William Pao, MD, PhD
Photo: William Pao



Elected 2011

William Pao is a physician-scientist whose career has spanned academia and industry. At MSKCC and then Vanderbilt University, he was a practicing oncologist, lab investigator and Division Chief of Hematology/Oncology. In industry, through executive leadership positions at Roche and Pfizer, he oversaw the discovery and development of a portfolio of new molecular entities, many of which have been approved, to treat a variety of diseases including cancer, ophthalmology, infectious diseases, immunology, rare diseases and more.

William obtained his MD and PhD degrees at Yale University, did his housestaff training in Internal Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Campus, and completed his medical oncology and postdoctoral fellowship training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). He joined the faculty at MSKCC and was eventually recruited to Vanderbilt, where he became Professor of Medicine, Director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology, and Director of Personalized Cancer Medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. In his laboratory, he developed a basic and translational research program that made seminal contributions to the understanding of molecular mechanisms of solid tumor pathogenesis, with a particular focus on lung cancer. His work identified new molecular mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance of lung cancers to EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) and yielded important insights into a molecular understanding of lung adenocarcinoma in never smokers as well as thymic malignancies and melanoma. Based on these discoveries, he developed and successfully tested new anti-cancer therapies in animal models and humans, including the combination of afatinib plus cetuximab as well as AZD9291 for patients with EGFR mutant tumors and resistance to EGFR TKIs. His work has helped change the standard of care in lung cancer. Dr. Pao has received multiple honors and awards, including an ASCO Young Investigator Award, a Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a V Foundation grant, the Hope Now Award from the Joan’s Legacy Foundation, and an SU2C Innovative Grant Award from the AACR. He was inducted into the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2011. Dr. Pao also co-founded MyCancerGenome, an internationally-recognized online tool to enable a genetically-informed approach to cancer medicine. Throughout his career, Dr. Pao has served as a mentor for numerous junior faculty, postdoctoral fellows, medical fellows, medical students, PhD graduate students, college students, and high school students. Many of his lab mentees remain in academia. He remains an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt.