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The Best of the AACR Journals Collection: Author Profiles

photo of Michael J. Hall

Michael J. Hall

Title & Affiliation:
Professor and Chairman, Department of Clinical Genetics, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

Most-cited Article:
Germline Pathogenic Variants in the Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated (ATM) Gene are Associated with High and Moderate Risks for Multiple Cancers

Q: What is your primary area of study/research?
A: I study hereditary gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, with a focus on risk perception and communication of hereditary risk information in cancer patients, families, and underserved populations.

Q: What influenced your decision to embark on a research career?
A: I became interested in a research career during medical school. While I enjoyed attending our standard curriculum-driven lectures, I was captivated by the many research seminars available on a daily basis at my medical school. I enjoyed learning about how researchers approached studying a problem, whether through the lab, or surveys, or interviews, or data-mining, and how that work had helped them answer questions or make patient care better or led them to other research and discoveries. The pursuit of new knowledge through study and experimentation is fuel for the soul and is very satisfying for me.

Q; What excites you most about your research area?
A: I enjoy working in hereditary GI genetics for a few reasons—first, the practice of GI oncology, my other major clinical role, can be pretty intense with a lot of tough cases and sad stories, and so the ability to focus some of my clinical energies on prevention and early detection is invigorating for me. Cancer genetics is also an area that is so important to cancer care, but at the same time it is not something that interests other GI oncologists to the degree it interests me—understanding mechanisms of risk, inheritance, syndromes, etc. So my interest creates a niche for me that I love and that my colleagues value. The other part I enjoy about cancer genetics is that much of what I do is communicate risks, support decision-making, and counsel on prevention options—teaching complex ideas to patients is challenging and fun. Prevention has also always attracted me, even more so than cancer therapeutics, which makes me a bit atypical as oncologists go. But interest in prevention has helped me build a niche that has benefitted my high-risk patients and my colleagues. In genetics and cancer prevention, our unit of study is at the level of the family not just the individual, and I’ve enjoyed being able to care for and counsel multiple generations of family members over the years about their familial risk. Finally, I cannot say enough about the wonderful colleagues I’ve met over the years through professional societies and collaborative research, and how they have enriched my career.

Q: What do you do for fun outside of work? What are your passions and hobbies?
A: I am a passionate runner, both individually and on teams—one thing I discovered moving to PA from New York City in 2008 was the new-found joy of trail running. I also enjoy biking and snowboarding, and try to fit in at least one trip to Utah a year to enjoy the amazing powder and terrain there. I enjoy traveling (and hiking) the world, and hope the grips of COVID will ease up in 2022, as I am itching to return to Japan and New Zealand. Finally I do like to read, with my go-tos being the New Yorker and the New Fiction shelf at my local library.


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