David G. Pfister, MD
Chief, Head and Neck Oncology Service; Associate Deputy Physician-in-Chief, Strategic Partnerships
Head and Neck Cancers (Larynx/Upper Aerodigestive, Thyroid, Salivary Gland, Skin); Lung Cancer; Genitourinary Malignancies; Larynx/Organ-Preserving Therapies; Immunotherapy; Outcomes Research
New Patient Appointments
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Dr. Pfister accepts the following list of insurance providers. Select your insurance provider to see more details.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with Aetna HMO, POS, and PPO plans. Aetna does not include us in any of the plans you can purchase through the insurance exchanges or through Medicare. Please ask your insurance if you need a one-time referral. MSK has an agreement with the Aetna Transplant Program for all Aetna's commercial products.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Blue Distinction Center for bone marrow transplant and CAR-T.
We understand that there may be many complexities involved with insurance coverage purchased through the health exchange network of the Affordable Care Act. We’re here to help. If you have questions about how your care will be covered by an insurance provider, or need help navigating a change in coverage, please call us at 646-227-3378; if you are not a resident of New York, you can call us at 866-248-1274. Our team is here to listen to your concerns and assist you in any way we can. We want our care to be as accessible and affordable for as many people as possible.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with CIGNA's HMO, POS, and PPO plans. CIGNA does not include us in any of the plans you can buy through the insurance exchanges.
- If you are a New York State resident: Please ask your insurance if you need a one-time referral.
- If you live outside of New York State: Please ask your insurance if you have in-network access to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with EmblemHealth’s PPO, EPO, POS, HMO plans. EmblemHealth includes GHI, HIP, Vytra, and ConnecticCare (in NYS Only). You must bring a referral from your Emblem primary care doctor to your first appointment. In-network participation exceptions include:
- Emblem’s HIP Commercial Millennium, Select Care and Enhanced Care Prime networks is not in-network with Memorial Sloan Kettering.
- Please call Emblem to confirm if your specific plan is in-network.
For information regarding Memorial Sloan Kettering’s participation with Emblem’s Medicare Advantage Plans, please refer to the Medicare & Medicaid page
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield (Wellpoint) of New York Indemnity, HMO, EPO, PPO, POS and Medicare Advantage plans, with the following exceptions:
- Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield does not include us in any of the plans you can buy through the insurance exchanges.
- Please call Empire BCBS to confirm if your specific plan is in-network with Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with HealthFirst’s commercial products; these commercial products are not purchased on the insurance exchanges.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with HealthSmart’s Accel, HSPC, and HPO networks.
For our NJ locations, Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with most Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey plans for individuals, families, and small businesses. Horizon members with Blue Card Access (there would be a suitcase logo on the front of the card) may have access to our NY locations. Please call Horizon to confirm if your plan is in-network in NY.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by Humana.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by Interlink Health Services.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by Lifetrac.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider for all MagnaCare health plans except those products you can buy through the insurance exchanges.
For information about Medicare and Medicaid, please visit this page
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with some Multiplan/Beech Street/PHCS plans. Contact your insurance carrier to find out if your plan provides in-network access to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by Multiplan.
If you are covered by more than one insurance plan, you will want to determine your benefits from both plans. First, you need to determine which one is your primary insurance provider by contacting your employee benefits office or your insurance carriers. After you find out which is your primary insurance provider, you should then contact your insurance carrier to determine if you have access to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with some MVP plans. Contact your insurance carrier to find out if your plan provides in-network access to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider for New York State employees who have enrolled in UnitedHealthcare's Cancer Resource Services. If you have the Empire Plan, you should call Cancer Resources Services at 866-936-6002 to verify and enroll in this coverage.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is in-network with Oscar’s Circle Plus Network, a part of its Small Group Broad line that is offered only to select small business groups. Oscar does not include Memorial Sloan Kettering as an in-network provider for any of its individual plans. Please confirm eligibility with your insurance carrier.
Most Blue Cross Blue Shield plans include Memorial Sloan Kettering as an in-network provider. Contact your insurance company to confirm if Memorial Sloan Kettering is in-network.
We have agreements with several insurance companies that may provide additional coverage for cancer patients. These benefit programs include:
- AXA Assistance USA
- Beech Street
- Integrated Health Plans
- National Health Administrators
- National Preferred Provider Network
- UnitedHealthcare's Cancer Resource Services
- United Resource Network
- Veterans Choice Program
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with Oxford’s Freedom and Liberty plans as well as the Metro Plan (which is only offered to small business groups and no longer offered as individual plans). Please confirm with your insurance if you need a one-time referral. Note: Oxford’s Medicare Managed Care plan — Secure Horizon — does not include Memorial Sloan Kettering as an in-network provider. Oxford does not include us in any of the plans you can buy through the insurance exchanges.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with the World Trade Center Health Program.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with QualCare's PPO and HMO/POS network.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by Specialty Care Management.
Hospital and physician services may be covered by TRICARE. Please call your TRICARE plan to confirm coverage at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is an in-network provider with UnitedHealthCare's HMO, POS, and PPO plans. Please confirm with your insurance if a one-time referral is needed.
UnitedHealthCare's Medicare Managed Care plan does not include Memorial Sloan Kettering as an in-network provider.
United does not include us in any of the plans you can buy through the insurance exchanges.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is a designated Center of Excellence by UnitedHealthcare.
Contact and Location
Memorial Sloan Kettering has locations throughout New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, and Westchester. These locations offer many services, including screening, chemotherapy, and medical testing.
MD, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Internal Medicine - Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Clinical Epidemiology/Internal Medicine - Yale-New Haven Hospital/Yale University School of Medicine; Medical Oncology and Hematology - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Medicine - Weill Cornell Medical College
Internal Medicine; Medical Oncology
I am a medical oncologist with more than 20 years of experience in treating patients with a broad spectrum of head and neck malignancies including tumors of the mouth, throat, thyroid, salivary glands, and skin. For these years of service, I was honored to receive Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Willet F. Whitmore Award for Clinical Excellence in 2011.
As Chief of the Head and Neck Oncology Service and Co-Leader of our multidisciplinary disease management team, I work closely with an esteemed and highly coordinated group of medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to provide our patients with the very best care possible.
Collaborative, multidisciplinary care is especially important for cancers of the head and neck because, generally speaking, treatment not only involves a potentially deadly disease but also issues related to physical appearance, function, and quality of life. An approach that I pioneered with Memorial Sloan Kettering colleagues — known as combined modality organ preservation therapy — uses a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to avoid certain surgical procedures feared by patients such as removal of the voice box, with the intent of preserving function and cosmetic appearance without compromising survival.
My current research is focused on evaluating new forms of chemotherapy called targeted therapies, which selectively kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. I am also developing customized combined modality therapies based on prognostic risk, and assessing healthcare outcomes.
I have published extensively, previously serving as an associate editor for Clinical Cancer Research and on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and have been principal investigator on multiple studies.
In addition to being a member of the board of directors for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, I chair the organization’s head and neck cancer practice guidelines panel. I am also on the board of directors for the International Thyroid Oncology Group, and am co-chair of the Head and Neck Cancer Recurrent/Metastatic Disease Task Force at the National Cancer Institute. Here at Memorial Sloan Kettering, I chair the Committee on Metrics of Care Quality and Outcome.
Awards and Honors
- Castle Connolly: New York Magazine Top Doctors (2005-2008, 2010-2018)
MSK Ranked #1 Center for Ear, Nose, and Throat Care
- Clinical Trials Co-Investigated by Dr. Pfister
- A Phase I/II Study of Tipifarnib and Alpelisib in People with Head and Neck Cancer
- A Phase I/IIA Study of PLX8394 in Patients with Advanced Inoperable Solid Tumors
- A Phase IB Study of Vemurafenib plus Copanlisib to Enhance Response to Radioiodine Therapy in People with Thyroid Cancer
- A Phase II Study of Lenvatinib and Pembrolizumab Immunotherapy in People with Advanced Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma and Other Salivary Gland Cancers
- A Phase II Study of PDR001 Combination Therapy for Radioiodine-Resistant Thyroid Cancer
- A Phase III Study of Cemiplimab Immunotherapy versus Placebo to Reduce the Risk of Cancer Recurrence after Surgery and Radiation Therapy in Patients with High-Risk Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- A Pilot Study of Cemiplimab Immunotherapy Combined with Dabrafenib and Trametinib in People with Persistent Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
- A Pilot Study of Presurgical Cemiplimab with Chemotherapy and Cetuximab in Patients with Head and Neck Cancer
- A Study of Tipifarnib in Patients with Head and Neck Cancers with HRAS Mutations
Memorial Sloan Kettering's doctors and scientists are constantly developing new treatments for cancer. MSK is typically running hundreds of clinical trials at a given time.
You may be able to participate in a clinical trial even if you are new to MSK. Search our online directory to find trial information and see more about who can participate.
Research and Publications
Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Pfister’s journal articles. Pubmed is an online index of research papers and other articles from the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
Doctors and faculty members often work with pharmaceutical, device, biotechnology, and life sciences companies, and other organizations outside of MSK, to find safe and effective cancer treatments, to improve patient care, and to educate the health care community.
MSK requires doctors and faculty members to report (“disclose”) the relationships and financial interests they have with external entities. As a commitment to transparency with our community, we make that information available to the public.
David G. Pfister discloses the following relationships and financial interests:
National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Fiduciary Role/Position; Provision of Services (uncompensated)
If you’re a patient at MSK and would like more information about your doctor’s external relationships, please talk with your doctor.
The information published here is for a specific annual disclosure period. There may be differences between information on this and other public sites as a result of different reporting periods and/or the various ways relationships and financial interests are categorized by organizations that publish such data.
This page and data include information for a specific MSK annual disclosure period (January 1, 2020 through disclosure submission in spring 2021). This data reflects interests that may or may not still exist. This data is updated annually.