The White House on Friday said it plans to appoint W. Kimryn Rathmell as the next director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research.
Rathmell is an oncologist and kidney cancer expert who leads the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. As leader of the NCI, Rathmell will be instrumental in helping the White House achieve the goals of President Biden’s “cancer moonshot.”
Biden last year pitched the moonshot initiative as a bipartisan pursuit with the goals of cutting cancer deaths in half in the next 25 years and improving the experience of those living with and surviving cancer.
“The National Cancer Institute is central to the success of the Cancer Moonshot and Dr. Rathmell will lead the agency towards new ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer and to ensure we reach more Americans with the tools we have to save and extend lives,” Biden said in a statement.
Biden said Rathmell “embodies the promise of the Biden Cancer Moonshot and has spent her career driving toward the goals Jill and I set for the initiative, to improve outcomes and boost support for those facing a cancer diagnosis.”
Rathmell succeeds Monica Bertagnolli, who was confirmed last week as director of the National Institutes of Health. The NCI position does not require Senate confirmation.
Danielle Carnival, the White House’s cancer moonshot coordinator, said in a statement the National Cancer Institute is “central to the President’s priority to end cancer as we know it.”
Rathmell “will lead the agency with urgency to drive new ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer and make sure we reach more Americans with the tools we have to save and extend lives,” Carnival said.
Cancer research advocates also applauded the move, noting the importance of developing new treatments while also improving access to them.
Rathmell “is a voice of wisdom on how to align scientific priorities to solve for the most pressing challenges in cancer prevention, detection, and cure,” said Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
“Dr. Rathmell has lived experiences as a highly impactful translational scientist and cancer center leader, which will serve as a strong foundation for the NCI and the whole of government approach toward ending cancer as we know it.”