Meet Dr. David Pistenmaa

Holder of the:
David Bruton Jr. Professorship in Clinical Cancer Research

Over and over again, visitors to the Radiation Oncology Clinic at UT Southwestern comment on the kindly manner and patience of David Pistenmaa, M.D., Ph.D., FACR, Professor of Radiation Oncology. But while patients experience firsthand Dr. Pistenmaa’s personal warmth and professionalism, what they may not be aware of is the remarkable history of this physician, who has more than 40 years of experience on the forefront of radiation therapy.

Prostate cancer treatments that used to take 30 minutes only take three minutes now.”

Influenced by an era that unleashed the power of the atomic bomb, Dr. Pistenmaa early on decided to study nuclear engineering. After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, he went on to serve as a project engineer working on reactor development in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This led to an awareness of the biological effects of radiation and a desire to study medicine and medical physics. He earned his medical degree at Stanford University in 1969, and in 1970 completed a Ph.D. in medical physics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Following numerous leadership positions in national research programs and hospital settings, Dr. Pistenmaa was invited to join UT Southwestern as Chair of Radiation Oncology in 1996, with the goal of transforming a very modest radiation program into one that would be recognized as world class. In 2003, he relinquished his administrative duties and became Chairman Emeritus in order to give more time to his patients.

Dr. Pistenmaa is one of the busiest and most experienced providers of radiation therapy for prostate cancer in the metroplex and works closely with the physicians in UT Southwestern’s nationally ranked Department of Urology

Dr. Pistenmaa is also highly experienced in treating mycosis fungoides, a relatively rare cancerous skin condition (a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma) that is usually treated with UV light or topical creams as a first-line treatment. When those therapies fail, a highly complex course of radiation therapy provided by a skilled practitioner can result in cure or remission of disease.

Despite the high number of patients he sees, Dr. Pistenmaa manages to give each person he sees quality time and a sense of their importance.

“Working with a team of expert nurses, therapists, dosimetrists, and physicians to treat patients is a privilege,” says Dr. Pistenmaa. “That’s what makes if wonderful to work here.”

Clinical Interests/Specialties

Radiation Therapy

  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
  • Radiation treatment of genitourinary cancers, including prostate cancer
  • Radiation treatment of lymphoma
  • Radiation treatment of mycosis fungoides