Deborah Bruner clinical trials nurse

Deborah Watkins Bruner, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.

Patient-Reported Outcomes and Symptom Management

Deborah Watkins Bruner, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., is credited as one of the key cancer researchers to usher in a paradigm shift from medicine’s traditional survival and toxicity focus as interpreted by the clinician, toward the patient-centered focus in which patient reports of their own health status are systematically collected.

As a clinical trialist, Dr. Bruner’s research concentrates on patient-reported outcomes, symptom management, and comparative effectiveness of different types of radiation treatments. She was the first and to date only nurse to lead a national clinical trials group, a leadership position long dominated by male physicians.

Active in NCI’s community oncology programs for nearly 30 years, Dr. Bruner was involved in the first studies of symptom management and quality of life. As the principal investigator for the NRG Oncology Research Base of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), she studies cancer treatment and symptom management endpoints in community settings. Her research team has investigated multiple factors involved in symptom science, such as optimal radiation therapy, reduction of pain from bone metastases, prevention of cognitive loss from whole-brain radiotherapy, the impact of cancer treatment on male sexual function, and evaluations of patient-reported outcomes in cancer trials. Current research efforts are looking into the role of the human microbiome in carcinogenesis and cancer treatment outcomes.

A member of the National Academy of Medicine, Dr. Bruner has won many awards for her research as well as her mentorship of nurses, physicians, and behavioral scientists. She serves on the NCI National Cancer Advisory Board. She is the Senior Vice President for Research at Emory University and holds the Robert Woodruff Chair in the School of Nursing.