Moffitt Cancer Center Announces Chair of New Machine Learning Department

July 20, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — Issam El Naqa, Ph.D., joins Moffitt Cancer Center as the founding chair of its new Machine Learning Department. The new department, which will be within the Division of Quantitative Science, is focused on accelerating scientific discovery in cancer research through the design, development, and clinical translation of state-of-the-art patient-centered machine and deep learning algorithms. 

Machine learning algorithms apply human level cognition augmented with advanced computational power to enable researchers to identify novel insights from large volumes of high dimensional data such as genetic information, biomedical images, text in electronic medical records, and information captured from mobile health devices.  New patterns identified in the data may be used to diagnose cancer earlier, identify novel drug targets for the treatment of cancer, predict which patients will respond to certain therapies, and optimize the way in which we care for our patients at a personalized level.

“Moffitt takes pride in its innovative and collaborative approach to cancer research and care, and this new department is the perfect example of that, as it builds upon our significant investment in our data ecosystem,” said Dana Rollison, Ph.D., Moffitt chief data officer and associate center director of Data Science. “With bold plans to recruit top talent and grow our grant-funded research portfolio, I knew we had to find the right person to help lead this charge, and I am thrilled we found that in Dr. El Naqa.”

El Naqa is a renowned leader in the field of data science. He joins Moffitt from the University of Michigan where he was a professor in Radiation Oncology and an affiliate member of the Michigan Institute for Data Science and Applied Physics Department. He has authored more than 180 publications and four textbooks on his research, which focuses on developing large-scale data mining methods to identify new biomarkers of response to chemoradiotherapy, multimodality image-guided targeted and adaptive radiotherapy, treatment outcome modeling, and optimizing decision-making in oncology.

El Naqa received his doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from Illinois Institute of Technology, which was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in radiation oncology/medical physics and a master’s degree in biology from Washington University in St. Louis. He is board certified in therapeutic medical physics, a diplomate of the American Board of Radiology, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and fellow of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s scientific excellence, multidisciplinary research, and robust training and education. Moffitt is a Top 10 cancer hospital and has been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report since 1999. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 6,500 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.4 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

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