Owen N. Witte, MD

Owen N. Witte, MD
Director, Broad Stem Cell Research Center; Distinguished Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, California; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Owen N. Witte, MD | Class of 2014

A distinguished translational scientist, Dr. Witte has made significant contributions to understanding human leukemias, immune disorders, and epithelial cancer stem cells, research of which has resulted in improved clinical therapies. Most notably, he pinpointed the molecular consequences of the Philadelphia (Ph) chromosome abnormality present in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and related types of leukemia. Alongside this discovery, he defined the tyrosine kinase activity of the ABL gene, while one of his graduate students at the time, James Konopka, discovered the presence of abnormal BCR-ABL gene fusions in human leukemias. These collective findings played a crucial role in the subsequent development of kinase-targeted therapies, including imatinib, which remains the frontline treatment for Ph+ CML.

In addition to his research involving ABL, Dr. Witte also co-discovered Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK). This particular kinase is essential for B-cell maturation and when mutated, results in the onset of the immunodeficiency disease, X-linked agammagloblulinemia. Recent studies involving this protein have resulted in the FDA approval of ibrutinib, a selective BTK inhibitor, approved for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell lymphoma.

Dr. Witte’s more recent work has concentrated on the prostate gland and on defining the epithelial stem cell populations that contribute to prostate cancer. Through the use of molecular imaging and tissue recombination modeling techniques in mice, Dr. Witte continues to define the characteristics of these cancer cell populations and has since begun to analyze how these cells contribute to bone metastases in patients with advanced stages of prostate cancer. Dr. Witte continues this research, in part, through his position as co-leader of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team, “Targeting Adaptive Pathways in Metastatic Treatment-Resistant Prostate Cancer.”

Career Highlights

​2011-2014  President’s Cancer Panel (U.S. Presidential Appointment)
2011  Nakahara Memorial Lecture Prize
2010-2013  Board of Directors, AACR
2009  Cotlove Lectureship, Academy of Clinical Laboratory Physicians and Scientists
2003  Elected Member, Institute of Medicine
2003  de Villiers International Achievement Award, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
2000  Warren Alpert Prize
1999  50th Anniversary Commemorative Award, Leukemia Society of America
1997  Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC
1996  Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1993  Dameshek Prize, American Society of Hematology
1991  AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Award
1990  Milken Family Foundation Award for Basic Cancer Research
1985  March of Dimes Basil O’Conner Scholar Award
1976  MD, Stanford University School of Medicine