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Kenneth James Pienta, MD

Director of Research, The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute
Professor of Urology

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Main Location

Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

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  • Director of Research, The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute
  • Professor of Urology
  • Professor of Oncology

Centers & Institutes

  • James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute
  • Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center


Medical Oncology

Research Interests

Ecology of cancer; Tumor microenvironment; Metastasis; Biomarker development; Novel therapeutic development


Dr. Kenneth Pienta is the Donald S. Coffey Professor of Urology and a professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He also holds an appointment in the department of pharmacology and molecular sciences. He is an internationally recognized leader in prostate cancer research and translational science. Dr. Pienta serves as the director of research for the Brady Urological Institute.

Dr. Pienta has a proven, peer-reviewed track record in organizing and administering a translational research program that successfully incorporates bench research, agent development and clinical application. He has international expertise in the development of novel chemotherapeutic programs for prostate cancer and has championed the concept that translational research is often best accomplished by multi-disciplinary teams of scientists and clinicians. Under his direction, the success of these endeavors led to the receipt of the first annual American Association for Cancer Research Team Science Award in 2007.

Dr. Pienta received his B.A. in human biology from the Johns Hopkins University. He earned his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and performed a fellowship in oncology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Dr. Pienta was the associate vice president for research, health sciences for the University of the Michigan from 2012 to 2013 and director of precision medicine for the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology from 2008 to 2013. He joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 2013.

Dr. Pienta''s research interests include the ecology of cancer, tumor microenvironment, metastasis, biomarker development and novel therapeutic development.

Dr. Pienta is a two-time American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor Award recipient. He holds several patents, has authored more than 350 peer-reviewed articles and has been the principle investigator on numerous local and national clinical trials.


  • English


European Association for Cancer Research, 2012–present

Society for Clinical and Translational Science, 2009–present

International Bone and Mineral Society, 2008–present

Central Society for Clinical Research, 2006–present

American Society of Clinical Investigators, 2005–present

Metastasis Research Society, 2005–present

Society of Basic Urologic Research, 2004–present

Society of Urologic Oncology, 2000–present

American College of Physicians, 1995–present

American Urologic Association, 1991–present

American Association of Cancer Research, 1991–present

American Society of Clinical Oncologists, 1991–present

Additional Resources +
  • Education +


    • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Baltimore MD) (1986)


    • University of Chicago Hospitals / Internal Medicine (Chicago IL) (1988)


    • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine / Oncology (Baltimore MD) (1991)


    • American Board of Internal Medicine / Medical Oncology (2011)
  • Research & Publications +

    Research Summary

    Dr. Pienta's laboratory has championed the concept that cancer tumorigenesis and metastasis can best be understood utilizing the principles of ecology. Ecologists have studied the population biology of invasive species for decades and have documented their impact on local environments as well as the global ecosystem as a whole. Invasive species start as a native population within a defined community and are then transported by some means to a new environment. In this new environment, the invader either dies off or enters a period of time during which it establishes itself (lag period). It then begins to spread and have an impact on the local environment, disrupting the ecosystem as a whole. This disruption has broad implications for the native species and the broader ecosystem. Biologic traits that result in a robust invasive species include rapid proliferative capacity, adaptation to environmental stress (phenotypic plasticity) and high tolerance to environmental heterogeneity.

    The life cycle of invasive species is directly analogous to the study of cancer metastasis. Cancer must grow in a primary site, extravasate and survive in the circulation to then intravasate at a target organ (invasive species survival in transport). Cancer cells often lay dormant at their metastatic site for a long period of time (lag period) before proliferating (invasive spread). Proliferation in the new site has an impact on the target organ microenvironment (ecological impact) and eventually the human host (biosphere impact). Successful treatment of cancer with a single agent is rarely enough to cure a patient without strategically modifying the support systems conducive to survival of cancer. The Pienta laboratory works to develop new treatments for cancer utilizing network disruption.

    Selected Publications View all on PubMed

    1. Camacho DF, Pienta KJ. “A multi–targeted approach to treating bone metastases.” Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2014 Jan 4.
    2. Stoyanova T, Cooper AR, Drake JM, Liu X, Armstrong AJ, Pienta KJ, Zhang H, Kohn DB, Huang J, Witte ON, Goldstein AS. “Prostate cancer originating in basal cells progresses to adenocarcinoma propagated by luminal–like cells.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013 Dec 10;110(50):20111–6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1320565110. Epub 2013 Nov 26.
    3. Pienta KJ, Walia G, Simons JW, Soule HR. “Beyond the androgen receptor: New approaches to treating metastatic prostate cancer. Report of the 2013 Prouts Neck Prostate Cancer Meeting.” Prostate. 2014 Feb;74(3):314–20. doi: 10.1002/pros.22753.
    4. Drake JM, Graham NA, Lee JK, Stoyanova T, Faltermeier CM, Sud S, Titz B, Huang J, Pienta KJ, Graeber TG, Witte ON. “Metastatic castration–resistant prostate cancer reveals intrapatient similarity and interpatient heterogeneity of therapeutic kinase targets.” Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013 Dec 3;110(49):E4762–9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1319948110. Epub 2013 Nov 18.
    5. Robinson DR, Wu YM, Vats P, Su F, Lonigro RJ, Cao X, Kalyana–Sundaram S, Wang R, Ning Y, Hodges L, Gursky A, Siddiqui J, Tomlins SA, Roychowdhury S, Pienta KJ, Kim SY, Roberts JS, Rae JM, Van Poznak CH, Hayes DF, Chugh R, Kunju LP, Talpaz M, Schott AF, Chinnaiyan AM. “Activating ESR1 mutations in hormone–resistant metastatic breast cancer.” Nat Genet. 2013 Dec;45(12):1446–51. doi: 10.1038/ng.2823. Epub 2013 Nov 3.
  • Academic Affiliations & Courses +
  • Activities & Honors +


    Top 1% of physicians, U.S. News and World Report, 2012

    Alfred Taubman Scholar Award, Taubman Medical Research Institute, University of Michigan, 2011–2014

    Strathmore''s Who’s Who, 2012

    "League of Research Excellence," University of Michigan Medical School, 2011

    Society of Scholars of the Johns Hopkins University, 2011

    "Who''s Who in Healthcare – Montclair Who''s Who," 2010–2011

    Prostate Cancer Foundation Core Values Award, 2009

    Distinguished Mentor of the Year Award, American Urological Association, 2009

    "Patients'' Choice Award," 2008–2011

    "America''s Top Doctors for Cancer," 2006–2012

    "Best Doctors in America," 2008–2012

    "America''s Top Doctors," 2005–2012

    American Association for Cancer Research Team Science Award, 2007

    American Society of Clinical Investigators, 2005

    Research Award, Prostate Cancer Foundation, 2004–2008

    Clinical Research Professorship Award, American Cancer Society, 2003–

    Research Award, Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate, 1999–2003

    A Leading Faculty Educator, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, 1999

    The Rena Schechter Memorial Lecturer in Cancer Research, Washington University School of Medicine, 1998

    Research Award, Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate, 1993–1998

    Diplomat, The American Board of Internal Medicine, 1990

    Clinical Investigator, The American Board of Internal Medicine, 1988–1992

    Alpha Omega Alpha, 1988

    Student Scholar, American Urological Association, 1985

    Henry Strong Denison Scholar, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 1983–1984

    The Johns Hopkins University Student Summer Research Fellowship, 1982–1983

    Professional Activities

    Editorial Board, Prostate Cancer, CollabRx, 2013–present

    Board of Directors, Curis, Inc., 2013–present

    Co-Investigator, Princeton Physical Sciences Oncology Center, 2013–present

    National Cancer Advisory Board, Frederick National Labs, 2012–2016

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    Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
    401 N. Broadway
    Baltimore, MD 21231
    Phone: 410-955-8964
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