Get to Know Dr. Joel Neal
Neal joined the Stanford Medical Center in 2010 after completing a fellowship program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he first developed an interest in mesothelioma.
While maintaining an active practice, he also is an assistant professor in the Division of Oncology at Stanford and plays a key role in the university’s highly regarded medical research program.
At the Stanford Cancer Institute, Neal designs and conducts innovative clinical trials, many of them involving personalized immunotherapy combinations that are becoming more effective in the fight against cancer.
Dr. Joel Neal’s Role in Advancing Immunotherapy Treatments
Immunotherapy, which is seen by many as the future of cancer care, involves the use of a patient’s own immune system to fight the growth of cancer cells.
“Immunotherapy can be combined with almost everything — chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy and, most excitingly, other immunotherapies,” Neal said. “The goal is figuring how to make it work for more patients, and to work for a longer period of time.”
He has been at the forefront of research on CAR T-cell therapy and its early development with solid tumors.
The therapy involves the laboratory reprograming of a patient’s T cells — a type of white blood cell — to attack a particular surface protein. Some believe this technology will one day become part of the mesothelioma standard of care.
“At these trials, we’re engineering a patient’s own T cells to fight the cancer they might not have fought otherwise,” Neal explained. “If we can teach the T cells how to fight the tumor, that’s exciting.”
Taking a Leadership Role
Neal has published dozens of articles involving thoracic oncology. He co-authored a recent article titled “Novel Systemic Therapy Against Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma” in Translational Lung Cancer Research.
The article included novel approaches to targeting particular proteins expressed on mesothelioma cells, arginine depletion therapy and the emerging role of immunotherapy.
His work also has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Nature Medicine and Lancet Oncology.
Neal holds both a medical degree and a doctoral degree in tumor biology from Northwestern University in Chicago.
He has taken a leadership role at Stanford as the Cancer Institute IT medical director, coordinating projects related to the use of electronic health care records to improve provider efficiency.
He has presented several times at American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meetings, and he is a member of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.