Understanding how tumors respond to radiation has been a lifelong process for Puneeth Iyengar, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Medical Director, and Chief of Lung Radiation Oncology Service, in the Department of Radiation Oncology. He began testing theories in school science fairs as an adolescent growing up in Louisiana. Studying at MIT furthered his interest in the biologic and engineering aspects of medicine, and he earned a bachelor of science degree in biology before receiving his M.D./Ph.D. degrees from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York in 2005. With medical school came a better understanding of cancer biology that led Dr. Iyengar to pursue an internship and residency at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he honed his clinical skills.

Dr. Iyengar ultimately chose UT Southwestern as the academic medical center where he wanted to continue his career because, he says, “it offers the greatest opportunity to integrate clinical radiation oncology with the science behind it. The science is what enables us to push things to the forefront for optimal treatment management for patients.” 

As a key member of the radiation oncology team at UT Southwestern, Dr. Iyengar has two main roles: He is an expert in treating lung cancer patients with radiation. He also leads a research lab with two missions – discovering how lung tumors become therapeutically resistant, and understanding the basic mechanisms of cancer cachexia, a wasting process of the body that’s associated with certain types of tumors, primarily lung and gastrointestinal tumors.

As a biologist, a researcher, and a physician, Dr. Iyengar is uniquely qualified to talk to patients about their disease in as much detail as they want to hear. “I try to be direct and honest with my patients while at the same time balancing their need for hope,” he says. “When patients ask me about lifespan, I honestly tell them that any patient can be the exception to the rule and every situation is different. I want them to have just as much hope for themselves as I have for them.”

Among Dr. Iyengar’s many recognitions, he received the 2016 ARRO Educator of the Year Teaching Award, a 2015 American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant Award, a 2013 Sidney Kimmel Cancer Foundation Translational Research Award, a 2012 Distinguished Researcher Award from the UT Southwestern President’s Research Council, a 2011 Young Investigator Research Grant from the National Lung Cancer Partnership, a 2011 Lung Cancer Research Foundation grant, and the Roentgen Research Award from the Radiological Society of North America Research and Education Foundation in 2010. He was part of the National Institutes of Health Medical Scientist Training Program in 2005, and, in 2001, he received the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Young Investigator Award. Dr. Iyengar’s research has been published in many major journals, including Lancet Oncology, JAMA Oncology, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Nature Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Investigation, among others.

Meet Dr. Iyengar

Radiation Oncologist

As a physician and research scientist, Puneeth Iyengar, M.D., Ph.D., brings unique skills to his patients and his position as Associate Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. He’s able to use what he learns from his lung cancer patients to test theories in his lab, as well as translate discoveries from his lab into better treatments for his patients. The ability to traverse both areas makes him a better caregiver and researcher, he says.

"We offer patients state-of-the-art technology in radiation therapy and the highest level of expertise solely for lung cancer patients." 

Lung cancer patients at UT Southwestern have access to some of the most effective techniques in radiation treatment and the country’s top clinicians. Dr. Iyengar and three other radiation oncologists at UT Southwestern focus solely on the treatment of lung cancer and are experts in stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR), a form of radiation treatment for lung cancer that’s becoming more of a first-line, curative treatment. This type of noninvasive treatment involves high-dose radiation beams entering the body through various angles and intersecting at the desired target. This allows for a concentrated dose to reach the tumor while limiting the dose to surrounding healthy tissue.

Dr. Iyengar and his colleagues are using SABR, also known as stereotactic body radiation therapy, to reduce the number of treatments for lung cancer patients while safely increasing the dosage of radiation given during each treatment. Additionally, Dr. Iyengar has been center stage of national efforts to use SABR in the management of metastatic NSCLC, a new evolving treatment paradigm meant to improve overall survival.

In the laboratory, Dr. Iyengar runs a research program studying the wasting syndrome known as cancer cachexia. This syndrome, leading to losses of adipose and muscle mass with eventual weight loss, is observed in over 50 percent of all solid tumor patients and responsible for 30 percent of all cancer-related deaths. Dr. Iyengar’s group is attempting to understand how to block cachexia development in improving the survival and quality of life of his lung cancer patients.

Being on the forefront of treatment technology and seeing how he can make a difference in the lives of lung cancer patients drew Dr. Iyengar to UT Southwestern. The challenges of the disease, the need to understand it, and the rapport he develops with his patients keep him here, along with a world-class team of health care providers focused on the same goal.

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Education & Training
  • Other Post Graduate Training - Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1999-2005)
  • Residency - UT MD Anderson Cancer Center (2006-2010), Radiation Oncology
  • Internship - University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (2005-2006), Internal Medicine
  • Graduate School - Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1999-2005), Cell Biology
  • Medical School - Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2001-2005)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Radiological Society of North America
  • Radiation Therapy Oncology Group
  • NRG Oncology
  • Lung Cancer Research Foundation
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer
  • Free to Breathe
  • American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
Honors & Awards
  • ECOG Young Investigator Award cosponsored by Aventis 2001
  • NIH Medical Scientist Training Program 2005, MD/PhD Program
  • Roentgen Research Award, RSNA Research and Education Foundation 2010, Research Resident Award
  • Radiological Society of North America 2011, RSNA Research Grant Award Winner
  • National Lung Cancer Partnership 2011, Young Investigator Research Award
  • Lung Cancer Research Foundation 2011, Research Award
  • UT Southwestern Medical Center 2012, President Research Council Distinguished Research Award
  • Sidney Kimmel Cancer Research Foundation 2013, Translational Research Award
  • American Cancer Society 2015, Research Scholar
  • ARRO 2017, Educator of the Year Teaching Award
  • American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology 2017, Plenary Speaker
Books & Publications
  • Pathophysiology and Biology of Cachexia
  • Oligometastatic Lung Cancer and Treatment with Radiation
  • Metabolic Dysregulation and Lung Cancer
  • Lung Cancer Radiation Resistance
  • Inflammation and Lung Cancer

Clinical Focus

  • Lung Cancer
  • Chest Cancers

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