October 22, 2015

New faculty: Lisa Kachnic is pioneering advances in radiation therapy

New Department of Radiation Oncology Chair Lisa Kachnic wants to make Vanderbilt’s program one of the best in the country.

Lisa Kachnic, professor of radiation oncology (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt)

Lisa Kachnic, the new chair of Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt, comes from a large musical family in New York. Her father, Ron, earned a living as a member of a doo-wop band before she was born, and her younger brother, Ronnie, is the founder and lead guitarist of a speed metal band.

But she took a different route—a very successful one—and chose medicine, specializing in the use of radiation to treat a wide variety of cancers, which makes the name of her brother’s band, Malignancy, slightly ironic.

Prior to joining Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Kachnic was chair of Radiation Oncology and associate director of Multidisciplinary Cancer Research at Boston University School of Medicine and chief of Radiation Oncology at Boston Medical Center.

Kachnic, who also served on the Radiation Oncology faculty at Massachusetts General Hospital and is a fellow of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, was attracted to Vanderbilt because of the significant opportunities to perform multidisciplinary translational and clinical studies. She’s particularly interested in the potential to perform imaging studies with investigators in the Department of Radiology and from the Institute of Imaging Science and to contribute to the understanding of how radiation’s effects can be assessed both during and after therapy. This could ultimately help guide treatment management decisions and develop personalized radiation treatments. Her goal is to make Vanderbilt’s Radiation Oncology one of the country’s top-tier programs.

Kachnic’s research is focused on optimizing sphincter-preserving chemoradiation therapy for locally advanced anal cancer. Her last national trial showed that intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which focuses the radiation dose on the tumor and not the surrounding normal structures in the body, was effective in reducing the high rate of normal tissue toxicities associated with chemoradiation. Following that study, IMRT has become standard practice for anal cancer.

A 1987 graduate of Boston College and a 1991 graduate of the Tufts University School of Medicine, Kachnic completed a residency in Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, her last year as chief resident. Prior to moving to Boston in 2000, she was on the Virginia Commonwealth University faculty in Richmond for four years.

Kachnic and her husband, Steve Englert, an NCAA Division 1 baseball coach, have a 21-year-old daughter, Sammi, who will be entering her senior year at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, as a media and film major.

Although not a fan of country music, Kachnic inherited her family’s love of music. She’ll be on the lookout for a good alternative rock station in Nashville and looks forward to checking out local concert venues.

She travels often to lecture in her specialty, taking time to blend in some fun. This spring after touring the Vatican and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, she worked in a private Italian cooking class where she learned how to make pasta from scratch. She’s also a big sports fan, particularly baseball, football, basketball and hockey and attended last year’s Super Bowl in Phoenix.

“The game was fantastic, and Tom Brady has no knowledge of deflated footballs,” she said.

View the complete list of new university faculty for 2015-16.

View the complete list of new medical faculty for 2015.