Johns Hopkins Prostate Cancer Specialist William Nelson To Head Institution Cancer Center
William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., a member of The Johns Hopkins University 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 fellow 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, Dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine Edward Miller, M.D., said 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.”
Before being named director, Nelson served as Associate Director for Translational Research and the 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. Dean 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 took a stint briefly 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 be 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 at Johns Hopkins, Nelson says 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 a Bachelor’s of Arts degree from Yale University in 1980 and, in 1987, earned his medical degree and Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins, where he also completed an Internal Medicine residency and Medical Oncology fellowship.
Nelson was born in Philadelphia but raised in Town & Country, Missouri, where he was elected to his high school’s hall of fame along with Stone Phillips of Dateline NBC. He is one of four boys born to William Nelson, an economist and software CEO, and Linda Nelson, a behavioral scientist. Nelson resides in Baltimore with Julia Ro, who works in film and video, and has two children, Kate, a senior at Yale University, and Sara, a senior in high school.
Nelson’s appointment will be officially marked at a ceremony in the Cancer Center’s clinical facility, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, on December 5. At that time, he also will be installed as the Marion I. Knott Director and Professor of Oncology.
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins is one of 41 centers in the United States to hold a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. As such, it ranks among the top centers in the nation conducting basic and clinical cancer research, providing advanced patient care and serving the community through outreach and education programs.