William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Oncology, Medicine, Pathology, Pharmacology
and Molecular Sciences, Urology

Johns Hopkins Medicine
411 Marburg, Baltimore, MD 21287-24711

Appointments: 410-614-1661

Fax: 410-614-3695

Dr. Williams received a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. His thesis work involved the use of prostate cancer preclinical models to conduct some of the earliest solid tumor studies of Velcade: the first proteasome inhibitor in clinical use. Dr. Williams then went on to a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Under the guidance of Dr. Samuel Denmeade, Dr. Williams developed and characterized tumor-activated protoxins, and conducted studies of the role played by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the pathobiology of prostate cancer.

Since joining the faculty of the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute, Dr. Williams has established research projects that seek to better understand the biology of prostate cancer, including the following:

  1. Studies that further investigate how PSA influences prostate cancer progression.
  2. Investigations of non-canonical functions of Bcl-2.
  3. The development of improved preclinical models of prostate cancer disease progression.

The laboratory’s overall hypothesis is that a better understanding of prostate cancer’s biology, using clinically-relevant disease models, will lead to the discovery of new targets for therapy development.



  • 1980
      B.A., Chemistry, Yale University
      New Haven, CT
  • 1987
      M.D., The Johns Hopkins University
      School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
  • 1987
      Ph.D., Pharmacology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
      Baltimore, MD


  • 1987-88
      Intern, Osler Medical Service, Dept. of Internal Medicine
      The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 1988-89
      Resident, Osler Medical Service, Dept. of Internal Medicine
      The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 1989-91
      Senior Clinical Fellow, The Oncology Center
      The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


Free Access to abstracts at PubMed 


  1. Woodcock-Mitchell, J., Eichner, R., Nelson, W.G. and Sun, T.-T. Immunolocalization of keratin polypeptides in human epidermis using monoclonal antibodies. J. Cell Biol. 95: 580-588 (1982).
  2. Tseng, S.C.G., Jarvinen, M.J., Nelson, W.G., Huang, J.-W., Woodcock-Mitchell, J. and Sun, T.-T. Correlation of specific keratins with different types of epithelial differentiation: monoclonal antibody studies. Cell 30: 361-372 (1982).
  3. Sun, T.-T., Eichner, R., Nelson, W.G., Vidrich, A. and Woodcock-Mitchell, J. Keratin expression during normal epidermal differentiation. In Normal and Abnormal Epidermal Differentiation, Seiji, M. and Bernstein, I.A. (Eds.), University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo, pp. 277-291 (1982).
  4. Sun, T.-T., Eichner, R., Nelson, W.G., Tseng, S.C.G., Weiss, R.A., Jarvinen, M. and Woodcock-Mitchell, J. Keratin classes: molecular markers for different types of epithelial differentiation. J. Invest. Dermatol. 81: 109s-115s (1983).
  5. Nelson, W.G., and Sun, T.-T. The 50K and 58K keratin classes as markers for stratified squamous epithelia: cell culture studies. J. Cell Biol. 97: 244-251 (1983).
  6. Nelson, W.G., Battifora, H., Santana, H. and Sun, T.-T. Specific keratins as markers for neoplasms with a stratified epithelial origin: monoclonal antibody analysis. Cancer Res. 44: 1600-1603 (1984).
  7. Sun, T.-T., Eichner, R., Schermer, A., Cooper, D., Nelson, W.G. and Weiss, R.A. Classification, expression, and possible mechanisms of evolution of mammalian epithelial keratins: a unifying model. In The Cancer Cell, Levine, A., Topp, W., Vande Woude, G. and Watson, J.D. (Eds.), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York (1985).
  8. Nelson, W.G., Pienta, K.J., Barrack, E.R. and Coffey, D.S. The role of the nuclear matrix in the organization and function of DNA. Ann. Rev. Biophys. Biophys. Chem. 15: 457-475 (1986).
  9. Nelson, W.G., Liu, L.F. and Coffey, D.S. Newly replicated DNA is associated with DNA topoisomerase II in cultured rat prostatic adenocarcinoma cells. Nature 322: 187-189 (1986).
  10. Nelson, W.G., Cho, K.R., Hsiang, Y.-H., Liu, L.F. and Coffey, D.S. Growth-related elevations of DNA topoisomerase II levels are found in Dunning R3327 rat prostatic adenocarcinomas. Cancer Res. 47: 3246-3250 (1987).
  11. Alexander, R.B., Nelson, W.G. and Coffey, D.S. Tumor necrosis factor enhances the cytotoxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs targeted at DNA topoisomerase II. Cancer Res. 47: 2403-2406 (1987).
  12. Nelson, W.G., and Coffey, D.S. Structural aspects of DNA replication: topoisomerase II. NCI Monographs 4: 23-29 (1987).
  13. Kessis, T.D., Slebos, R.J., Nelson, W.G., Kastan, M.B., Plunkett, B.S., Han, S.M., Lorincz, A.T., Hedrick, L., and Cho, K.R. Human papillomavirus 16 E6 expression disrupts the p53-mediated cellular response to DNA damage. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 90: 3988-3992 (1993).
  14. Slichenmyer, W. J., Nelson, W.G., Slebos, R.J., and Kastan, M.B. Loss of a p53-associated G1 checkpoint does not decrease cell survival following DNA damage. Cancer Res. 53: 4164-4168 (1993).
  15. Lazebnik, Y.A., Cooke, C.A., Nelson, W.G. and Earnshaw, W.C. Nuclear events of apoptosis in vitro in mitotic extracts. J. Cell Biol. 123: 7-22 (1993).
  16. Nelson, W.G., and Kastan, M.B. DNA strand breaks: the DNA template alterations that trigger p53-dependent DNA damage response pathways.Mol. Cell. Biol. 14: 1815-1823 (1994).
  17. Lee, W.-H, Morton, R., Epstein, J.I., Brooks, J.D., Campbell, P.A., Bova, G.S., Isaacs, W.B., and Nelson, W.G. Cytidine methylation of regulatory sequences near the p-class glutathione S-transferase gene accompanies human prostatic carcinogenesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91: 11733-11737 (1994).
  18. DiGiuseppe, J.A., Nelson, W.G., Seifter, E.J., Boitnott, J.K., and Mann, R.B. Intravascular lymphomatosis: a clinicopathologic study of ten cases and assessment of response to chemotherapy. J. Clin. Oncol. 12: 2573-2579 (1994).
  19. Nelson, W.G. A molecular rationale for a new prostate cancer prevention strategy. In An Approaching Era of Molecular Medicine, Han, Y.C., McKusick, V.A., and Shin, H.S. (Eds.), Samsung Biomedical Research Institute and Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea (1995).
  20. Sanda, M.G., Restifo, N.P., Walsh, J., Kawakami, Y., Nelson, W.G., Pardoll, D.M., and Simons, J.W. Molecular characterization of defective antigen processing in human prostate cancer. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 85: 280-285 (1995).
  21. Furuya, Y., Walsh, J.C., Nelson, W.G., and Isaacs, J.T. Androgen ablation induced programmed death of prostatic glandular cells does not involve recruitment into a defective cell cycle or p53 induction. Endocrinology 136: 1898-1906 (1995).
  22. Nelson, W.G., and Simons, J.W. Molecular pharmacology: opportunities for enhancement of antineoplastic therapies. In Comprehensive Textbook of Genitourinary Oncology, Vogelzang, N., Shipley,W., and Scardino, P.T. (Eds.), Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore (1995).
  23. Berns, A.J.M., Clift, S., Cohen, L.K., Donehower, R.C., Dranoff, G., Hauda, K.M., Jaffee, E.M., Lazenby, A.J., Marshall, F.F., Mulligan, R.C., Nelson, W.G., Owens, A.H., Pardoll, D.M., Parry, G., Partin, A.H., Piantidosi, S., Simons, J.W., and Zabora, J.R. Clinical protocol: phase I study of non-replicating autologous tumor cell injections using cells prepared with or without GM-CSF gene transduction in patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma. Hum. Gene Therapy 6: 347-368 (1995).
  24. Nelson, W.G., and Simons, J.W. New approaches to adjuvant therapy for patients with adverse histopathologic findings following radical prostatectomy. Urological Clinics of North America 23: 685-696 (1996).
  25. Carducci, M.A., Nelson, J.B., Chan-Tack, K., Ayyagari, S.R., Sweatt, W.H., Campbell, P.A., Nelson, W.G., and Simons, J.W. Phenylbutyrate induces apoptosis in human prostate cancer and is more potent than phenylacetate. Clin. Cancer Res. 2: 379-383 (1996).
  26. Eisenberger, M.A., and Nelson, W.G. How much can we rely on the level of prostate-specific antigen as an end point for evaluation of clinical trials? A word of caution! J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 88: 779-781 (1996).
  27. Brooks, J.D., Lee, W.-H., and Nelson, W.G. Epidemiological and molecular features of prostatic carcinogenesis as clues for new prostate cancer prevention strategies. Can. J. Urology 3: 20-26 (1996).
  28. Lee, W.-H., Brooks, J.D., and Nelson, W.G. Molecular staging of prostate cancer. Can J. Urology 3: 80-88 (1996).
  29. Nelson, W.G. Prostate cancer prevention: a new molecular rationale. ASCO Educ Book 1996: 360-365 (1996).
  30. Carducci, M.A., DeWeese, T.L., Nelson, W.G., Simons, J.W., Sinibaldi, V., and Eisenberger, M.A. Prostate cancer treatment strategies based on tumor-specific biological principles: future directions. Seminars in Oncol. 6: 56-62 (1996).
  31. DeWeese, T.L., Walsh, J.C., Dillehay, L.E., Kessis, T.D., Hedrick, L., Cho, K.R., and Nelson, W.G. Human papillomavirus E6 and E7 oncoproteins alter cell cycle progression but not radiosensitivity of cells treated with low dose-rate ionizing radiation. Int. J. Radiation Oncol. Biol. and Phys. 37: 145-154 (1997).
  32. Lee, W.-H., Isaacs, W.B., Bova, G.S., and Nelson, W.G. CG island methylation changes near the GSTP1 gene in prostatic carcinoma cells detected using the polymerase chain reaction: a new prostate cancer biomarker. Cancer Epid. Biom. Prevention 6: 443-450 (1997).
  33. Nelson, J.B., Lee, W.-H., Nguyen, S.H., Jarrard, D.F., Brooks, J.D., Magnuson, S.R., Opgenorth, T.J., Nelson, W.G., and Bova, G.S. Methylation of the 5' CpG island of the endothelin B receptor gene is common in human prostate cancer. Cancer Res. 57: 35-37 (1997).
  34. Simons, J.W., Jaffee, E.M., Weber, C.E., Levitsky, H.I., Nelson, W.G., Carducci, M.A., Lazenby, A.J., Cohen, L.K., Finn, C.C., Clift, S.M., Hauda, K.M., Beck, L.A., Leiferman, K.M., Owens, A.H., Piantidosi, S., Dranoff, G., Mulligan, R.C., Pardoll, D.M., and Marshall, F.F. Bioactivity of autologous irradiated renal cell carcinoma vaccines generated by ex vivo granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor gene transfer. Cancer Res. 57: 1537-1546 (1997).
  35. Nelson, W.G. Oxidation tolerance and carcinogenesis. ASCO Educ Book 1997: 27-33 (1997).
  36. Nigam, A., Yaccavone, R., Zahurak, M.L., Johns, C.M.S., Pardoll, D.M., Piantadosi, S., Levitsky, H.I., and Nelson, W.G. Immunomodulatory properties of antineoplastic drugs administered in combination with GM-CSF-secreting cancer cell vaccines. Int. J. Oncology 12: 161-170 (1998).
  37. DeWeese, T.L., Shipman, J.M., Dillehay, L.E., and Nelson, W.G. Sensitivity of human prostatic carcinoma cell lines to low dose rate radiation exposure. J. Urol. 159: 591-598, 1998.
  38. Baccala, A.A., Zhong, H., Clift, S.M., Nelson, W.G., Marshall, F.F., Passe, T.J., Gambill, N.B., and Simons, J.W. Serum vascular endothelial growth factor is a candidate biomarker of metastatic tumor response to ex vivo gene therapy of renal cell cancer. Urology 51: 327-332 (1998).
  39. Adler, A.J., Marsh, D.W., Yochum, G.S., Guzzo, J.L, Nigam, A., Nelson, W.G., and Pardoll, D.M. CD4+ T cell tolerance to parenchymal self-antigens requires presentation by bone marrow-derived antigen-presenting cells. J. Exp. Med. 187: 1555-1564 (1998). [See also Commentary: Heath, W.R., Kurts, C., Miller, F.A.P., and Carbone, F.R. Cross-tolerance: a pathway for inducing tolerance to peripheral tissue antigens. J. Exp. Med. 187: 1549-1553 (1998).
  40. Brooks, J.D., Weinstein, M., Lin, X., Sun, Y., Pin, S.S., Bova, G.S., Isaacs, W.B., and Nelson, W.G. CG island methylation changes near the GSTP1 gene in prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). Cancer Epid. Biom. Prev. 7: 531-536 (1998).
  41. DeWeese, T.L., Shipman, J.M., Larrier, N.A., Buckley, N.M., Kidd, L.R., Groopman, J.D., Cutler, R.G., te Riele, H., and Nelson, W.G. Mouse embryonic stem cells carrying one or two defective Msh2 alleles respond abnormally to oxidative stress inflicted by low-level radiation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95: 11815-11820 (1998).
  42. DeMarzo, A.M., Nelson, W.G., Meeker, A.K., and Coffey, D.S. Stem cell features of benign and malignant prostate epithelial cells. J. Urol. 160: 2381-2392 (1998).
  43. DeMarzo, A.M., Coffey, D.S., and Nelson, W.G. New concepts in tissue specificity for prostate cancer and BPH. (in press, Urology, 1998).
  44. Tchou, J.C., Lin, X., Freije, D., Isaacs, W.B., Brooks, J.D., Lee, W.-H., Rashid, A., Kanai, Y., Hirohashi, S., and Nelson, W.G. GSTP1 CG island methylation changes in hepatocellular carcinomas. (submitted, Can. 1999).
  45. Walsh, J.C., Hardy, D.O., Barrack, E.R., and Nelson, W.G. Androgenic regulation of DNA topoisomerase I in rat prostatic epithelial cells. (manuscript in preparation, 1998).
  46. Nigam, A., Yaccavone, R., Levitsky, H.I., and Nelson, W.G. Requirement for CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes for curative treatment of CT26 tumor-bearing mice with doxorubicin (manuscript in preparation, 1998).
  47. Hwang, L., Nigam, A., Tran, K., Montgomery, J., Nelson, W., and Levitsky, H. Induction of anti-tumor immunity to prostatic carcinoma by vaccination against normal prostate antigens. (submitted for publication, 1997).
  48. Lin, X., Lee, B., Tascilar, M., Lee, W.-H., Freije, W., Vles, W.J., DeMarzo, A.M., Epstein, J.I., Hedrick-Ellenson, L., Cho, K.R., Bova,G.S., Isaacs, W.B., Brooks, J.D, and Nelson, W.G. Somatic inactivation of GSTP1 genes during human prostatic carcinogenesis. (manuscript in preparation, 1998).
  49. Hwang, L.C, Finn, S., Levitsky, H., and Nelson, W. Prostate cancer vaccines: current status. (in press, Seminars in Oncol., 1998).
  50. Simons, J.W., Mikhak, B., Chang, Ju-Fay, DeMarzo, A. M., Carducci, M.A., Lim, M., Weber, C.E., Baccala, A.A., Goemann, M.A., Clift, S.M., Ando, D. G., Levitsky, H.I., Cohen, L.K., Sanda, M.G., Mulligan, R.C., Partin, A.W., Carter, H.B., Piantadosi, S., Marshall, F.F., and Nelson, W.G. Induction of immunity to prostate cancer antigens: Results of a clinical trial of vaccination with irradiated autologous prostate tumor cells engineered to secrete GM-CSF using ex vivo gene transfer. (Submitted, Can. Res., 1999).


  • American Association of Cancer Research (Chairperson, Clinical Cancer Research Committee; Member Program Committee for the Annual Meeting)

  • American Society of Microbiology 

  • American Society of Clinical Oncology 

  • CaP CURE Scientific Advisory Board 

  • CaP CURE Clinical Consortium

Awards & Honors

1982    Henry Strong Denison Award for Medical Research

1987    Sandoz Award for Outstanding Research in Pharmacology

1987    Warfield T. Longcope Prize for Excellence in Clinical Medicine

1987    Alpha Omega Alpha