E-News Release - August 2022


CHICAGO, IL (August 10, 2022) - The Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology applauds the appointment of its Group Chair and President of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Foundation Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, to serve as President Joe Biden’s pick for Director of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Bertagnolli, an international oncology leader and renowned cancer surgeon who practices at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, will become the institute’s first woman director and the 16th director in its 85-year history. She will also be the first clinical trials Group Chair to lead the institute.

“Monica is an amazing choice for the NCI Director as has been shared by so many colleagues across the oncology community,” said Suzanne George, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Director of Clinical Research, Sarcoma Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Alliance Group Vice Chair. “What truly makes this appointment so special, is that throughout her entire career, her innovation, leadership, and mentorship, her commitment to cancer research stems from her deep dedication to patient care and improving the lives of people impacted by cancer.”

Since 2011, Dr. Bertagnolli has led the Alliance after successfully spearheading the merger of three National Cancer Institute-funded cooperative groups (Cancer and Leukemia Group B/CALGB, North Central Cancer Treatment Group/NCCTG and American College of Surgeons Oncology Group/ACOSOG), which dissolved to form the Alliance. Under her leadership, she has encapsulated the Alliance’s vision to reduce the impact of cancer by uniting a broad community of scientists and clinicians from many disciplines that are committed to discovering, validating, and disseminating effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Dr. Bertagnolli’s efforts have been guided by a mission to conduct high-quality, multi-disciplinary cancer control, prevention and treatment trials that engage a comprehensive research network. She has leveraged her organizational strengths to facilitate a scientific and operational infrastructure for innovative clinical and translational research in academic and community settings.

“Monica is an excellent choice for this national leadership role,” said Sumithra Mandrekar, PhD, Professor of Biostatistics and Oncology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, Alliance Group Statistician, and Statistical Director for Alliance Foundation Trials. “I have had the incredible opportunity to be mentored and supported by her over the years. She is a visionary leader who truly believes in bringing about meaningful change in the lives of cancer patients through high quality research.”

Dr. Bertagnolli has also led cutting-edge initiatives such as the formation of Alliance Foundation Trials, LLC, and the Alliance Data Innovation Lab – each provides unique opportunities to enhance and expand cancer clinical trials research. The first initiative relies on collaboration with external partners to conduct clinical trials and the other focuses on the collection of high-quality, real-world data from electronic health records to enable clinical research.

“I could not think of a better person to lead the NCI than Monica Bertagonlli,” said Olwen Hahn, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine/Associate Section Chief of Outpatient Clinical Operations at the University of Chicago Medicine, and Principal Investigator and Director of the Alliance Central Protocol Operations Program. “As the Alliance Group Chair, she has pushed the Group to conduct the most innovative clinical trials to improve the lives of cancer patients. Additionally, she has a particular interest in ensuring that cancer research is inclusive of all cancer patients, particularly diverse populations and underserved communities.”

With exceptional clinical expertise and executive leadership, Dr. Bertagnolli’s list of accomplishments is very long. She is a former Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center, a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (2018-2019) and chair of its board of directors (2019) and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2021.

“Over the last decade, as chair of the Alliance in the National Clinical Trials Network, Dr. Bertagnolli has demonstrated unparalleled leadership and commitment to cancer research, resulting in improved outcomes for our patients,” said Jeffrey Crawford, MD, George Barth Geller Professor for Research in Cancer in the Department of Medicine at Duke Cancer Institute, and a member of the Alliance Board of Directors. “As director of the NCI, Dr. Bertagnolli will be able to take her energy, insights and dedication to the next level, which will be of tremendous benefit to the entire cancer community.”

Dr. Bertagnolli’s research is focused on the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene, an important factor in colorectal carcinogenesis and in the development of desmoid tumors. Using animal tumor models of the human disease, her laboratory studies the mechanisms of tumor transformation initiated by APC mutation or loss, and the modulation of APC gene activity and tumor formation by chemopreventive drugs. This work includes animal model studies, and human clinical trials in colorectal adenoma prevention and risk assessment.

“Dr. Bertagnolli is a phenomenal choice for this important role,” said Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, Eric P. Winer, MD Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Co-Chair of the Alliance Breast Committee. “Her deep experience conducting cancer research herself, and leading and growing the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, in particular, has prepared her well to serve as the next NCI Director. She is also shattering a glass ceiling as the first woman in the job. She is a role model for women in medicine and science.”

A graduate of Princeton University, Dr. Bertagnolli attended medical school at the University of Utah, trained in surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and was a research fellow in tumor immunology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Dr. Bertagnolli will oversee the NCI’s $6.9 billion 2022 budget allocation. She succeeds former NCI Director Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, who stepped down from the position earlier this year. Since then, NCI Principal Deputy Director Douglas R. Lowry, MD, has served as acting director of the agency.

Recently, Dr. Bertagnolli shared the following sentiments with members of the Alliance:

“First and foremost, you are my heroes - you care deeply for your patients, and as if that weren't difficult enough, you also work tirelessly in the cancer research arena to achieve a better future for all of us. Your dedication and generosity have always been my inspiration and will continue to be so as I take on a new leadership position in the Biden-Harris Administration.

“I am so proud of the incredible Alliance team. The Group's future is brighter than ever, as there is no lack of talented leadership ready at all levels to smoothly manage a Group Chair transition. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with all of you in this new role.”

Statement from The White House