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News / Research

Kidney Cancer Oncologist Breaks the Glass Ceiling

Glass Ceiling

Kidney cancer administrative decisions, hiring and grant awards tend to be made by prostate cancer oncologists. Did you know that?

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC, more generally, kidney cancer) is usually lumped together with prostate and bladder cancer in Genitourinary Oncology (GU). Because RCC is less common than, for example, prostate cancer, we almost never see a kidney cancer specialist as the head of GU oncology at a major institution. The harsh truth is that kidney cancer is not a money maker. There aren’t many kidney cancer grants, so RCC research doesn’t bring in big grant money. It’s not surprising then that kidney cancer specialists rarely rise to the lead position in their department.

I believe we need our top kidney cancer doctors in positions of leadership to bring attention to kidney cancer and move this disease to funding commensurate with other cancers. And so I was thrilled to see the unexpected, almost impossible news last Friday at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where a top kidney cancer oncologist broke the glass ceiling. An announcement informed us:

Toni Choueiri, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School, will become the Director of our Genitourinary (GU) Oncology Disease Center and the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology. He will also become the second incumbent of the Kohlberg Professorship in Medicine at the Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Toni Choueiri, MD

Dr. Toni Choueiri, MD

If you are a kidney cancer patient or caregiver, you know Dr. Choueiri’s name because of his wonderful reputation as a skilled and caring clinician. But like me, you may be amazed at the scope of research work he has done while still caring for patients. All of us have benefited from his work as a world-class kidney cancer expert.

In addition to thanking and congratulating Dr. Choueiri, the kidney cancer community owes thanks to Dr. Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber. The search committee had many outstanding applications to consider, not just from within Dana-Faber but impressive candidates from across the United States and the world. For Dr. Benz to go off the beaten path and award this nationally important leadership position in GU oncology to Dr. Choueiri is an important step forward in the visibility the kidney cancer community needs to get off of the underfunded list. Dr. Choueiri’s position and presence at important meetings here in the United States and abroad will bring new opportunities to advocate for and bring back innovative kidney cancer research direction and trials.

Dr. Choueiri’s promotion and leadership will be a benefit to every single kidney cancer patient and caregiver. The kidney cancer community could not ask for a better doctor to assume this important position. Congratulations, Dr. Choueiri!

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Susan Poteat is the KCCure Secretary. She has worked in cancer care since 1989 in the field of medical radiation physics and has been a prolific leader in kidney cancer forums, offering information on current research, clinical trials, imaging and radiation therapy.

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