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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 10, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 11
Prostate Cancer Specialist William Nelson to Head Cancer Center

William Nelson

By Amy Mone
Johns Hopkins Medicine

William G. Nelson, a member of the School of Medicine faculty since 1992, has been selected to lead the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

Nelson, who specializes in prostate cancer genetics and treatment, is nationally known as a leader in translational cancer research who, with Johns Hopkins colleagues, discovered the most common genome alteration in prostate cancer. The discovery led to new diagnostic tests for the disease and has fueled interest in new drug discovery and other treatment options, now ongoing at Johns Hopkins.

In announcing the appointment, which followed a national search, Edward D. Miller, the Frances Watt Baker, M.D., and Lenox D. Baker Jr., M.D., Dean of the Medical Faculty and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that Nelson "has the energy and talent to ensure the cancer center's continued success as a leader in discovery and patient care, but also to face the scientific and administrative challenges that science and health care delivery face in the 21st century."

Nelson previously served as associate director for translational research and co-director of the Prostate Cancer Program. He has been in a leadership role for the partnership program with Howard University Cancer Center, which was created to build cancer research capabilities there and to enhance minority participation in cancer research. Miller added that Nelson has made a major contribution over many years to the success of the cancer center in his role as associate director for translational research.

He was one of three co-chairs of the National Cancer Institute's Translational Research Working Group, which re-engineered translational cancer science across the nation, and has been a member of the scientific advisory boards of several companies focused on the development of new technologies and treatments for human cancer. He is a member of the American Association of Cancer Research's board of directors, president of the National Coalition for Cancer Research and a member of the scientific advisory board of the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

Nelson enrolled at Yale University as a chemistry major with thoughts of a career in law but after graduating, briefly took a stint as a laboratory technician with Yale dermatologist and cell biologist Joseph McGuire. McGuire had begun early clinical trials of retinoid-based drugs for a rare skin disease in children, and Nelson's job was to further decipher the molecular biomarkers of the disease — research based on the field now called proteomics. That experience led to a life-changing commitment to medical research and set him on course for a career in medicine.

As the new director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Nelson said he will focus on continued growth of the center with clinical faculty recruitments and expanded research opportunities. "We have the perfect discovery engine within our cancer center and tremendous opportunities. This is a great place to be, and the right time to be here."

Nelson received his bachelor of arts degree from Yale in 1980 and in 1987 earned his medical degree and PhD at Johns Hopkins, where he also completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in medical oncology.

Nelson's appointment will be officially marked on Friday, Dec. 5, at a ceremony in the cancer center's clinical facility, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building. At that time, he also will be installed as the Marion I. Knott Director and Professor of Oncology.

Nelson succeeds Martin Abeloff, longtime director of the cancer center, who died in September 2007.


Related Web sites

Nelson podcast
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins


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