Robert P. Witherspoon, MD
Innovative Therapies Provide Hope
“I think I became interested in being a doctor by my pediatrician’s example,” says Dr. Witherspoon, medical director for the SCCA Transplant Clinic, Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and professor of medicine at the University of Washington. “I was 11 or 12 years old and it was on my radar screen, higher than other types of jobs,” he says.
Interested in science from the start, Dr. Witherspoon has always been intrigued by the workings of the human body. “Oncology came later, when I was in medical school,” he says.
“In 1958, Drs. Francis Crick and James Watson were publishing their work on the molecular biology of DNA. I recall thinking how exciting it would be to use that information in my working lifetime,” Dr. Witherspoon says.
When he started out as a trainee at the Hutchinson Center, there were no cures for leukemia, but it was not long before Dr. Don Thomas showed that leukemia could be cured by bone marrow transplantation. “The evolutions of the science are now being put to use,” says Dr. Witherspoon. “Small molecule therapies based on principals of changing cell growth are being used and treatment toxicities aren’t as bad as years ago.”
There is excitement in the field of oncology now as new therapies are being developed that will block the effects of kinases, enzymes that are related to cell division. “This could be a huge advance and have a common effect on many tumors,” Dr. Witherspoon says.
Patient care philosophy
“For me, there is great satisfaction in bringing hope to patients with cancer by informing them of the accomplishments made through innovative therapies in clinical research and then helping them through the process of treatment,” says Dr. Witherspoon. “I enjoy communicating the complexities of treatment with people in a way that they can understand.”
“Every patient is a new person with a new spirit in a new context. People keep it fresh for me. Also, I haven’t seen everything there is to see,” he says.
When he isn’t taking care of patients, running the clinic, or conducting research, Dr. Witherspoon can be found practicing his French horn, which he plays for the Lake Union Civic Orchestra.
Robert P. Witherspoon, MDDr. Witherspoon is the Transplant Clinic Medical Director. He is a medical oncologist and an expert at bone-marrow transplantation for treatment of hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic disease.
Patient Care Philosophy:
For me there is great satisfaction in bringing hope to patients with cancer by informing them of the accomplishments made through innovative therapies in clinical research, and then helping them through the process of treatment.
- Member, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- Professor, Medical Oncology Division, University of Washington School of Medicine
- Transplant Clinic Medical Director, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Bone marrow transplantation for treatment of hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic disease; Immunologic recovery, graft-versus-host disease clinical trials, supportive care, secondary malignancies, and long-term outcomes following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Treatment strategies for treatment-related myelodysplasia and leukemia.
Education And Training
- Baylor University, 1970
- Baylor College of Medicine, 1970
For more information about Dr. Robert P. Witherspoon's clinical and research expertise, click here.