The Institute Welcomes an Expert in Prostate Cancer: Dr. Timothy G. Wilson seeks to improve robotic surgery for urological cancers

July 13, 2015

Finding better ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating urological malignancies is the passion of Timothy G. Wilson, MD, an internationally renowned expert in cancers of the pelvis and robotic surgery who joined the John Wayne Cancer Institute in April as professor and chief of urology and director of the new Urologic Oncology Research Program.

“Urological malignancies— if they’re found early enough— are highly curable,” says Dr. Wilson. Optimal treatment, he notes, should minimize the complications of surgery in order to speed recovery and help return people to normal functioning as quickly as possible. Additional research is needed to determine which patients need surgery and when.

“There is a lot of debate surrounding prostate cancer, such as when to biopsy and who truly needs surgery once diagnosed with this slow-growing cancer,” he says. “Although prostate cancer is generally slower growing than other cancers, it’s the most common cancer in men and the second-leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Prostate problems have a huge impact on the daily life of men. And the treatment of these problems, specifically prostate cancer, has a very significant impact on the national health care budget.”

Dr. Wilson is eager to continue to advance knowledge in these areas in his new role. An early adopter of robotic surgery, Dr. Wilson has performed 3,000 robotic surgeries. He was one of a handful of surgeons in the United States to stop doing open “manual surgery” for prostate cancer in 2000. He became one of the most experienced surgeons performing standard laparoscopic prostatec-tomy before beginning robotic prostatectomy in 2003.

His expertise in robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatec-tomy is sought around the world. Dr. Wilson travels frequently throughout Europe and Asia to perform surgery, serving as a visiting faculty member and proctor for surgeons learning robotic techniques.

“It’s been a great experience for me,” he says. “I have been fortunate to meet many surgeons of varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds.”

In 2009 and 2010, Dr. Wilson traveled to the West African country of Benin to perform various urological procedures at a Jesuit Hospital. “That experience reminded me of how truly lucky I am to live in the United States.”

At City of Hope, where Dr. Wilson served as chief of urology from 1992 to 2015, and head of its prostate cancer program since 2003, he participated in a systematic review of the research literature to evaluate the state of the science of robotic surgery for prostate and bladder cancers. Experts met in 2011 and 2013 and published their findings in the highly respected journal European Urology.

He also recently authored or co-authored papers on the effect of nerve-sparing, robot-assisted prostate surgery on erectile function and the advantages of the new da Vinci Xi robot.

At the Institute, Dr. Wilson expects to continue research on improved techniques to minimize damage to surrounding tissues. He also wants to help surgeons gain experience with new techniques through daily broadcasts of robotic surgeries online.

Dr. Wilson uses the latest technology in robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery, including the da Vinci Si and Xi devices. Praising the Institute as an organization aligned with his own goals, Dr. Wilson says he’s excited about the Institute’s focus on solid tumors and how genetic profiling offers the opportunity to better advance prostate and bladder cancers. When his program is fully underway, he hopes to have onboard four or five urologists, as well as two non-physician scientists to work on research to translate new findings into medical practice.

Dr. Wilson earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University and his medical degree at Oregon Health Sciences University. He completed his residency in urology at the University of Southern California and a fellowship in urologic oncology at the City of Hope in conjunction with USC.

When he’s not working, Dr. Wilson can most often be found outdoors—hiking, snow-skiing, boating and engaging in a variety of water sports. He and his wife, Cheryl, also enjoy traveling and theater as well as family time with their three grown children and 4-year-old grandson.

The Institute is thrilled to have Dr. Wilson as part of the team, says Marcel Loh, chief executive of Saint John’s Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute. “Dr. Wilson is a nationally recognized surgeon. He’s one of the busiest robotics surgeons in the country, known for groundbreaking research and treatment for prostate cancer.”

To learn more about supporting the work of Dr. Timothy G. Wilson and his groundbreaking research, please call Michael Avila at 310-829-8351 or