David S. Alberts, MD

Director Emeritus, University of Arizona Cancer Center
Regents Professor of Medicine
Nutritional Science and Public Health

Phone Number: 
(520) 626-3237
(520) 626-2244
Short Bio: 

Throughout his career, David Alberts, MD, has focused on translational cancer prevention and treatment research. The emphasis of his laboratory-based and clinical research has been on the chemoprevention and treatment of such pervasive and potentially deadly diseases as cancers of the breast, colon, ovary, and skin. He became the UA Cancer Center’s director in 2005 and retired from the position in June 2013.

Under Dr. Alberts’ leadership the extensive research portfolio of The University of Arizona Cancer Center includes more than $60 million in annual research funding, including four large NCI interdisciplinary programs, and two Special Programs of Research Excellence, one in gastrointestinal cancers and one in lymphoma.

Clinically, Dr. Alberts pioneered new treatments for advanced ovarian cancers, including in vitro tumor cell chemosensitivity testing for personalized medicine strategies, intraperitoneal chemotherapy, and maintenance chemotherapy.

Presently, Dr. Alberts helps to coordinate Phase I and II and pharmacokinetic drug studies at The University of Arizona Cancer Center for molecularly-targeted chemopreventive agents. His laboratory research is concentrated on the evaluation of new surrogate endpoint biomarkers for cancer prevention trials with a special focus on precursor lesions for bladder, breast, colon, cervical, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, and skin cancers, using quantitative histopathology (i.e. karyometric) approaches. His NCI funded drug and diagnostics research has resulted in more than two dozen patents and the co-founding of four Arizona pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Dr. Alberts has authored or co-authored over 530 peer reviewed publications, more than 100 book chapters and 60 invited articles, and has served as Editor and Co-Editor of nine books (e.g. Fundamentals of Cancer Prevention, Third Edition, Springer Verlag, 2014 and Intraperitoneal Therapy for Ovarian Cancer, Springer Verlag, 2010). He has served on the editorial boards of several peer-reviewed scientific journals including Associate Editor for Cancer Research from 1989-2002. Between 2002 and 2008, he acted as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the leading cancer public health research journal worldwide.  Most recently, in 2014, he was honored again by the AACR with its Pioneer in Cancer Prevention Award.

Dr. Alberts is currently Regents Professor of Medicine, Pharmacology, Nutritional Science, Public Health and BIO5 at The University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Director of the Arizona Cancer Center. During his career, Dr. Alberts has served as an advisor to numerous cancer research foundations and committees, such as Chair of the Oncologic Drug Advisory Committee to the FDA (1984-1986), and was a member of the NCI’s Board of Counselors (to the Division of Cancer Prevention, 1990-1994), the Board of Scientific Advisors (1999-2006), and on the coordinating subcommittee to the Clinical Translational Advisory Committee, NCI (2006-2009).

In June 2001, he was acknowledged by Science to be one of the top three National Institutes of Health-funded clinical researchers in the United States. In 2003, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) recognized his contributions to clinical care in the field of cancer with the Joseph H. Burchenal Clinical Research Award, and in 2004, the American Society for Preventive Oncology gave him its Distinguished Career Award for research excellence. Also in 2004, the AACR awarded Dr. Alberts with its AACR-Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention Research Worldwide.

Dr. Alberts received his MD in 1966 from University of Virginia School of Medicine. He conducted his internship at the University of Wisconsin, before becoming a Clinical Associate in medical oncology at the National Cancer Institute’s Baltimore Cancer Research Center. Dr. Alberts conducted his internal medicine residency at the University of Minnesota and then served on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco, for five years and obtained Board certification in Medicine and Medical Oncology in 1973 and completed a 2 year Faculty Training Award in Clinical Pharmacology from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association. He joined The University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1975 as an Assistant Professor, where he has served for 40 years.

Clinical Information

Clinical Focus: 

Disease or Clinical Specialty: 
Ovarian Cancer

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Prevention and Control
Member Status: 
Research Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
University of Arizona
College of Medicine
Selected Publications: 

Dickinson SE, Olson ER, Zhang J, Cooper SJ, Melton T, Criswell PJ, Casanova A, Dong Z, Hu C, Saboda K, Jacobs ET, Alberts DS, Bowden GT. p38 MAP kinase plays a functional role in UVB-induced mouse skin carcinogenesis. Mol Carcinog 50(6):469-78, 2011. PMID:21268131, PMCID:PMC3092020

Montironi R, Bartels PH, DeCensi A, Hurle R, Decobelli O, Carmignani G, Mazzucchelli R, Bartels HG, Alberts DS, Putoni M, Maffezzini M.  A randomized phase IIb presurgical study of finasteride vs. low-dose flutamide vs. placebo in men with prostate cancer.  Efficacy monitored by karyometry. Urol Oncol  31(5):557-565, 2013.  PMID: 21783387

Marshall J, Tangen C, Sakr W, Wood D, Berry D, Klein E, Lippman S, Parnes H, Alberts D, Jarrard D, Lee WR, Crawford ED, Ely B, Ray M, Davis W, Minasian L, Thompson I. Phase III trial of selenium to prevent prostate cancer in men with high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia: SWOG- S9917. Cancer Prev Res, 4:1761-96, 2011.  PMID: 21896650, PMCID: PMC3208719

Glazer ES, Bartels PH, Prasad AR, Yozwiak ML, Bartels HG, Einspahr JG, Alberts DS, Krouse RS.  Nuclear morphometry identifies a distinct aggressive cellular phenotype in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.  Cancer Prev Res 4:1770-7, 2011. PMID: 2163541, PMCID: PMC3181389

Bartels PH, Garcia FAR, Trimble CL, Kauderer J, Curtin J, Lim PC, Hess LM, Silverberg S, Zaino RJ, Yozwiak M, Bartels HG, Alberts DS. Karyometry in Atypical Endometrial Hyperplasia. A Gynecologic Oncology Group Study. Gynecol Oncol 125:129-135, 2012.  PMID: 22155796 NIHMS 573739

Mazzucchelli R, Scarpelli M, Lopez-Beltran A, Cheng L, Bartels H, Bartels PH, Alberts DS, Montironi R. Global acetylation and methylation changes predict papillary urothelial neoplasia of low malignant potential recurrence: a quantitative analysis. Intl J Immunopathol Pharmacol 24(2):489-497, 2011.  PMID: 21658323 NIHMS 586611.

Einspahr, JG, Calvert V, Alberts DS, Curiel-Lewandrowski C, Warneke J, Krouse R, Stratton SP, Liotta L, Longo C, Pellacani G, Prasad A, Sagerman P, Bermudez Y, Deng J, Bowden GT, Petricoin EF. Functional protein pathway activation mapping of the progression of normal skin to squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer Prev Res, 5:403-13, 2012.  PMID: 22389437, PMCID: PMC3297971

Chambers SK, Chow, HH, Janicek MF, Cragun JM, Hatch KD, Cui H, Laughren C, Clouser MC, Cohen JL, Wright HM, Hillman KS, AbuShahin N, Alberts DS.  Phase I trial of intraperitoneal pemetrexed, cisplatin, and paclitaxel in optimally debulked ovarian cancer. Clin Cancer Res 18(a):2668-78, 2012.  PMID:22421191; PMCID: PMC33343173

Curiel-Lewandrowski C, Swetter SM, Einspahr JG, Hsu C-H, Nagle R, Sagerman P, Tangrea J, Parnes H, Alberts DS, Chow H-H.  Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of sulindac in individuals at risk for melanoma: evaluation of potential chemopreventive activity. Cancer, 118: 2; 5848-5856, 2012.  PMID: 22605570; PMCID: PMC3517927

Wertheim BC, Smith JW, Fang C, Alberts DS, Lance P, Thompson PA.  Risk modification of colorectal adenoma by CYP7A1 polymorphisms and the role of bile acid metabolism in carcinogenesis. Cancer Prev Res 5(2):197-204, 2012.  PMID: 22058145; PMCID: PMC3400261

Thompson P, Roe DJ, Fales L, Buckmeier J, Wang F, Hamilton SR, Bhattacharyya A, Green S, Hsu C-H, Chow H-H, Ahnen DJ, Boland CR, Heigh RI, Fay DE, Martinez ME, Jacobs E, Ashbeck EL, Alberts DS and Lance P.  Design and baseline characteristics of  participants in a phase III randomized trial of celecoxib and selenium for colorectal adenoma prevention.  Cancer Prevention Research, 5(12):1381-1393, 2012.  PMID:  23060037, PMCID: PMC3518663

Jeter J, Alberts D.  Difluoromethylornithine:  The Proof is in the Polyamines.  Can Prev Res, 5:1341-1344, 2012.  PMID: 23221207 NIHMS 584104.

Alberts DS, Blessing J, Landrum LM, Warshal DP, Martin LP, Rose SL, Bonebrake AJ and Ramondetta LM.  Phase II Trial of Nab-Paclitaxel in the Treatment of Recurrent or Persistent Advanced Cervix Cancer: A Gynecologic Oncology Group Study.  Gynecologic Oncology, 127:451-455, 2012.  PMID:22986144.

Tang DH,Alberts DS, Nevins R, Sullivan S, and Skrepnek GH.  Health care expenditures, hospitalizations, and productivity associated with cancer in US employer settings.  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 54 (12):1453-1460, 2012.  PMID:23169275

Garcia FAR, Cornelison T, Nuno T, Greenspan DL, Byron JW, Hsu C-H, Alberts DS, Chow S.  Results of a phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial of Polyphenon E in women with persistent high risk HPV infection and low grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.  Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Jan 2. pii: S0090-8258(13)01398-X. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2013.12.034. [Epub ahead of print].  PMID: 24388920

Crane TE, Khulpateea BR, Alberts DS, Basen-Enquist K, Thomson CA.  Dietary intake and ovarian cancer risk: A systematic review.  Cancer Epidemiol, Biomarkers and Prev, February 2014 23; 255.  PMID 24142805

Plattner S, McCartney, Thomson C, Balerama A, Alberts DS, Foote JA.  Healthy Children Arizona: Early intervention for prevention.  Open Jouranl of Preventive Medicine, 4, 689-698, 2014.

Dickinson SE, Olson ER, Levenson C, Janda J, Rusche JJ, Alberts DS, Bowden GT.  A novel chemopreventive mechanism for a traditional medicine: East Indian sandalwood oil induces autophagy and cell death in proliferative keratinocytes. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 558, 143-152, 2014.

Trotter II, RT, Laurila K, Alberts D Huenneke LF.  A diagnostic evaluation model for complex research partnerships with community engagement:  The Native American Cancer Prevention Project.  Journal of Evaluation and Program Planning, 48: 10-20, 2015