An accomplished physician–scientist with a career dedicated to biomarker-driven research and practice surrounding the development, early detection, and treatment of kidney cancer, W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, took the helm as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) director in December 2023.
“Rathmell begins her new role at an important time,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “The president and first lady reignited the Biden Cancer Moonshot℠ to dramatically accelerate progress in the fight against cancer—and NCI is helping to lead the charge. Rathmell brings decades of experience helping to advance research and drive innovation to improve care for patients. She joins an extraordinary team already doing great work to prevent, detect, and treat cancer to make sure Americans are living longer, healthier lives. I look forward to working closely with Rathmell in the months and years ahead to help end cancer as we know it.”
President Biden selected Rathmell to succeed Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, who left NCI in November 2023 to become the National Institutes of Health director.
“I know she is the right leader at the right time for NCI,” Bertagnolli said. “She is a fantastic combination of researcher and clinician who deeply understands the process of translating lab research into effective cancer treatments. NCI is in great hands to actualize the brighter future we all want for people with cancer.”
Rathmell has served on NCI’s Board of Scientific Advisors since 2018 and was president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2019. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2022 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2023. Her background bares her passion for rare forms of kidney cancer: As a member of the Cancer Genome Atlas, Rathmell contributed to the discovery that chromophobe renal cell carcinoma is caused in part by mutations in mitochondrial DNA, and she’s a strong advocate for research into renal medullary carcinoma (RMC), which predominantly affects young adults and adolescents of African descent who carry one copy of the sickle cell hemoglobin gene. Rathmell cofounded the nonprofit RMC Alliance, which supports patients with RMC.
Among her many literature contributions, Rathmell has published on ethical issues such as cancer drug shortages and conflicts of interest in scientific publishing and is deeply committed to mentoring and developing the next generation of physician–scientists.
She will lead NCI in pursuing the goals of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. “With all of today’s advancements in technology and science, and the truly talented and committed people at NCI and across the cancer research and care community, I believe it is possible to end cancer as we know it in our lifetime,” Rathmell said. “We must empower early-career and established scientists from diverse backgrounds so they can work together and break down barriers to deliver the biggest, boldest science possible and produce advancements that benefit everyone who faces cancer. We have an extraordinarily talented and committed workforce, and I know we are up to the challenge.”
ONS and its members have made pivotal contributions to the Cancer Moonshot since its inception in 2016. With Rathmell in the role, oncology nurses will have new opportunities to collaborate and raise nurses’ and patients’ voices at the national level. Here’s how you can get involved.