Attention to providers' communication skills is likely to increase, given the confluence of forces that have highlighted the importance of communication in healthcare. In the United States, interpersonal and communication skills have been explicitly identified as a priority throughout the continuum of medical education and practice. Ideally, theory and research inform teaching and assessment efforts by suggesting how communication behavior affects outcomes and by providing a conceptual framework for learning skills. This article illustrates the interplay between education and research by discussing examples of useful concepts (models of communication, issues of perceived control, and patterns of non-verbal communication) and understudied topics (physician verbalizations during patients' initial narratives, the mundane aspects of communication in healthcare, conceptual and operational definitions of empathy, and the effect of patient narratives on both patients and providers). Given the breadth and depth of experience, from screening and prevention to treatment and support, the context of cancer offers a promising laboratory for enhancing both education and research about provider-patient communication.