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Joanne Elena, PhD, MPH

Scientific Director
Clinical & Cancer Control Research

Woman, long medium blonde hair, black blazer over a navy blue blouse

Why I Work at ACS

I started my career in cancer research because it was scientifically interesting to me, but what motivates me today is seeing how the research we support at ACS directly affects people with cancer. Knowing that the next grant I see may have the potential to prevent, treat, or ease the suffering of people with cancer is a great privilege.”

At ACS since 2023

Joanne Elena, PhD, MPH, oversees the Extramural Discovery Science Clinical and Cancer Control Research program.  In this role, she’s responsible for the research program’s development, peer review, and grant management in the areas of cancer prevention, screening and early detection, access to care, cancer treatment, palliative care, and survivorship.

Research in this program requires data from human populations and may include behavioral research, healthcare delivery, comparative effectiveness research, health outcomes studies, secondary data analysis, implementation science, community based participatory and practice-based research, and health equity research.

Research focus and accomplishments

Elena’s personal research interests include:

  • Diet and lifestyle factors that influence cancer progression, recurrence, and survival
  • Body composition as a measure of cancer outcomes
  • Optimizing the use and design of cohort studies (particularly those enrolling cancer survivors)
  • Incorporating new technologies to assess exposures and outcomes.

She has published approximately 50 peer reviewed manuscripts and several book chapters. Before coming to the American Cancer Society, she was a Program Director at the National Cancer Institute and was responsible for developing and managing several large funding initiatives, including for cancer epidemiology cohorts (PAR 22-162, RFA 20-030, PAR 20-294, PAR 17-233) and a recent RFA supporting Exercise and Nutrition Interventions to Improve Cancer Treatment-Related Outcomes (ENICTO) in Cancer Survivors.


For a full list of Dr. Elena’s publications, visit her Google Scholar page.


Work before ACS

  • National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Program Director and Cohort Coordinator
  • National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Post-Doctoral Fellow
  • MD Anderson Cancer Center, Division of Epidemiology, Visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow

Professional organizations

  • American Association of Cancer Research, Member of Population Science Working Group


Personal life 

I live in Virginia Beach, VA with my husband, 2 sons, and dog Luna, who loves to make an occasional Zoom appearance.