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Karen E. Knudsen      

CEO of the American Cancer Society

Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM. As a well-respected cancer leader, researcher, and advocate, Dr. Knudsen guides both organizations toward the goal of improving the lives of cancer patients and their families. She is the first woman to officially serve as CEO, the first basic scientist, and the first former director of a nationally-recognized cancer center to lead the organization.

Under Dr. Knudsen, ACS has adopted a tripartite strategy to improve lives, resting on the pillars of discovery, advocacy, and patient support. In the discovery pillar, ACS is the largest non-profit funder of cancer research outside the US government, generating breakthroughs in cancer prevention, detection, and treatment that has helped to reduce cancer mortality by 33% since 1991. The advocacy arm functions at the state and national level to provide access to these breakthroughs and to end cancer disparities through legislation and policy change. ACS patient support teams work in 5,000 communities across the country to provide patient education, navigation, transportation, and lodging near cancer care. Forbes magazine named Dr. Knudsen to its "50 Over 50" list in 2023 in recognition of the impact she has made.

Prior to joining ACS, Dr. Knudsen served as Executive Vice President of Oncology Services for Jefferson Health and Enterprise Director of the nationally reconized Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Dr. Knudsen is well known for her practice-changing discoveries in prostate cancer, contributing to new, effective cancer treatments.

In addition to leading ACS, Dr. Knudsen holds a number of thought leadership roles across the nation, serving on the board of advisors for the National Cancer Institute, and on 12 external advisory boards for NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. She is an active member of several committees with the American Society for Clinical Oncology, in addition to serving on other academic and for-profit advisory boards.

Dr. Knudsen holds a bachelor's degree in biology from George Washington University; a PhD in biological sciences from the University of California San Diego; and an MBA from Temple University Fox School of Business.

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