On November 17, the White House announced that President Joe Biden would appoint W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, as the next director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She will be the 17th NCI director, replacing Monica Bertagnolli, MD, who was recently confirmed as the new director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The top NCI position does not require Senate confirmation, and Rathmell is expected to begin in December.
“Dr. Rathmell is the talented and visionary leader the National Cancer Institute needs to drive us toward ending cancer as we know it,” Biden said in a statement. “Throughout her career, she has been committed to advancing discovery through scientific research, maintaining a steadfast commitment to caring for her patients and demonstrating leadership in preparing the next generation of researchers.”
With a budget of $7.3 billion, NCI is the largest of the 27 institutes and centers that make up the NIH. Rathmell has served on NCI’s board of scientific advisers since 2018, and she helped develop the National Cancer Plan, launched this past April. She helped lead the NIH Cancer Genome Atlas, a program to catalog genetic mutations that drive malignancies.
“Dr. Rathmell is an ideal candidate to lead NIH’s efforts to end cancer as we know it. Bertagnolli said. “She has spent her career driving efforts to boost support and improve outcomes for those facing a cancer diagnosis, living the principles of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative.”
I applaud that @POTUS intends to appoint Dr. @KimrynRathmell as @theNCI Director. She’s spent her career driving efforts to support & improve outcomes for those with cancer, making her an ideal candidate to lead @NIH’s efforts to end cancer as we know it. https://t.co/znqy7Bfl07 pic.twitter.com/l4lnTaU3Kd— Dr. Monica M. Bertagnolli (@NIHDirector) November 17, 2023
Currently chair of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Rathmell is internationally recognized expert on kidney cancer. She is a member of the Association of American Physicians, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, and she served as an officer of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO). In addition, she has worked with the Kidney Cancer Research Foundation, and she founded a nonprofit to support patients with a rare cancer seen mainly among Black people with sickle cell trait.
A native of Nebraska, Rathmell received her PhD in biophysics and her MD from Stanford University. She did her residency and was a fellow in medical oncology at the University of Pennsylvania, and she completed her postdoctoral training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also has a Masters of Management in Healthcare from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management.
“With her deep background and expertise, Dr. Rathmell stands out as an ideal choice to continue implementing the National Cancer Plan and ensuring the NCI remains the world’s leading source of cancer research and innovation,” ASCO CEO Clifford Hudis, MD, said in a statement. “We are enthusiastic about working alongside Dr. Rathmell and the dedicated professionals at NCI to propel our shared goals of advancing scientific progress and creating a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy.”
“Dr. Rathmell brings impressive qualifications to this extremely important position,” American Association for Cancer Research president Philip Greenberg, MD, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, concurred in another statement. “Her enthusiasm for innovative scientific methods and ideas, as well as her appreciation for the value and importance of basic research to advancing translational discoveries, should allow NCI to continue leading the way in programs aimed at preventing disease, improving health, and reducing suffering from cancer, while also helping to maintain America’s edge in the life sciences.”