UC San Diego Health

Our Doctors

The Head and Neck Cancer Center gives patients access to nationally and internationally recognized experts in medical, surgical and radiation oncology, pathology, diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine and rehabilitation. It also offers expertise in nursing, social work, and genetic counseling. Each patient’s care team meets regularly to discuss the best individualized treatment plan. Here you can review our full medical team.

  • Joseph A. Califano, III, MD

    Joseph A. Califano, III, MD, is a board-certified otolaryngologist who specializes in head and neck surgical oncology, and the integration of basic, molecular biologic research in that practice. His expertise includes minimally invasive treatment of tumors of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, thyroid, and neck to minimize cosmetic impact and maximize function, with an interest in tumors of the skull base, mouth, salivary glands, and premalignant conditions of the upper aerodigestive tract.

    Dr. Califano emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach and coordinating different areas of medical expertise to optimize the care for complex patients.

    Dr. Califano is a professor and vice chief of the Division of Otolaryngology in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. As a world-class physician-scientist, he has translated multiple discoveries from laboratory to clinic, including the application of sequencing technologies to create an early detection method for HPV-related and other head and neck cancers.

    He actively participates in several areas of investigation including integrative network based molecular analysis of head and neck tumors; detection of recurrent and occult cancer within blood and saliva using molecular biologic techniques; and defining the underlying biology of head and neck cancers. Dr. Califano also currently serves as the lead investigator for clinical trials that explore early detection of head and neck cancers and well as molecular detection of recurrence.

    Dr. Califano directs a laboratory focused on the molecular biologic basis of head and neck cancer. He has published over 260 peer reviewed articles related to both the clinical and basic scientific aspects of cancer, and serves on a variety of professional organizations and editorial boards, including the NCI Head and Neck Steering Committee, as well as the Council of the American Head and Neck Society.

    Prior to joining UC San Diego Health in 2015, Dr. Califano was a professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

    Dr. Califano completed a fellowship in head and neck surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a residency in otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School and is board certified in otolaryngology.

  • Ezra Cohen, MD, FRCPSC, FASCO

    Ezra Cohen, MD, is a board-certified oncologist and an internally renowned cancer researcher. He cares for patients with all types of head and neck cancers, including esophageal, thyroid and salivary gland cancers.

    As a physician-scientist, Dr. Cohen also leads a laboratory that studies novel cancer treatments, including immunotherapy, and has made major contributions in understanding how targeted cancer therapies work. Much of his work has focused on squamous cell carcinomas and cancers of the thyroid, salivary gland, and HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers. He is especially interested in understanding mechanisms of sensitivity or resistance; cancer screening; and using medication and other agents to delay or prevent cancer (chemoprevention).

    His recent National Institutes of Health-funded work in the study of epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitors in head and neck cancer has contributed to the understanding of the biology of this critical signaling network, integration of these agents into standard of care, and definition of mechanisms to overcome resistance. He recently served as chair of the NCI Head and Neck Cancer Steering Committee, which oversees NCI-funded clinical research in this disease.

    Dr. Cohen also serves as co-director of the San Diego Center for Precision Immunotherapy. At UC San Diego Health’s Moores Cancer Center, he is associate director for translational science and the leader of the Solid Tumor Therapeutics research program.

    Dr. Cohen recently served as editor-in-chief of Oral Oncology, the most respected specialty journal in head and neck cancer, and recently chaired two Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposia—the largest international meeting of its kind—sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Head and Neck Society. A frequent speaker at national and international meetings, he has authored more than 170 peer-reviewed papers and has been the principal investigator of multiple clinical trials of new drugs for head and neck cancer and other solid tumors in all phases of development. In addition, he has served as a grant reviewer for the NIH, American Association for Cancer Research, American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

    Prior to joining UC San Diego Health in 2014, Dr. Cohen was co-director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center. A dedicated educator, Dr. Cohen also mentored and developed young faculty in his program.

    Dr. Cohen completed a hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of Chicago, where he was named chief fellow. He completed residencies in family medicine at the University of Toronto and in internal medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Cohen earned his medical degree at University of Toronto. He is board certified in medical oncology, and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (FRCPSC) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO).

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