Deborah Watkins Bruner



Dr. Bruner is recognized as an international leader in cancer clinical trials and oncology nursing. Dedicated to improving outcomes for cancer patients, she is recognized for her research in sexuality after cancer therapy.

Titles and Roles

Associate Director for Mentorship, Education and Training
Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University
Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Nursing
Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing
Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology
Emory University School of Medicine
Research Program
Cancer Prevention and Control


Deborah Watkins Bruner, RN, PhD, FAAN, is Professor and Robert W. Woodruff Chair in Nursing, Professor of Radiation Oncology, Director, Faculty Mentoring, School of Nursing, Associate Director, Mentorship, Education and Training, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. She is an internationally renowned researcher and clinical trialist with a focus on patient reported outcomes, symptom management, and comparative effectiveness of radiotherapy modalities.

Dr. Bruner's leadership, especially in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) sponsored National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) transcends disciplines and has led to improved health and quality of life and decreased cost outcomes for those treated for cancer. Recognition of her work led to her appointment by President Obama to one of only two National Institutes of Health Presidential appointed committees, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Cancer Advisory Board, on which she still serves. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and has won numerous awards for research and mentorship. She has mentored nursing, psychology, epidemiology and medical junior faculty as well as pre and post-doctoral students/fellows and has served as primary mentor for both nurses and physicians on 9 career development awards.

Dr. Bruner has worked for almost three decades with the NCTN and is the first and only nurse to ever lead a national clinical trials cooperative group, first as the Principal Investigator of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) Community Clinical Oncology Program, and currently as multi-PI of the NRG Oncology group National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). NRG Oncology was formed by the historic merger of The National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Prostate, the RTOG, and the Gynecologic Oncology Group in March 2014. NRG is a consortium of over 1800 institutions and involving over 3,000 physicians, nurses, physicists, and statisticians, in the U.S. and Canada. The NCORP focuses on symptom amelioration, quality of life and comparative effectiveness trials in community settings, where most cancer care is delivered. Dr. Bruner's pioneering leadership in the NCTN led to a paradigm shift from a historically medically dominated focus on survival and toxicity, to a patient-centered bio-behavioral focus that includes patient reported outcomes. She also serves as NRG Oncology group Deputy Chair for Publications.

Dr. Bruner joined the faculty at Emory University in 2011 from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to that, Dr. Bruner had been at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for 16 years where she was the Director of Symptoms and Outcomes Research and Founding Director of the Prostate Cancer Risk Assessment Program.


Dr. Bruner received her PhD in nursing, with a focus on outcomes research, at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. Bruner is currently leading a project to bring modern radiotherapy and quality assurance to Ethiopia, and Chairs the Advisory Board for the Emory University-Addis Ababa University (AAU) partnership in developing AAUs first doctoral program in nursing. Her most current research is focused on the role of the human microbiome in carcinogenesis and cancer treatment outcomes.

She has been continuously funded since 1998 from sponsors including the American Cancer Society, Department of Defense, Oncology Nursing Society, State of Pennsylvania, National Institute of Nursing Research, National Cancer Institute, and the National Institutes of Health. This has culminated in her ranking among the top 5% of all NIH funded investigators in the world since 2012, according to the Blue Ridge Institute.


Dr. Bruner has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 16 books/book chapters. She has served as editor-in-chief of one book and three editions of an ONS Guidelines Manual for radiation oncology nursing. Her articles have been published in a number of leading journals including the Journal of the America Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics and Cancer and the Oncology Nursing Forum.

  • PublicationsPublication Date


Dr. Bruner has been honored with university awards in research and mentorship including national awards such as the Excellence in Radiation Oncology, Oncology Nursing Society/Varian Nursing Award and the Linda Hunter Quality of Life Lecture, Society of Gynecologic Nurse Oncologists, and international awards such as Best New Investigator, International Society for Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research, Poster Presentation. She has received the Oncology Nursing Society Distinguished Researcher Award. She has also been inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International's Nurse Researcher Hall of Fame. 

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