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James Rocco, MD, PhD

Dr. Rocco is a Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He serves as Director of the Division of Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery, as the Medical Director of the Head and Neck Service Line, Co-Director of the Head and Neck Disease Specific Research Group at the James Cancer Hospital, and is the inaugural holder of the Mary E. and John W. Alford Research Chair in Head and Neck Cancer.

Dr. Rocco graduated with High Honors from the Rutgers College of Engineering in New Brunswick, NJ. He completed his MD/PhD training in physiology and Biophysics at the Mount Sinai Medical School in NYC through the NIH sponsored Medical Scientist Training Program.  His General Surgery and Otolaryngology-HNS training were at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.  During this time he received post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. David Sidransky, where he studied adenoviral gene therapy of head and neck squamous cell cancer using the p16 tumor suppressor gene. In 1999, Dr. Rocco was recruited by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Department of Otolaryngology and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Surgery to develop a translational program in head and neck oncology.  He was also invited to join the MGH Cancer Center where he was one of only several surgeon principal investigators.  In 2004, Dr. Rocco became Director of Head and Neck Cancer Research at the MEEI and MGH, and was awarded the Daniel Miller Chair in Otology and Laryngology from Harvard Medical School in 2012.

Dr. Rocco has a busy head and neck surgical oncology practice focusing on the surgical care and regular surveillance of the head and neck cancer patient.  Dr. Rocco is well-versed with the use of the Head and Neck Tumor board and integrated head and neck cancer care from his time at the MEEI and MGH, where he served as the senior surgeon at the MGH multi-disciplinary head and neck cancer clinic on a weekly basis for fourteen years.  Dr. Rocco is also experienced in helping select head and neck cancer patients participate with ongoing clinical trials, having served as the Principal Investigator of an R21-funded, NCI clinical trial.   He also serves as a member of the NCI’s clinical trial task force on recurrent and metastatic head and neck cancer and was just appointed to the NCI Head and Neck Steering Committee as a special clinical expert.   In addition to his clinical responsibilities, Dr. Rocco leads an active NIH/NIDCR R01-funded research effort that is focused on identifying biomarkers of clinical outcome in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.  Here Dr. Rocco is examining the functional role of the anti-apoptotic cell death protein Bcl2 after platinum-based chemo-radiotherapy on tumor response and the impact of intra-tumor heterogeneity as measured by next generation sequencing methods on patient survival.  In addition to these efforts, he has published numerous peer-reviewed scientific and clinical/translational manuscripts and has been interviewed by the lay press regarding head and neck cancer treatment, HPV and head and neck cancer, and targeted therapy on numerous occasions including Forbes magazine, the Wall Street Journal and Nature.


View Dr. Rocco's Patient Care Profile