(HealthDay News) — The US National Institutes of Health could get a new leader in Monica Bertagnolli, MD, the Boston cancer surgeon who has led the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) since last fall.
The White House plans to nominate Bertagnolli for the position, which has been filled by an interim director since December 2021, The Washington Post reported. She would have to be confirmed by the US Senate. Bertagnolli is known for being high-energy, unflappable, and willing to take on challenging cases.
“In her 7-month tenure as National Cancer Institute director, Dr Bertagnolli quickly demonstrated her strategic and comprehensive approach to accelerating progress in cancer prevention, detection, and treatment,” said Karen Knudsen, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society and ACS Cancer Action Network (CAN). “Among her accomplishments in the last half year, Dr Bertagnolli released a robust Cancer Plan, laying out an inspired roadmap to advance the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, to end cancer as we know it.”
That is all despite being diagnosed with breast cancer herself during a routine mammogram weeks after taking the helm at the NCI. Bertagnolli’s breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive, HER2-negative. It is treatable, with a very favorable prognosis.
Bertagnolli’s work at the cancer institute has included a plan to reduce cancer deaths and achieve President Joe Biden’s “moonshot” initiative, which aims to cut the US cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. She also has focused on streamlining the complications and costs of studies.
The first woman to lead the NCI, Bertagnolli, 64, studied chemical engineering at Princeton University and graduated from the University of Utah School of Medicine. She is also the mother of a son with autism.
“Dr Bertagnolli is not only an exceptional surgical oncologist, innovative scientist, and leader with a strong track record of transforming organizations, she also has firsthand knowledge of the patient perspective as well,” Knudsen said in a statement. “ACS and ACS CAN strongly support this choice as the next NIH director.”