Meet Dr. James Willson
Oncologist & Director of Simmons Cancer Center

Holder of the:
The Lisa K. Simmons Distinguished Chair in Comprehensive Oncology

As Director of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and a leading colon cancer specialist nationally, James K.V. Willson, M.D., presides over a complex and sprawling enterprise that would challenge even the most organized manager. Yet he manages to keep patients first, while collaborating and steering more than 200 members from over 30 departments and centers campus-wide, themselves leaders in their fields.

Treatment of colon cancer requires an interaction between surgeons, medical oncologists, and sometimes radiation oncologists to plan a successful treatment program.”

Dr. Willson is renowned for his work in the genetics of colorectal cancer, having spent more than 30 years in the field. The Simmons Cancer Center he directs is one of just 66 cancer centers in the nation designated by the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Willson also serves as Associate Dean for Cancer Programs at UT Southwestern. That kind of responsibility demands dedication, scrutiny, and a steadfast focus – from basic research through to the clinic. 

Yet it is still his patients who come first. On any given Monday, Dr. Willson will see a dozen patients at the Cancer Center, offering each a personalized medical plan that addresses the patient’s specific manifestation of the disease and its stage, head-on. His dedication is evident, even when his patients are not there. Colleagues say he insists on being called out of meetings at the behest of any patient matter. 

Dr. Willson’s groundbreaking approaches to treating colon cancer have helped broaden the field of targeted therapeutics. Prevention through screening is a top strategy that Dr. Willson embraces. To that end, he has assembled a team of cancer prevention specialists from across the country and is luring even more luminaries to Simmons Cancer Center. 

Keeping track of all the team members comes naturally to Dr. Willson. An avid collector of presidential campaign buttons, he is good with faces and names, and with history – most importantly, knowing the stories of patients he sees.

Clinical Interests

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Colon-rectal cancer screening
  • Gastrointestinal cancers
  • Cancer genetics