Daniel J. Ma, M.D., is a radiation oncologist at Mayo Clinic whose research interests focus on head and neck cancer clinical trials, circulating tumor markers, and particle therapy.
- Treatment de-intensification for HPV-related oropharynx cancer. Dr. Ma led two large clinical trials investigating a new treatment regimen. The regimen incorporated minimally invasive surgery, reduced-dose radiotherapy and gentler chemotherapy for patients with oropharyngeal cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV). The aim of these trials was to develop and validate a treatment strategy that preserves historically excellent disease control rates while minimizing long-term treatment toxicity. These trials are the foundation for the standard of care delivered through the Oropharynx Multidisciplinary Clinic at Mayo Clinic.
- Biomarker-directed treatment. Traditionally, head and neck cancer therapies have relied on clinical or pathological risk for determining the need and intensity for radiation and chemotherapy after surgery. Dr. Ma and his colleagues are investigating the use of circulating tumor markers in individualized treatment strategies for head and neck cancers. This could be for either intensifying treatment for patients with residual circulating markers after treatment or de-intensifying treatment for patients who clear circulating biomarkers early in the treatment course.
- Particle therapy. Particle therapy allows for more-focused radiotherapy techniques that can help spare adjacent normal tissue from unnecessary radiation dose. Dr. Ma and his colleagues have been active in exploring the ways particle therapy may be used to reduce toxicity for head and neck cancers. He also is interested in exploring the unique ways particle therapy can be leveraged to treat tumors that otherwise have treatment resistance to traditional X-ray-based techniques.
Significance to patient care
Head and neck cancer treatment requires balancing two critical but oftentimes competing priorities. Health care providers aim to cure patients of cancer. However, since many of the items that patients most intimately associate with quality of life, such as speaking and eating, can be affected by head and neck treatment, minimizing treatment-related toxicities is also a key concern.
Balancing these treatment priorities is the focus of Dr. Ma's research. He aims to develop a personalized treatment approach that delivers enough therapy for cure while minimizing long-term treatment effects. The focus areas of Dr. Ma's research reflect his passion for developing individualized clinical trials for patients with head and neck cancers.
- Enterprise associate medical director, Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic Cancer Clinical Trials Office, 2022-present.
- Member, Head and Neck Cancer Committee, NRG Oncology, 2020-present.
- Midwest chair of research, Department of Radiation Oncology, Mayo Clinic, 2019-present.
- Co-director, Oropharynx Multidisciplinary Clinic, Mayo Clinic Midwest, 2016-present.
- Enterprise Head and Neck Disease Group lead, Mayo Clinic, 2014-present.
- Interventional-Treatment Clinical Trial Award, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2023.
- Steven A. Leibel Memorial Award, American Society for Radiation Oncology, 2022.
- International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.
- Associate section editor (head and neck), 2019-2022.
- Outstanding Reviewer Award, 2019.
- Excellence in Teaching Award, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, 2019.