Biography

Ken Westover, M.D., Ph.D., started his research career as a summer undergraduate research fellow in the labs of Nobel Prize laureates Michael Brown, M.D., and Joseph Goldstein, M.D., at UT Southwestern. It was there that he learned the basics of biochemistry and became convinced that he wanted to become a physician-scientist. 

After graduating with honors from Brigham Young University, with a B.S. in biochemistry, Dr. Westover entered the Stanford University Medical Scientist Training Program where he worked in the lab of Roger Kornberg, Ph.D., on the structural biology and biochemistry of gene transcription. Dr. Westover’s work was subsequently cited in the 2006 Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Dr. Kornberg.

Radiation oncology was a natural fit for Dr. Westover given his laboratory experience, which had natural connections to cancer biology and included elements of imaging research, radiation science, and computer science. Most importantly, Dr. Westover found he was passionate about the practice of oncology. 

Dr. Westover completed his residency in radiation oncology at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, where he simultaneously worked in the lab of Nathanael Gray, Ph.D., in the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, learning principles of structure-based drug design and chemical biology. He also completed Harvard’s Intensive Translational Research Program.

Now at UT Southwestern, Dr. Westover focuses his clinical efforts on lung cancer and his research efforts on improving cancer therapies. In addition to targeted drug design, Dr. Westover hopes to find new ways to combine radiation therapy and targeted drugs.

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Meet Dr. Westover

Ken Westover, M.D., Ph.D., wears many hats. He is a member of the lung cancer team, Director of Information Technology and Innovation for the Department of Radiation Oncology, and Director of the Westover Research Laboratory, located in the Department of Biochemistry, which is dedicated to cancer biology and the development of new drugs.

"I look at cancer from its molecular basis to the physics of radiation treatment.”

After completion of the Stanford University Medical Scientist Training Program (1999-2007) and residency training in Harvard Radiation Oncology Program (2007-2012) where he distinguished himself as a fellow in radiation oncology and a scientist specializing in drug development for cancer, Dr. Westover was recruited to UT Southwestern.

Westover’s work has been published in numerous clinical and high-profile basic science journals. He has also authored several book chapters relating to radiation therapy. His scientific work shed light on the way genes are transcribed and was cited in the 2006 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to his mentor Roger Kornberg, Ph.D.

“I want to relieve the burdens of cancer in any way I can. I am fully committed to serving cancer patients through basic research, clinical innovation, and the highest quality patient care,” says Dr. Westover. “I feel fortunate to work with several highly skilled teams that are making a difference for cancer patients.”

Clinically, Dr. Westover specializes in treating lung cancer and is particularly interested in using stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) – also known as stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR) – to treat cancer patients, an approach that was pioneered by another member of UT Southwestern’s radiation oncology team, Robert Timmerman, M.D. This stronger, “ablative” dose of radiation precisely targets and destroys tumors in just a few treatments.

In the lab, Dr. Westover is focused on developing targeted drugs and understanding how certain mutant proteins cause cancer. While at Harvard he was the first to publish clinical results showing that protons can be used to deliver effective SBRT for early stage lung cancer in patients with poor pulmonary function. 

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Education & Training
  • Residency - Harvard/Brigham and Women's Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital (2008-2012), Radiation Oncology
  • Internship - Harvard/Brigham and Women's Hospital (2007-2008), Internal Medicine
  • Medical School - Stanford University School of Medicine (1999-2007)
  • Graduate School - Stanford University, Medical Scientist Training Program
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • American College of Radiology
  • American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology
Honors & Awards
  • CPRIT Scholar 2012-2016
  • V Scholar 2014-2016
Books & Publications
Research
  • Use of technology to improve cancer care
  • Structural biology
  • Stereotactic radiation therapy
  • RAS biology and inhibitor development
  • Kinase biology and inhibitor development
  • Cancer therapeutics
  • Cancer imaging

Clinical Focus

  • Radiation Therapy for Esophageal Cancer
  • Chest Cancers
  • Brain Metastases
  • Pulmonary/Lung-Chest Wall-Mediastinal-Pleural Nodules
  • Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

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