History of Excellence

Milestones in the field of radiation oncology include:

1970s — Radiology and nuclear medicine specialists at Washington University School of Medicine are credited with developing positron emission tomography (PET), an imaging technique used for detecting and monitoring changes in organs and tissue. The technology is ideal for use in detecting cancerous tissue.

1980s — Low-dose brachytherapy, or internal radiation seed implantation, is a new type of radiation therapy offered as a treatment for breast cancer patients. 

1991 — One of the world’s first three-dimensional treatment planning services was established at Washington University School of Medicine in 1991. 3-D planning enables doctors and medical physicists to tailor radiation doses to each type of tumor while delivering lower radiation doses to normal tissue. This ability is especially important when tumors are located next to sensitive structures such as the heart and spine.

1993 — Washington University radiation specialists were among the first in the United States to use 3-D conformal radiation therapy to deliver high doses of radiation to precise locations for the treatment of prostate cancer.

1994 — Due in large part to our pioneering work in three-dimensional treatment planning, the National Cancer Institute designated Washington University School of Medicine as its 3-D Quality Assurance Center for multi-institutional clinical trials. The center, now called the Image-Guided Therapy Quality Assurance Center, provides tools and support for the review of radiation oncology clinical trials.

1997 — Advancing its expertise and use of brachytherapy, radiation oncologists at Siteman Cancer Center are the first in St. Louis and the Midwest to offer ultrasound-guided, permanent seed implants for prostate cancer.

1998 — In a collaborative effort between Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and HealthSouth, we were the first in the region to offer radiation therapy with a Gamma Knife for the treatment of benign and malignant brain tumors and arteriovascular malformations.

1999 — We were the first medical center in the region to use high-dose rate brachytherapy for the treatment of prostate and gynecological cancers. 

2004 — We were the first center in the region, and one of the first in the United States, to start using stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for early stage lung cancers.

2013 — The Siteman Cancer Center is the first center in the world to help develop, test, and now provide proton beam therapy with a compact proton accelerator — the Mevion S250 Proton Beam Therapy System. The system allows for better radiation targeting in patients with inoperable tumors close to sensitive tissues such as the brain or spinal cord.


Our radiation therapy specialists continue to research and develop technologies that make radiation therapy more effective and accurate.