Dr. Robert Carlson Appointed CEO of the NCCN

Roxanne Nelson

September 26, 2012

September 26, 2012 — The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has appointed oncologist Robert W. Carlson, MD, as their new chief executive officer (CEO).

Dr. Carlson will officially join the NCCN on January 2, 2013.

Dr. Carlson replaces William McGivney, a former insurance executive, who left the organization in December 2011 after 15 years.

The NCCN, which is an alliance of 21 cancer centers in the United States, is best known for its influential clinical practice guidelines that are based on a combination of scientific evidence and clinician opinions.

"Dr. Carlson is highly regarded in the oncology community, and NCCN is extremely pleased to appoint him as CEO. Over the last 17 years, he has brought to NCCN a remarkable devotion to advancing the NCCN clinical guidelines, as well as a collegial leadership style," said Thomas D'Amico, MD, chair of the board of directors of NCCN, in an NCCN news release.

Dr. Carlson is well connected in the world of oncology, added Dr. D'Amico.

"Dr. Carlson's years of expertise in oncology have afforded him the ability to lead within a world-class academic cancer institute and develop long-standing relationships and collaborations with other national and international organizations and committees, patient advocacy groups, and institutions working to proliferate the science behind cancer treatment and improve patient outcomes," he said in the news release.

Financial Woes?

Dr. Carlson inherits an organization that has recently struggled with reduced income and perhaps overspending, according to news reports.

The organization had $25.5 million in income in 2009, the most recent year for which tax filings are publicly available, according to a report published in the January 13 issue of the Cancer Letter (2012;38:1-12). In 2008, NCCN income was $29.8 million.

Notably, tax documents show that in 2009, the NCCN spent $3.4 million more than it raised.

The NCCN is heavily reliant on funding from industry and other sources, the report suggests. Dues paid by the 21 member centers of the NCCN totaled only $1.9 million in 2009.

Dr. Carlson's salary was not disclosed in the news release. However, according to tax documents cited in the Cancer Letter, former CEO McGivney earned $668,000 in compensation in 2009.

An Oncologist and Top Doc

Dr. Carlson's inspiration to study medicine came from his parents, according to NCCN press materials.

His father was a minister and his mother was a nurse, and their devotion to helping others inspired him to do the same. After earning a Bachelor of Science with distinction from Stanford University in California, specializing in biological sciences, he went on to obtain his medical degree there. Dr. Carlson completed 2 years of residency in internal medicine at the Barnes Hospital Group in St. Louis, Missouri, before returning to Stanford for his senior residency and oncology fellowships.

He joined the faculty at Stanford after completing his fellowship. He is currently the medical director of inpatient oncology and hematology at Stanford Cancer Institute, and a professor of medicine in the division of oncology. He is board certified in internal medicine and medical oncology.

Dr. Carlson's relationship with the NCCN began in 1995, when the organization was founded, and he has since held many leadership positions there. Most notably, he is representative to the NCCN board of directors, chair of the Breast Cancer Guidelines Panel, member and founding chair of the Breast Cancer Risk Reduction Guidelines Panel, and chair of the Survivorship Guidelines Panel.

"My work with NCCN is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career," said Dr. Carlson in the news release. "I am excited to expand my role in NCCN and to work with each and every one of the world-class member institutions, committees and panels, and the superb headquarters staff to improve the lives of people with cancer."

"We will also work hard to develop collaborative relationships with other organizations that share our goals," he added.

From 2001 to 2012, Dr. Carlson made the list of America's Top Doctors, and from 1994 to 2011, he made the list of Best Doctors in America. He was presented with the National Physician of the Year Award for Clinical Excellence by Castle Connolly Medical in 2008, an award that "recognizes both physicians and leaders in healthcare whose dedication, talents, and skills have improved the lives of countless thousands of people throughout the world." In 2010, Dr. Carlson received the Founding Collaborator Award from the Breast Health Global Initiative.

Dr. Carlson is a member of a large number of professional organizations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association for Cancer Research, and the European Society of Medical Oncology, and has served on numerous national committees and panels. He has held leadership roles in the American Society of Breast Disease, the Breast Health Global Initiative, and the American Joint Commission on Cancer.

He has also authored or coauthored more than 140 scientific articles, book chapters, and reviews, and currently serves as associate editor for medical oncology for JNCCN: Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. In addition, he is a member of the editorial advisory board for The ASCO Post.