Rochester, Minnesota Clinical Profile


In addition to his role as a practicing oncologist, Robert R. McWilliams, M.D., conducts research using genomic technology to improve care for people with cancer. Dr. McWilliams' research focuses on genetic epidemiology, mainly in the area of pancreatic cancer. Dr. McWilliams uses the knowledge and experience gained through his research to design clinical trials using genomic technology for gastrointestinal cancer and melanoma. His goal is to translate findings to clinical practice.

Focus areas

  • Pancreatic cancer. Dr. McWilliams developed clinical trials for specific genetic subsets of pancreatic cancer, collaborating with world-class research experts at Mayo Clinic, including Fergus J. Couch, Ph.D. Dr. McWilliams is the principal investigator for a clinical trial of targeted therapy and immunotherapy for people with pancreatic cancer who have specific mutations in their germline DNA or tumor DNA.
  • Small bowel adenocarcinoma. Dr. McWilliams served as the U.S. lead clinician on small bowel adenocarcinoma for the International Rare Cancers Initiative. He was the principal investigator for the first immunotherapy trial for small bowel adenocarcinoma and led a multicenter cooperative group trial for this rare cancer.
  • Melanoma. Dr. McWilliams has performed clinical trials for advanced melanoma. He recently completed a multicenter adjuvant trial for resected mucosal melanoma, a rare subtype with a high recurrence rate. This is the first reported trial using checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy highly successful in treating melanoma. Dr. McWilliams also conducted clinical trials in metastatic melanoma with a focus on understanding the genetics of this complex disease.

Significance to patient care

Dr. McWilliams strives to broaden clinical trial options for people with cancer. He focuses mainly on rare cancers and diseases for which current standard therapies are inadequate. By leveraging technology such as genomic sequencing, Dr. McWilliams hopes to more thoroughly evaluate potential therapeutic targets and make rapid clinical impacts for these rare diseases.

Professional highlights

  • Site principal investigator, Precision Promise Clinical Trial Consortium, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2021-present
  • Member, board of directors, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, 2020-present
  • U.S. overall lead, Small Bowel Adenocarcinoma Group, International Rare Cancers Initiative, 2012-2022
  • National Cancer Institute
    • Member, Pancreas Task Force, 2018-2020
    • Member, Gastrointestinal Cancer Steering Committee, 2014-2017
  • Chair, Genomic Tumor Board for Cancer, Mayo Clinic, 2012-2017
  • Chair, Gastrointestinal Cancers Disease-Oriented Group, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2010-2017


Primary Appointment

  1. Consultant, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology
  2. Vice Chair, Department of Oncology
  3. Enterprise Co-Deputy Director, Cancer Practice, Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center

Academic Rank

  1. Professor of Oncology


  1. MSc - Biomedical Science Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
  2. Research Fellowship - Genetic Epidemiology of Cancer Mayo Cancer Genetic Epidemiology Training Program, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
  3. Fellow - Hematology/Oncology Mayo Graduate School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
  4. Resident Hematology/Oncology, Programs in Rochester, Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
  5. Resident - Internal Medicine/Medical House Officer Osler Housestaff, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  6. MD Georgetown University School of Medicine
  7. BA - Echols Scholar Interdisciplinary Studies College of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
  8. MHA - in progress University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse

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