About Us

Celebrating 20 years of Cyberknife Technology

Dr. Donaldson: Winner of the Dean's Medal

Our Mission

To bring the most advanced care to our patients by being at the cutting edge of research and technology.

Using the most state-of-the-art imaging systems and radiation delivery platforms in the world, our highly integrated team of physicians, physicists, dosimetrists, nurses, and radiation therapists share a commitment to provide exceptional and compassionate care for patients.

A History of Innovation

Henry Kaplan, MD, founding Chair of the Department of Radiology, developed the first high-energy linear accelerator for therapeutic use in the 1950’s. Known as Linear Accelerator 1 (LA1), it is now on display with the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. He continued this work with his successor, Malcolm Bagshaw, MD.

In 1986, the Department of Radiology reorganized in recognition of the divergent missions of diagnostic and therapeutic radiology. Dr. Bagshaw became the first chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, which included the Divisions of Radiation and Cancer Biology, as well as Radiation Therapy and its section of Radiologic Physics, which became its own division in 1995, the Division of Medical Physics.

Dr. Kaplan and Dr. Bagshaw introduced a series of innovative techniques that exploited the high energy and precise beam definition of the linear accelerator in the treatment of a variety of cancers, including those of head and neck, larynx, cervix, ovary, lung, testicles, and bladder.

Dr. Bagshaw went on to refine the treatment of retinoblastoma, and systemized the electron beam therapy of mycosis fungoides. Along with his former colleague, Zvi Fuks, MD, they reported the first long-term disease-free survivals of this disease.

Dr. Bagshaw's additional accomplishments include:

  • Demonstrating improved local-regional control of cervical adenopathy in head and neck cancer by the effective irradiation of presumed occult lymph node metastases (an observation that was independently reported at M.D. Anderson by Gilbert Fletcher and Rodney Million)
  • Demonstrating potential enduring control of bone metastases by the preemptive irradiation of vulnerable metastatic sites in breast and prostate cancer
  • Developing the external beam irradiation of prostate cancer

Dr. Bagshaw retired in 1992, and Richard T. Hoppe, MD, became Chairman of Radiation Oncology, and assumed the Henry S. Kaplan - Harry Lebeson Chair in Cancer Biology. His collaboration with John Adler, MD, Stanford faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery, resulted in development of the Cyberknife® Stereotactic Radiosurgery System which was the first radiosurgical system capable of treating tumors outside of the brain.

The first extra-cranial stereotactic radiosurgery treatment with Cyberknife® was performed at Stanford Hospital in 1996. The Cyberknife system is considered to be one of the first image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) machines in the field and the basic principles behind these techniques have been widely adopted by the radiation oncology community. We also performed the first stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT)/stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) treatment in the world using the Truebeam linear accelerator.

In 2011, Quynh-Thu Le, MD, was named Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology. She is the first woman to lead the department.  

Intensive research and development efforts continue between the Stanford Radiation Oncology Department the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), and the Stanford School of Engineering to make particle beam treatment a reality.


The History of Radiation Therapy at Stanford Medicine

Radiation Therapy

Believing that the availability of a high-energy source could improve the effectiveness of radiation in treating deep-seated tumors, Dr. Kaplan undertook a collaborative research effort with Edward Ginzton of the Stanford Physics Department.

By 1952, they secured research funding to construct a 6 MeV electron linear accelerator suitable for radiation therapy.

The Stanford medical linear accelerator was completed in 1955. It was the first linear accelerator employed routinely for radiotherapy in the Western hemisphere. Its first use was in the successful treatment of a 7-month old boy suffering from retinoblastoma.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Division continued to develop protocols designed to improve the survival of patients with cancer. In 1961, Dr. Kaplan recruited Saul A Rosenberg, MD, a medical oncologist, to join the Department. Dr. Rosenberg's appointment in Radiology and Medicine resulted in a successful multidisciplinary approach to the study and treatment of cancer.

Doctors Kaplan, Bagshaw and Rosenberg initiated the first randomized, prospective studies on the treatment of Hodgkin's disease and other lymphomas, using high-energy radiation and statistical analysis to establish the validity of an aggressive approach to treating these diseases.

Clinical trials to promote the understanding and management of Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were highly productive, and resulted in dramatic improvement in the cure rate of these diseases. Later studies evaluated the effects of radiation sensitizers, negative pi mesons, and hyperthermia in treating malignant tumors.

Over the years, the faculty has trained one of the largest group of residents and fellows in radiation oncology in the USA.

Radiation and Cancer Biology

Dr. Kaplan was well under way with his research on lymphomagenesis when he came to Stanford in 1948, and he brought with him, from the laboratory of L.C. Strong at Yale University, the unique strain of mice that he had shown was susceptible to radiation-induced lymphoma.

He obtained a research grant, and began recruiting a full-time laboratory staff. In 1956, he recruited Kendric C. Smith, Ph.D., to pursue research in radiation biochemistry, and Robert F. Kallman, Ph.D., to serve as Director of the new Division of Radiobiological Research.

Ultimately, the Division had sufficient resources to support a full-time Ph.D. faculty, a wide-ranging research program in tumor cell radiobiology, radiation biochemistry and photobiology, and cellular physiology.

The Division integrated with the clinical training of young radiation oncologists at Stanford. In 1975, the Louis B. Mayer Cancer Biology Research Laboratory was dedicated, with Dr. Kaplan as its head. In 1984, Dr. Kallman stepped down as Division Director and J. Martin Brown, D. Phil., assumed the role. Dr. Brown’s research was focused on understanding the mechanisms responsible for the resistance of solid tumors to various cancer therapies, and to developing strategies to overcome these resistances. 

Amato J. Giaccia, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Division of Radiation and Cancer Biology,  joined the department in 1989. He holds the Jack, Lulu and Sam Willson Professorship in Cancer Biology. His research is focused on the signaling pathways that trigger the induction of mammalian stress response genes (S0S genes), such as the p53 tumor suppressor gene, and how alterations in the expression of these genes can affect malignant progression.

Visit the Division of Radiation and Cancer Biology to learn about current research, educational programs and training.

Medical Physics

The development of the electron linear accelerator in 1956 and the realization that its capabilities required continuing interaction with physicists, a Section of Radiologic Physics was established in the Department in 1958, with Mitchel Weissbluth, Ph.D., as head.

In 1959, Dr. Weissbluth transferred his activities to the Department of Applied Physics, and Clarence J. Karzmark, Ph.D. became head. Dr. Karzmark and the physics group developed treatment techniques basic to the evolution of modern radiotherapy using linear accelerators, and pioneered relevant quality assurance concepts.

In 1980, Peter Fessenden, Ph.D, became Section Chief. The group then focused on the use of heavy charged particles (pions), and hyperthermia in treating malignant tumors, as well as developing improved total body radiotherapy techniques, and conventional and frameless stereotactic radiosurgery/radiotherapy.

Dr. Fessenden retired in 1995 and Arthur L. Boyer, Ph.D., was recruited as Professor and Director.  The Section of Radiologic Physics was elevated to the Division of Radiation Physics. Dr. Boyer’s research focused on radiation transport, three-dimensional conformal therapy, patient position verification, and X-ray beam intensity modulation. 

In 2009, Lei Xing, Ph.D., became Director. Dr. Xing’s research is focused on intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) as well as development of alternate imaging modalities.

Visit the Division of Medical Physics to learn about current research, educational programs and training.

Henry Kaplan, MD

Dr. Henry Kaplan, Chairman of the Department of Radiology from 1948 – 1972, worked closely with his successor, Malcolm Bagshaw, MD, to advance the use of the linear accelerator for cancer treatment.

Dr. Bagshaw became Chairman of Radiation Oncology when it became a separate department in 1986. He retired in 1992.

Visionaries in the field of radiation therapy, they pioneered the medical use of high-energy radiation as produced by a medical linear accelerator in the treatment of a variety of cancers.