NIH: Office of Disease Prevention


Office of Disease Prevention Staff

John K. Gohagan, Ph.D.

Senior Scientific Officer

Dr. Gohagan was appointed Senior Scientific Officer in the ODP in 2010 as liaison to the NIH OD and the project officers and managers of the National Children’s Study (NCS) to provide critical oversight and advisory services. The NCS is a multi-institutional cohort study of factors affecting the health of children. His is a senior advisory position to staff responding to ongoing scrutiny from Congressional and constituency groups. He continues as an Associate Editor of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and a member of the evidence assessment Physician’s Data Query (PDQ) Screening and Prevention Editorial Board.

Dr. Gohagan served as Chief of the Early Detection Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from 1992 through 2004 and Acting Chief of the Basic Prevention Science Research Group at NCI from 2004 to 2010. He was the founding Project Officer and Director of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovary (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial launched in 1992 and the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) launched in 2002. These mortality endpoint trials addressed unresolved and controversial issues regarding benefits and risks of cancer screening while assessing screening technology performance. Dr. Gohagan was responsible for the work of the ten PLCO clinical centers nationwide where 155,000 healthy participants were recruited, consented, randomized, screened, and followed; a laboratory for standardized serum assay analysis; a coordinating and training center; and a bio-repository. The NLST specifically addressed the technological comparison of spiral CT versus chest x-ray screening at multiple clinical sites where more than 50,000 high-risk smokers were randomized to screening and followed over many years. The published results from these trials effected revised practice standards nationwide.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Gohagan, with Dr. Fritz Schroeder, director of the eight-nation European Randomized Studies of Prostate Cancer, and Dr. Philip Prorok, Chief of Biometry in the Division of Cancer Prevention at NCI and Associate Project Officer of the PLCO trial, organized the International Prostate Screening Trials Evaluation Group, a forum for deliberating the performance of the NCI and European trials. Multiple joint publications have resulted.

Dr. Gohagan was the NCI lead scientist dealing with the Congressionally sensitive and controversial issue of screening premenopausal women for breast cancer in the 1990s. In this role, he was responsible for organizing the high-profile International Workshop on Breast Cancer Screening of Women 40–49 to develop an international assessment of clinical trials conducted in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Sweden. He served as the NCI specialist to coordinate the follow-up NIH Consensus Development Conference with the ODP/Office of Medical Applications of Research several years later.

Dr. Gohagan was recruited to the NCI from Washington University in St. Louis, where he was tenured Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Associate Professor of Radiology, and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine. He enjoyed an international reputation for his leadership in the field of breast cancer screening and for his innovative MRI breast tissue classification work, which he directed at five U.S. clinical centers (Washington University Medical Center, Fox Chase, University of Virginia, University of Maryland, and Wayne State Medical Center), as well as a clinic in Munich, Germany. He was a consultant to industry, government, and academic institutions, served on regional and national deliberative committees addressing health technology and resource matters, and appeared on numerous TV and radio programs as a health issues discussant.

Dr. Gohagan has published widely in early detection of cancer, screening technology development and assessment, and public health and health policy issues. He continues to collaborate with NIH and academic scholars on writing projects in biomedical engineering, computational and systems biology, and cancer detection. He has spoken both nationally and internationally on the results of his work.

Dr. Gohagan earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

John K. Gohagan, Ph.D.