Our people

Dr. Cathy Pietanza: ‘Each day, I’m reminded of my patients’

The physician and MSD scientist reflects on her work advocating for patients with lung cancer in clinical trials.

September 1, 2018

Share this article

article hero thumbnail

Dr. Cathy Pietanza is a physician and a distinguished scientist at MSD Research Laboratories. A thoracic oncologist by training, Cathy saw patients with lung cancer daily in her clinical practice, experiencing the highs and lows of their cancer journeys. She also saw how participating in clinical trials impacted their care.

Cathy explains how that experience shapes how she views her current work to invent for life and help improve outcomes for cancer patients.

You are an oncologist. How does your background shape the way you approach your work at MSD?

“Before coming to MSD, I had an active practice in an academic setting where I cared for patients with lung cancer. I shared their triumphs and joys with them, as well as their hardships. Each day, I’m reminded of my patients with lung cancer who have participated in clinical trials. Working to make a difference in this fight has become one of my personal missions.”

What do you do on the research team?

“I am one of the clinical directors at MSD Research Laboratories, focused on lung cancer clinical trials. We oversee and monitor studies during the course of the trial, ensure that safety and protocol standards are maintained, provide medical perspectives, and advocate for patients. I also lead our work to ensure clean and complete data. I then file documents for regulatory approvals based on that data.”

What is it like for a patient to be diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer?

“Life for these patients seems like it’s completely broken and changed. A “lifetime” suddenly feels like it has new meaning. Days are full of doctors’ appointments and tests. Living with lung cancer seems to become the new normal.”

What is the most exciting thing about working on MSD’s clinical development program?

“Being part of a team that is working to change cancer care so patients can spend more time with their loved ones. I have never worked with a more dedicated group of professionals with a common mission.”

What is the future of cancer treatment? What role do you believe MSD will play in that future?

“We need to dedicate resources to research and develop therapies that will be curative. MSD has made a commitment in oncology. With the ongoing work of scientists and physicians, I know we will have a pivotal role to play in that future.”

Doctor speaking with patient

Medical advances can only happen through the efforts of many people, especially the patients who volunteer for clinical trials. They are our partners in research.