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Carlos Arteaga, M.D.
Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

  • Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • The Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology
  • Internal Medicine - Hematology/Oncology
  • Breast Cancers
  • Advanced, Inflammatory, Metastatic or Recurrent Breast Cancers

Meet Dr. Arteaga

World renowned breast cancer specialist and investigator

As one of the country’s leading physician scientists in the treatment and research of breast cancer, and with almost three decades of clinical experience, Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D., likes to talk about the good news he has for his patients.

“The treatment of breast cancer has evolved dramatically over the last 30 years,” he says. “As cancer care has become increasingly sophisticated, the mortality for breast cancer has been increasingly in decline.”

Dr. Arteaga joined UT Southwestern in 2017 to take the helm as Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and Associate Dean of Oncology Programs. He sees his position as the best way to continue his work in the remaking of cancer from a death sentence to a fallible foe.

Early Interventions Drive Optimal Outcomes

Dr. Arteaga points to a few things that have been key to the turning tides of breast cancer survival. 

“A main reason has been the wide use of screening mammograms, which allow detection of cancers when they are small and contained in the breast – and thus with high chances of cure. In addition, research and drug development have markedly improved treatments across all three breast cancer subtypes,” he says.

Early detection has had a huge impact in breast cancer outcomes. “If you go back 30 years,” Dr. Arteaga says, “probably 30 percent of breast cancers were diagnosed at stage 4 – when they are disseminated throughout the body and more difficult to cure. Today, however, women who are diagnosed at stage 4 breast cancer are a distinct minority.”

In fact, today many breast cancers are detected so early that a woman needs only limited surgery and adjuvant therapy in order to expect a full recovery.

Dr. Arteaga says that breast cancer care has also improved because of today’s multidisciplinary approach to treatment. 

“At UT Southwestern and other top cancer centers, a woman who receives a breast cancer diagnosis sees different breast specialists on day one. She might see a breast medical oncologist and a breast surgeon. And she might see other experts as well, such as a radiation oncologist, a plastic surgeon, and a genetic counselor.”

Dr. Arteaga says this collaborative approach to care at the time of cancer diagnosis significantly improves a woman’s outcomes.

The Rewards of Research

Another reason that breast cancer treatment has made so much progress is the abundance of new drugs and rational combinations being tested in clinical trials, which are the mechanism that allows physician scientists, such as Dr. Arteaga, and clinical investigators translate laboratory discoveries into approved therapies.

“Clinical trials are the only instrument we have as physicians and investigators to get new and better drugs approved,” he says.

Dr. Arteaga offers his patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials whenever possible.

“A patient who is in a clinical trial is really getting the most superior care available,” he says. “These patients are being followed very closely, not only by a group of physicians but also by a team of nurses and other highly skilled providers.”

“By participating in clinical trials, our patients are a key part of the cancer research enterprise,” he says. “They have a perspective that we don't have as investigators. We cannot do it without them. They're an invaluable part of how we move forward.” 

Pushing the Leading Edge

Dr. Arteaga is eager to see how clinical research will continue to improve cancer care in the next 10 years. “But there are still many other issues that we have to face,” he notes.

“It's not all about the next best technology or treatment. We also have to keep in mind that there are issues with disparities of care and screening that are important. And those are things that UT Southwestern has addressed and will continue to address.”

Still too many patients die from cancer and we should honor them with renewed commitment to continue our efforts to reduce cancer mortality, Dr. Arteaga says. But there is every reason to have an optimistic outlook.

“We've made enormous progress,” he says. “I think that we live in an unprecedented time in the history of cancer care and cancer research. The momentum has never been greater. And I think the next 10 years are going to be transformative in the way we think of cancer, in the way we understand cancer, and in the way we go about treating it. It's going to be close to unimaginable.”

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Biography

Dr. Carlos L. Arteaga is the Director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and Associate Dean of Oncology Programs at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Arteaga earned his medical degree at the University of Guayaquil in Ecuador. He trained in internal medicine and medical oncology at Emory University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 1989, where he held the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer Research and served at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) as Director of the Center for Cancer Targeted Therapies, the Director of the Breast Cancer Program, and the Associate Director for Translational/Clinical Research until 2017, when he joined UT Southwestern.

Dr. Arteaga has more than 300 publications in the areas of oncogenes and breast tumor initiation and progression, development of targeted therapies and biomarkers of drug action and resistance, and investigator-initiated clinical trials in breast cancer. His research is or has been funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), CPRIT, the American Cancer Society, the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C), and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Breast Cancer Research foundations.

During his career, Dr. Arteaga has received several awards, including the American Association for Cancer Research-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award, the American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor Award, the Gianni Bonadonna Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the 2015 Prize for Scientific Excellence in Medicine from the American-Italian Cancer Foundation, and the Clinical Investigator Award from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research Academy, an elected member of both the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and member of the Susan G. Komen Scientific Advisory Board. He also serves on the advisory boards of several academic Breast Cancer Programs and NCI-designated Cancer Centers.

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Education & Training
  • Fellowship - University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio (1988), Hematology Oncology
  • Medical School - Universidad de Guayaquil, Ecuador (1980)
  • Residency - Emory University School of Medicine (1984), Internal Medicine

Clinical Focus

  • Breast Cancers
  • Advanced, Inflammatory, Metastatic or Recurrent Breast Cancers
  • Medical Treatment of Breast Cancer

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Q&A by Carlos Arteaga, M.D.

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