Dr. Thompson is co-director of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Melanoma Clinic and widely respected as a leading medical oncologist who has developed better approaches to diagnosing and treating melanoma and kidney cancer.
Providing top quality care with a positive attitude.
Immunotherapy; activated lymphocytes and cytokines; melanoma; kidney cancer
- Director, Phase I Clinical Trials Program, SCCA
- Co-Director, Melanoma Clinic, SCCA
- Professor, Medical Oncology Division, UW School of Medicine
- Member, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- University of Alabama, 1979
- Internship and residency: University of Washington, Internal Medicine, 1979-1982
- Fellowship: University of Washington, Oncology, 1982-1985
John Thompson grew up in Alabama. While still in high school he began to see medicine as an inspiring profession. “Once I reached college, I became seriously interested in becoming a doctor,” says Dr. Thompson. He followed his University of Alabama medical degree with a residency at University of Washington Medical Center, finishing up as chief resident at Providence Medical Center.
“I became interested in medical oncology during my internal medicine residency,” he says. “I was inspired by the work of oncologists and the science of cancer and treatment.” His UW Medical Center fellowship in medical oncology helped Dr. Thompson develop the level of expertise his patients benefit from today.
He is respected as an exceptional medical oncologist and has accomplished a great deal while working hard at his overall professional goal: to develop better approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma and kidney cancer. He is passionately committed to providing leading-edge care to his patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
It’s all about his patients
Dr. Thompson is very clear about his clinical goals. “My major goals with patients are to assist in establishing a clear diagnosis, educate them about the natural history of melanoma or kidney cancer as it affects them, and develop a treatment plan based on good science that is agreeable to my patients.”
Educating oneself about an illness can be daunting. Sorting through all the available cancer information takes patience and time. One of Dr. Thompson’s roles as an oncology specialist is helping his patients and their families understand the flood of unfiltered information in the news and on the Internet that can easily overload them.
“I help them sift through the data and find what’s useful,” he says. Patients often feel relieved when they can narrow down their information base, let that part of treatment rest a while, and spend more time and energy taking care of themselves, he says.
Dr. Thompson says he doesn’t do his job in isolation. He relies on his team of nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, social workers, registered dietitians, and other cancer specialists. “The notion of teamwork becomes very important where cancer patients are concerned,” says Dr. Thompson.
“An attractive feature of working at SCCA is my ability to have dual careers,” Dr. Thompson says. “I have the thrill of discovery and can see the significance of our work when I see it as part of treatment. Our research creates hope and possibility.”
He leads clinical research efforts focusing on novel therapies such as cancer immunotherapy, specially activated lymphocytes and cytokines, and the use of stem cell transplants for kidney cancer and melanoma. “Cytokines are molecules that stimulate a person’s immune system to harness his or her immune cells to fight cancer,” explains Dr. Thompson. One goal is to find faster, better ways to isolate and grow tumor-specific T cells and to develop ways to get rid of tumors without increasing side effects.
T cell and cytokines investigations, as well as earlier work with gene therapy, are subjects of the more than 100 scientific articles Dr. Thompson has authored or co-authored on cancer treatment. He has also written 10 book chapters, and reviews of state-of-the-art research and cancer treatment.
Affiliations and representation
Dr. Thompson is active on many boards, committees, and professional associations that represent melanoma and kidney cancer patients. His work at SCCA and his participation in outside organizations helps shape the course of innovative cancer treatment.
A short list of his professional participation includes the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, American Joint Committee on Cancer, the Cytokine Working Group, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Southwest Oncology Group. He is also past president of the Washington State Medical Oncology Society, and on the medical advisory board of the National Kidney Cancer Association.
When not busy with research, patient care or professional meetings, Dr. Thompson sometimes gets in a round of golf. But a good deal of his time off is family time, often spent with his wife cheering for their three children at their soccer and baseball games.
As they engage in team sports, Dr. Thompson’s children are developing some of those same skills and values he uses in his work that inspire others: pay attention to your teammates, work your hardest, and share the lessons of losing and the sweet success when your team wins.