Mission, Vision, History and Milestones


To prevent cancer in the community and transform cancer patient care through scientific discovery.


World leaders in cancer care – one patient at a time.

Our History and Key Milestones

1905: St. Louis Skin and Cancer Hospital is founded to provide free cancer care for the underserved. The hospital is later renamed “Barnard Free Skin and Cancer Hospital,” which eventually becomes part of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

1930: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) is established with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the family of Edward Mallinckrodt, Sr.

1933: Evarts A. Graham, MD, performs the world’s first successful surgical lung removal.

1941: WUSM receives the first cyclotron installed at a U.S. academic medical center.

1950: Evarts A. Graham, MD, and medical student Ernst Wynder publish a landmark study that provides the first evidence linking smoking and lung cancer.

Evarts Graham, MD
At a time when ads featuring imaginary doctors claimed bogus health benefits to smokers, Evarts A. Graham, MD, chairman of the Department of Surgery at Washington University from 1919-1951, used his smoking machine to establish the damaging effects of tobacco use.

1963: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology installs the Picker Cobalt 60, one of the country’s first high-energy linear accelerator units used to treat cancers, especially of the head and neck.

 1966: Carlos Perez, MD, initiates a program for the training of radiation therapy technologists. This program, the first of its kind in the U.S., becomes nationally recognized for its standard of excellence.

1972:  Michel M. Ter-Pogossian, PhD; William Bernard, MD; and Henry G. Schwartz, MD, are among the first to use a short-lived radioactive tracer to locate brain tumors.

WUSM establishes one of the country’s first adult bone marrow transplant programs. Today, it is among the largest in the world.

Investigators at WUSM invent positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, which shows physiological activity rather than anatomical form.

Radiology clinicians and physicians produce a prototype linear accelerator–a precursor of today’s radiation therapy.

1974: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology joins forces with London-based EMI, Ltd. to develop the prototype of the first CT head scanner.

1977: The Cancer Information Center opens as the first facility in the country devoted to providing education and support for cancer patients and their families, becoming a national model. Now called the Barnard Health and Cancer Information Center, it serves more than 22,000 people each year.

1984: Michael J. Welch, PhD, and John Katzenellenbogen, PhD, (University of Illinois) develop fluoroestradiol (FES), the first radioactive form of estrogen used as a PET imaging agent for detecting breast cancer.

1986: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology implements its mobile mammography unit, the first in the St. Louis region and one of only five in the United States.

Virgil Loeb Jr., MD, is elected as national president of the American Cancer Society.

1988: Radiation oncology physicists led by James Purdy, PhD, develop a 3-D treatment planning system for cancer.

1989: William J. Catalona, MD, initiates a landmark study that establishes the PSA blood test as an effective screening tool for prostate cancer.

1990: Stanley J. Korsmeyer, MD, uncovers an important new mechanism for cancer development with the discovery that the gene “bcl-2” blocks the naturally occurring cell suicide process known as “programmed cell death.” This work led to a Nobel Prize.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) establishes a Human Genome Center at WUSM under the direction of David Schlessinger, PhD.

Ralph V. Clayman, MD, Lou Kavoussi, MD, and Nathaniel J. Soper, MD, perform the world’s first laparoscopic kidney removal to treat renal cancer.

1991: Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology opens St. Louis’ first 3-D cancer treatment planning center. This technique allows physicians to tailor radiation therapy while minimizing damage to normal tissues.

Urologic surgeons at Washington University publish a study establishing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) as a screening test for prostate cancer, and later lead the Prostate Cancer Intervention Versus Observation Trial, or PIVOT, one of the largest and longest involving cancer patients.

1993: Robert H. Waterston, MD, PhD, and colleagues receive a $42 million grant from the NIH to continue sequencing the genome of the roundworm. Scientists are interested in its genetic makeup because 40 percent of its genes are similar to those of humans.

Washington University School of Medicine is named one of nine sites in the U.S. invited to participate in the largest randomized cancer screening study ever undertaken for prostate, lung, colorectal and ovarian cancers (PLCO study).

1994: A blood test is developed to detect a thyroid cancer gene mutation, which allows for the first surgical prevention of cancer via thyroid removal.

Lee Ratner, MD, is the first to develop an infectious molecular clone of a human T-cell leukemia virus.

1997: Timothy J. Ley, MD, and colleagues develop a mouse model of promyelocytic leukemia.

1998: Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, and colleagues develop a mouse model of prostate cancer.

Radiation oncology acquires the Gamma Knife, one of only 36 in the U.S. that administers very precise high doses of radiation to treat inoperable brain tumors.

Ralph G. Dacey, MD, performs the world’s first brain surgery using magnetic stereotaxis to biopsy a brain tumor. This technique uses magnetic fields to precisely manipulate surgical tools within the brain.

1999: Alvin and Ruth Siteman’s gift of $35 million establishes the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Alvin J. Siteman and Siteman Cancer Center Director Timothy Eberlein, MD
Alvin J. Siteman and Siteman Cancer Center Director Timothy Eberlein, MD.

Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, is named director of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

Siteman Cancer Center investigators participate in the STAR (Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene) trial, one of the largest breast cancer prevention studies ever conducted in the U.S.

The NIH awards $218.4 million to the Genome Sequencing Center–the largest grant in Washington University’s history.

The Genome Sequencing Center completes the sequence of one-third of the human genome. The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, which includes Washington University, publishes a nearly complete sequence of the human genome. This landmark achievement will have a profound impact on the understanding of disease, including cancer.

Washington University radiation oncologists are instrumental in developing the world’s first big bore CT scanner, featuring an 85-centimeter bore to allow for better positioning and imaging for patients with immobilization devices. Today, it is the de facto standard for real-time simulation and CT imaging.

2001: Robert D. Schreiber, PhD, and colleagues publish the first conclusive evidence that the immune system helps prevent tumor formation.

The 14-story Center for Advanced Medicine opens. The building consolidates the cancer-related outpatient services of WUSM and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and houses the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

The Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center is named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Center, the only one within a 240-mile radius of St. Louis. The NCI is the principal federal institute that funds cancer research.

2004: Siteman Cancer Center establishes a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility, one of only a handful in U.S. academic medical centers and the first to be built in partnership with the FDA. The GMP facility produces clinical-grade cellular and biological products for clinical research.

Siteman Cancer Center is awarded the prestigious Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the NCI, placing Siteman among the most highly ranked cancer institutions in the nation.

2005: The Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center brings world-class care to St. Charles County by opening a new center at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital.

2006: Siteman Cancer Center is selected to join the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of the world’s premier cancer centers, charged with setting the standard for cancer care.

2007: BJC Institute of Health at Washington University is established. The Institute will house the Center for Cancer Biology as part of BioMed 21, the University’s innovative research initiative designed to speed scientific discovery and breakthroughs to patient care.

2008: The Institute for Public Health at Washington University is established through a partnership of Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

Timothy J. Ley, MD; Elaine Mardis, PhD; and Richard Wilson, PhD, working in conjunction with many colleagues at The Genome Center and Siteman Cancer Center, sequence the first human cancer genome from a patient with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), as published in Nature.

Siteman Cancer Center expands services at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital by increasing chemotherapy services, adding radiation oncology therapy and integrating surgical services.

2009: The 24/7 cancer care center opens in the Schoenberg Pavilion, providing urgent care for Siteman Cancer Center patients.

Siteman Cancer Center is awarded a Specialized Program of Research Excellence Grant (SPORE) from the NCI to study endometrial cancer.  This is the first SPORE awarded to the Washington University School of Medicine and the first ever dedicated to endometrial cancer.

Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center urologists partner with Envisioneering Medical Technologies to develop TargetScan Touch, a stereotactic prostate biopsy and treatment system.

2010: Siteman Cancer Center is re-certified as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, recognizing its scientific excellence, delivering medical advances to patients and their families, educating health care professionals and the public, and reaching out to underserved populations.

2011: Siteman Cancer Center performs its 5,000th bone marrow transplant, placing it among the top five cancer centers in the United States.

2013: Siteman Cancer Center-South County opens.

The Kling Center for Proton Therapy, the first single-vault proton therapy center in the country, opens at Siteman Cancer Center’s main campus. Proton beam radiation is a highly precise form of therapy that delivers radiation especially suited to cancers that occur in close proximity to critical tissues, such as the brain, eye or spinal cord.

proton beam
The S. Lee Kling Proton Beam Center at Siteman Cancer Center.

2014: Construction begins on a 12-story inpatient tower at Siteman Cancer Center’s main campus. Siteman will consolidate and expand clinical care and develop space for other surgical services and programs on five floors of the building, which is scheduled for completion by early 2018.

Kelle Moley, MD, is elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors medical scientists in the U.S. can receive.

The world’s first MRI-guided radiation therapy treatment is performed at Siteman Cancer Center. The treatment technique allows tumors to be visualized and treatment adapted.

2015: Siteman Cancer Center research member Elaine Mardis, PhD, is elected to the board of directors of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), one of the world’s oldest and largest cancer research organizations. Research member Timothy Ley, MD, is named to the National Cancer Advisory Board, which advises the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the director of the NCI and the president on the nation’s cancer program and reviews proposals awarded by the NCI.

Expansion begins at Siteman Cancer Center-South County and Siteman Cancer Center-St. Peters. The projects will add space for additional care providers, exam rooms and chemotherapy infusion stations.

The NCI awards Siteman an “exceptional” rating, based on a rigorous review of Siteman’s research programs. The rating, which accompanies Siteman’s re-certification as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, is the highest possible by the NCI.

2016: The Siteman-South County expansion is completed.

Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, is elected chairman of the board of directors of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), a not-for-profit alliance of 27 leading U.S. cancer centers devoted to patient care, research and education. Siteman is the only NCCN member institution in Missouri.

Siteman and St. Louis Children’s Hospital establish “Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital,” a partnership focused on caring for children and adolescents with cancer, using the latest, most effective treatments, in a setting geared to younger patients and their families.

The NCI awards Washington University researchers and physicians at Siteman a $10.4 million, five-year Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to lead a national group of experts in collaborative pancreatic cancer research. They are tasked with developing more effective chemotherapies, a vaccine and other new treatments for the deadliest form of the disease, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

2017: Siteman becomes one of the first cancer centers nationwide to offer the newly approved CAR-T cell therapy called Yescarta. At the heart of the new therapy are so-called T cells, which are part of a person’s immune system. Typically, T cells fight off disease. However, in cancer patients, T cells lose the ability to recognize and attack cancer cells. CAR-T cell therapy involves extracting a patient’s own T cells and supercharging them to home in on cancer cells and destroy them. 7

Siteman opens its fifth location, at Christian Hospital in north St. Louis County, in July and announces plans to move the outpatient clinic to Northwest HealthCare nearby upon completion of a new facility in 2019.

Siteman launches the Siteman Cancer Network, an affiliation with regional medical centers that is aimed at improving the health of individuals and communities through cancer research, treatment and prevention. Boone Hospital Center and its Stewart Cancer Center, both in Columbia, Missouri, are named the first affiliate.

Washington University physicians at Siteman perform their 7,500th bone marrow transplant. The adult bone marrow and stem cell transplant program, which began in 1982, is one of the largest in the world, performing nearly 500 transplants each year.

Siteman meets the standards of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx). An independent radiation oncology practice accreditation program, APEx is based on 16 evidence-based standards of radiation oncology practice, focused on these five areas: the process of care, the radiation oncology team, safety, quality management and patient-centered care.

The expanded Siteman Cancer Center-St. Peters reopens with nearly double the space the facility had when it first opened in 2005. The St. Peters location now also has a second linear accelerator for external beam radiation treatments.

2018: The state-of-the-art Parkview Tower opens on the Washington University Medical Campus, consolidating and expanding existing inpatient services and complementing outpatient care provided at Siteman’s five outpatient facilities. The tower also serves patients of Siteman Cancer Network affiliates.

The NCI awards Washington University researchers and physicians a second $11.3 million, five-year Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant to further high-level investigations into leukemia and related blood cancers.

Siteman announces it will build a second proton therapy system that will incorporate pencil-beam scanning. The newest form of the technology, it delivers extremely precise treatments of proton therapy for cancers of the head, chest, spine and other particularly sensitive areas, as well as pediatric cancers. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2019 and end in early 2020.

Phelps County Regional Medical Center and its Delbert Day Cancer Institute, both in Rolla, Mo., join the Siteman Cancer Network.

2019: Alton Memorial Hospital in Alton, Ill., joins the Siteman Cancer Network.

Siteman Cancer Center at Northwest HealthCare opens in north St. Louis County in affiliation with Christian Hospital.

2020: Siteman Cancer Center at Memorial Hospital East opens in Shiloh, Ill.

The Siteman Cancer Network welcomes its fourth member, SIH Cancer Institute, in Carterville, Ill.

2021: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and BJC HealthCare, the parent institutions of Siteman Cancer Center, begin work on a nine-story, 659,000-square-foot facility on the Washington University Medical Campus that will provide a central home for nearly all aspects of advanced outpatient cancer care, improving the experience and comfort for patients and their families.The Brain Tumor Center at Siteman is established. Combining the multidisciplinary expertise of physicians and scientists, the center provides leading-edge, patient-centric care for brain tumor patients while also developing transformative basic, translational and clinical research to develop new therapies and improve patient outcomes.

Work begins on the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center at Siteman to add the latest, most innovative technology. The center, which opened in 2013, is being upgraded to include two treatment units with pencil beam scanning technology. This enables the precise delivery of proton therapy to tumors while avoiding healthy organs nearby.