Phoenix, Arizona


pockaj.barbara@mayo.edu Clinical Profile


Barbara A. Pockaj, M.D., is a surgical oncologist with a strong clinical and research interest in breast cancer and malignant melanoma. Dr. Pockaj's research focuses not only on clinical studies but also translational science. She has an extensive clinical database of newly diagnosed breast and melanoma patients that is coupled with a large complementary biobank of breast cancer specimens.

Several areas of clinical research include clinical behavior of triple negative breast cancers, clinical implications of sentinel lymph node biopsy for breast cancer and melanoma, prognostic significance of palpable breast cancer, and ramifications of breast reconstruction.

Dr. Pockaj is the chair of the Breast Cancer Interest Group (BIG), a collaboration between researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Arizona State University (ASU). The collaboration focuses on using the state-of-the-art genomics infrastructure and a high-quality breast cancer tumor biorepository. The focus of the group is to investigate molecular pathways to identify treatment targets for patients with triple negative breast cancer and endocrine-resistant breast cancer.

Focus areas

Dr. Pockaj's team focuses on:

  • Identification of pathways used by triple negative breast cancer for oncogenic growth using clonal analysis of triple negative breast cancer based upon DNA gains or losses. Validation of the abnormal pathway is then evaluated by tissue microarray.
  • Characterization of androgen receptor expression in triple negative breast cancer and estrogen-resistant breast cancer. Further evaluation of abnormal gene expression and pathway dysregulation in androgen receptor signaling.

Other research interests:

  • Breast cancer — all aspects of the clinical care of breast cancer, including new diagnostic modalities, surgical care and advancement of reconstructive techniques, and clinical outcomes; additionally, translational research involving the molecular phenotypes and their implications, and immunologic aspects (including vaccine therapy)
  • Melanoma — all aspects of the clinical care of melanoma
  • Single institution and multi-institution clinical trials
  • Quality-of-life studies in cancer patients

Significance to patient care

The treatment of breast cancer has changed from treating it as a single disease to considering tailored treatment as a heterogenous groups of cancers with distinctive pathobiology. The molecular classification of major tumor groups is primarily the result of intensive genomics research. This has significant ramifications for treatment potential. This is true for not only breast cancer but also melanoma.

Leveraging our clinical and translational work is the only way to improve treatment for cancer patients in the future.

Professional highlights

  • Breast Oncology Local Disease (BOLD) Task Force, Breast Cancer Steering Committee, National Cancer Institute, 2009-present
  • Board Member (2008-present), Chair of Program Committee (2006-2007), Publication Committee (2007-present), Research Committee (2008-present) — American Society of Breast Surgeons
  • Board Member, Sentinel Lymph Node Working Group (Melanoma), 2005-present
  • Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2005-present
  • Member, Society of Surgical Oncology, 1996-present
  • Michael M. Eisenberg Professor, 2015
  • Research Vice Chair, Chair of the Surgery Committee (2003-2011), Surgical Liaison for the Breast and Quality-of-Life Committees — American College of Surgeons Branch of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology
  • Neoadjuvant Working Group (2005-2007), Planning Committee for State of the Science Symposium for Preoperative Therapy for Breast Cancer (2006-2007), Chair of Surgical Working Group (2007-2008) — Breast Cancer Intergroup of North America
  • Breast Committee and Quality-of-Life Committee, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology (formerly the North Central Cancer Treatment Group)


Primary Appointment

  1. Consultant, Division of Surgical Oncology and Endocrine Surgery, Department of Surgery

Administrative Appointment

  1. Head, Section of Oncologic Surgery, Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery
  2. Associate Chair of Research, Department of Surgery

Academic Rank

  1. Professor of Surgery


  1. Resident University Hospitals of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University
  2. Fellow - Immunotherapy and Surgical Oncology Surgery Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
  3. MD Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
  4. BEE - Electrical and Biomedical Engineering Vanderbilt University

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