Jennifer A. Wargo, M.D.
Melanoma Moon Shot
About Dr. Wargo
Dr. Wargo is a physician scientist who is committed to advancing the field of cancer treatment through exceptional clinical care and research. Dr. Wargo is a world-renown melanoma surgeon who provides exceptional care to her patients, and helps to design and implement novel clinical trials to bring forward the next best cancer therapy. Dr. Wargo also performs transformative cancer research to develop the next generation of novel therapeutics.
Fighting Cancer: It's Personal
What’s your Moon Shots focus?
My focus in the Moon Shot Program is to develop and promote effective strategies to treat and ultimately to prevent cancer. Though I focus primarily on melanoma, I am working with individuals across the institution (and the world) to iterate on what we’ve learned in melanoma to provide better treatments – not only for melanoma but for other cancer types.
What do you hope to accomplish?
I hope to optimize strategies to treat patients with established
cancer so that our “cure” or long-term control rates reach 100%, with
the ultimate goal of preventing cancer altogether. I also hope to take
what we’ve learned (such as through our studies on the microbiome) to
improve overall health for all individuals and for our planet.
What motivates and excites you?
I am motivated by the patients and the families who are facing one
of the most difficult times of their lives – and it is a great honor
and a great responsibility to care for them during this time. It
motivates me to think about how patients who are enrolled in research
protocols help to drive the field forward, and we owe it to them to
conduct these studies well and to work with others worldwide to learn
as much as we can so we can drive the field forward quickly and
What makes the Moon Shots Program stand out?
MD Anderson’s Moon Shot program is unique and powerful, and has
helped to fund collaborative projects that may not have otherwise been
What makes your fight against cancer personal?
The battle against cancer is personal. Both of my parents died of cancer, and I witnessed the challenges and power of research first-hand. My father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when I was doing a cancer research fellowship, and was enrolled on a novel clinical trial – affording him 9 good years and much better quality of life than he was getting on standard-of-care therapy. My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during my first faculty appointment as a surgeon scientist at Harvard / the Massachusetts General Hospital, and sadly there was little that I or her care team could do to prolong her life. We were able to make her more comfortable for the short time that she had after diagnosis, and her loss (and the loss of my father) have fueled and inspired my passion for cancer research over the years.
What else do you want people to know about you and your work?
It takes an orchestra, not a soloist, to cure cancer. This is very
much a team sport, and we have an amazing team at MD Anderson.