Acting Chief of Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group Named

Date Posted

Nationwide Effort Begins to Find Permanent Leader

Brandy Heckman-Stoddard, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Brandy Heckman-Stoddard, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP) Breast and Gynecologic Cancer Research Group (BGCRG) has been named Acting Chief of the DCP Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group (COPTRG) and Acting Director of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) following the retirement of Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Heckman-Stoddard will lead through the transition while a nationwide search will be carried out to find a permanent replacement. The NCORP is a flagship program for both the DCP and NCI, bringing cancer prevention, treatment, and symptom management clinical trials as well as cancer care delivery studies to people in their own communities through more than 1,000 diverse, community-based hospitals and practices. Dr. Heckman-Stoddard has been involved in DCP’s early phase prevention trials program, prevention agent development, and investigator-initiated grant programs since joining the Division of Cancer Prevention as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in 2009. In 2018 she became Chief of BGCRG, leading a research group that conducts and fosters the development of research on the prevention and early detection of breast cancer, cervix and human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers, endometrial cancers, ovarian cancers, and precursor conditions related to these cancers. For the last 5-years Dr. Heckman-Stoddard has also led the Cancer Prevention and Control Clinical Trials Grant Program (R01 Clinical Trials Required) providing feedback to investigators across the spectrum of DCP funded research.

She will remain chief of BGCRG while taking on the additional role of acting Chief of COPTRG and Director of NCORP. Both Associate Director for Clinical Research Leslie Ford, M.D., and Deputy Director Lori Minasian, M.D., with their deep knowledge of the NCORP program, will support her in this role.

Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., M.S.

A nationwide search will take place for a permanent Chief of the COPTRG and Director of NCORP to guide this major NCI Clinical Trial Program. “We will be seeking a world-class clinical researcher with clinical trials, community engagement, and health equity experience to lead and help grow this program,” said DCP director Philip Castle, Ph.D., M.P.H. “We thank Dr. McCaskill-Stevens for her amazing 25 years of service to DCP, NCI, NIH, and the US population.”

Dr. McCaskill-Stevens retired on October 31, 2023, serving as chief of COPTRG for the last 11 years. NCI Director Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., lauded her in an email to all NCI staff yesterday. “An important theme of Dr. Worta McCaskill-Stevens’s career has been a true commitment to inclusion of minority and underserved populations as both participants and researchers in clinical research,” she wrote. “Her work has been influential in cancer disparities research, the management of comorbidities within clinical trials, in molecular research to identify individuals who will benefit most from cancer prevention interventions, and in designing clinical oncology research to help all populations benefit from its advances.”

Leslie Ford, M.D., DCP Associate Director for Clinical Research, added, “It is Worta’s care and compassion for patients and families that best exemplified her focus. Her work has transformed how the full spectrum of cancer care, from screening and prevention, to treatment, symptom management, and palliative care, is delivered to patients in their own communities.”

In August, NCI Director Monica Bertagnolli, M.D., announced the creation of the NCI Worta McCaskill-Stevens Career Development Award for Community Oncology and Prevention Research (K12). The training award, focused on community oncology and cancer prevention, is expected to be opened in Spring 2024.