June 13, 2019

Eng named to GI cancer leadership position at VICC

Cathy Eng, MD, a national and international leader in gastrointestinal medical oncology, is joining Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

Cathy Eng, MD

Cathy Eng, MD, a national and international leader in gastrointestinal medical oncology, is joining Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).

Eng, professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was recruited to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to assume the role of co-leader of the VICC Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program. She will also oversee a large expansion in the clinical and research activities of the medical oncology gastrointestinal cancer disease group at Vanderbilt, as well as developing programs for adolescent and young adult (AYA) oncology services.

She has been with MD Anderson for 17 years, where she has served as the associate director of the Colorectal Center, chair of the Clinical Research Committee and chair of the Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Tumor Board.

Nationally, she holds numerous leadership roles in the field of gastrointestinal cancer. Eng is serving her second term as National Cancer Institute (NCI) Rectal/Anal Cancer Task Force chair. She is the lead contact principal investigator for the NCI National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) Leading Academic Participating Sites grant for two terms. She was recently elected co-chair of the Rectal/Anal  Subcommittee for the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) and serves on the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group gastrointestinal committee. She has served as a volunteer and as a leader in numerous roles in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) since 2002 and was acknowledged at the ASCO 2019 Annual Meeting for her years of volunteer service, dedication and commitment to ASCO with a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO) distinction.

“Dr. Eng is an exceptional physician investigator who is internationally known for her practice-changing research in gastrointestinal oncology,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC and Director of VICC. “She has spearheaded seminal clinical trials evaluating the use of cytotoxic treatment and targeted therapy in colorectal cancer and anal cancer. We are excited to welcome her to this important VICC leadership post.”

Eng has been a principal investigator of innumerable national and international trials, including investigator-initiated trials, NCI-funded trials and major pharmaceutical-sponsored trials. Her work has led to numerous practice-changing outcomes, particularly with regard to the use of immunotherapy in metastatic anal cancer. Particularly due to her groundbreaking work in anal cancer, she served as the section leader for the Rare Cancers Subsection for the MD Anderson HPV Malignancies Moonshot Program.

Eng will join a strong group of investigators who focus on HPV-driven cancers including head and neck squamous carcinomas and cervical cancers in addition to anal cancer.

“Dr. Eng has been ‘the’ champion for advances in advanced anal cancer, and her efforts have paid off in practice changes that impact the lives of these patients,” said Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, director of the division of Hematology and Oncology. “We could not be more delighted to have Dr. Eng bring her energy and expertise to Vanderbilt. The combination of her excellent leadership skills in the area of GI malignancy, HPV cancers and AYA programs make her an extraordinarily good fit for Vanderbilt. Her presence here will be felt immediately and across the clinical and research enterprise.”

A native of Phoenix, Eng received her medical degree from Hahnemann University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. She completed residency in internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center followed by a fellowship in hematology and oncology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She said she decided to become a medical oncologist because she values personal interactions and clinical research.

“I still remember my first oncology patient when I was a medical student rotating on the floors,” Eng said. “I enjoyed that first interaction. I always enjoyed the interaction with oncology patients, and I find it very memorable to be able to establish that kind of connection, to help patients during their cancer journey by providing them with the best care and the best treatment options possible.”

Eng said while there have been advances in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer, there are also new challenges.

“With anal cancer, we need to bring greater awareness to the role of HPV vaccination as a cancer prevention vaccine as well as continue to advocate for further support for clinical research in rare cancers,” she said.

“With colorectal carcinoma, prevention is still the key. We need to encourage people to get their colonoscopies as directed. The treatments utilized for colorectal cancer are prolonging patients’ lives immensely. However, we are now beginning to recognize – in fact, I’ve recognized this for a number of years – that there is increased incidence of colorectal carcinoma in the young patient population. My goals for these patients are to focus on them and to try to determine what is different about their biology versus older-age colorectal carcinoma patients. How can we help those patients with a broader spectrum of services if they are diagnosed with metastatic disease, so they can be able to live a very full life throughout their treatment?”

Eng will co-lead the multi-disciplinary Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Program at VICC with Daniel Beauchamp, MD.