Understanding how tumors respond to radiation has been a lifelong process for Puneeth Iyengar, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He began testing theories in school science fairs as an adolescent growing up in Louisiana. Studying at MIT furthered his interest in the biologic and engineering aspects of medicine, and he earned a bachelor of science degree in biology before receiving his M.D./Ph.D. degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York in 2005. With medical school came a better understanding of cancer biology that led Dr. Iyengar to pursue an internship and residency at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he honed his clinical skills.
Dr. Iyengar ultimately chose UT Southwestern as the academic medical center where he wanted to continue his career because, he says, “it offers the greatest opportunity to integrate clinical radiation oncology with the science behind it. The science is what enables us to push things to the forefront for optimal treatment management for patients.”
As a key member of the radiation oncology team at UT Southwestern, Dr. Iyengar has two main roles: He is an expert in treating lung cancer patients with radiation. He also leads a research lab with two missions – discovering how lung tumors become therapeutically resistant and understanding the basic mechanisms of cancer cachexia, a wasting process of the body that’s associated with certain types of tumors, primarily lung and gastrointestinal tumors.
As a biologist, a researcher, and a physician, Dr. Iyengar is uniquely qualified to talk to patients about their disease in as much detail as they want to hear. “I try to be direct and honest with my patients while at the same time balancing their need for hope,” he says. “When patients ask me about lifespan, I honestly tell them that any patient can be the exception to the rule and every situation is different. I want them to have just as much hope for themselves as I have for them.”
Among Dr. Iyengar’s many recognitions, he received the 2016 ARRO Educator of the Year Teaching Award, a 2015 American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant Award, a 2013 Sidney Kimmel Cancer Foundation Translational Research Award, a 2012 Distinguished Researcher Award from the UT Southwestern President’s Research Council, a 2011 Young Investigator Research Grant from the National Lung Cancer Partnership, a 2011 Lung Cancer Research Foundation grant, and the Roentgen Research Award from the Radiological Society of North America Research and Education Foundation in 2010. He was part of the National Institutes of Health Medical Scientist Training Program in 2005, and, in 2001, he received the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Young Investigator Award. Dr. Iyengar’s research has been published in many major journals, including Lancet Oncology, JAMA Oncology, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Nature Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, among others. For more information on Dr. Iyengar, visit his bio here.