History and Organization of the WU Oncology Division

Hematology-Oncology at Washington University was established as the Hematology Division in 1938 by Carl V. Moore. Dr. Moore was the first, in a series of superb physician-scientists to lead the Hematology Division, which included Drs. Harrington, Majerus, Kornfield, helping to build one of the strongest hematologic research programs in the country.

A separate Division of Oncology was developed in 1994 under the guidance of the late Dr. Stanley Korsmeyer (June 8, 1951 – March 31, 2005), whose vision was to build a translational oncology program based on cutting basic cancer research. He established two divisions, recruiting Dr. Dan Ihde to lead the Medical Oncology division and Dr. John DiPersio to lead the
Bone marrow Transplant division.

Daniel Ihde, MD, a nationally recognized expert in lung cancer, was recruited from the National Cancer Institute, where he held the position of Deputy Director, to become the new Chief of the Division of Medical Oncology. John DiPersio, MD, PhD, a physician-scientist focusing on leukemia and transplantation biology, was recruited from the University of Rochester to become the new Chief of the Division of Bone Marrow Transplant. The combined faculty in both divisions numbered only eight, two in BMT and six in Medical Oncology. In 1997, Dr. Ihde moved to the Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and Dr. DiPersio was appointed the interim Chief of the Division of Medical Oncology. In 1999, the divisions of Bone Marrow Transplant and Medical Oncology were consolidated, and Dr. DiPersio was named the first Chief of Oncology at Washington University. Under Dr. DiPersio’s leadership, the Division of Oncology experienced tremendous growth, recruiting nearly 150 faculty and 1400 staff and building one of the top oncology programs in the country. Dr. DiPersio stepped down as Chief of Oncology late in 2022 to focus on his cellular immunotherapy research program. Dr. Daniel C. Link was named Chief of Oncology in 2022. Dr. Link is physician-scientist focusing on hematologic malignancies and leads the Leukemia SPORE at Washington University.

The Oncology division is organized into two large sections. Dr. Amanda Cashen leads the Hematologic Malignancy section, and Dr. Ramaswamy Govindan leads the Solid Tumor section. Our clinical teams are further organized based on cancer type, with disease groups in myeloid malignancies, lymphoma, myeloma, lung, breast, GI, GU, melanoma, brain, sarcoma, head and neck, and HIV-associated malignancies. We also have a large and expanding phase I program. Our basic/translational faculty are organized into four sections: stem cell biology, cellular therapy, computational biology, and molecular oncology. Recruitment, mentoring, and research activities are coordinated across all sections. Dr. Foluso (Bisi) Ademuyiwa serves as our Diversity and Equity Director to ensure that we maintain a supportive environment for our diverse faculty and staff. Dr. Saiama Waqar oversees educational activities in the division, working closely with our Hematology-Oncology fellowship leaders.

Major Achievements

Washington University Oncology faculty have made seminal contributions to our understanding and treatment of cancers.  A few key achievements are outlined below. 

Stanley Korsmeyer

Identification of BCL2 as a tumor suppressor that works by regulating apoptosis (Korsmeyer, Nature 1990; Cell 1993)

Timothy J. Ley
Tim Ley

Sequencing the first Cancer Genome (Ley, Nature 2008)

Identification of DNMT3A and other recurring mutations in AML (Ley, NEJM 2010)

Tim Graubert
Matthew J. Walter, MD
Matthew Walter

Identification of U2AF1 splicing factor mutations in myelodysplastic (Graubert and Walter, Nature Genetics, 2012)

Elaine Mardis
Matthew Ellis

Whole genome sequencing of primary human breast cancer (Ellis and Mardis, Nature 2012)

Daniel C. Link
Dan Link

Identification of distinct niches in the bone marrow (Link, Nature 2013)

Li Ding, PhD
Li Ding

First report of clonal hematopoiesis (Ding, Nature Medicine, 2014)

Gerald Linette

Development of dendritic vaccine therapy for melanoma (Linette, Science 2015)

Todd A. Fehniger, MD, PhD
Todd Fehniger

Development of memory-like NK cell immunotherapy (Fehniger, Sci Transl Med 2016; Cancer Discov 2020)

Eric Duncavage
David H. Spencer
David Spencer

Development of whole genome sequencing as clinical tool to evaluate myeloid malignancies (Duncavage and Spencer, NEJM 2021)

Govindan Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy Govindan

Genomic profiling of lung adenocarcinomas in never smokers (Govindan, JCO 2021)

Nancy Bartlett, MD
Nancy Bartlett

FDA approval of mosunetuzumab (CD20-CD3 bispecific) for relapsed/refractory B cell lymphoma (Bartlett, JCO 2022)

John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD
John DiPersio

Clinical development of CXRC4 antagonists (motixafortide) for stem cell mobilization (DiPersio, Nature Medicine 2023)

Li Ding, PhD
Li Ding

Epigenetic changes associate with changes in cancer cell transitions(Ding, Nature 2023)