following receipt of neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Keywords: breast cancer, tumor immunology, immunotherapy, surgical oncology