Kevin Watanabe-Smith, Ph.D.

  • Instructor of Computational Biology Program, School of Medicine
  • Computational Biology Program, School of Medicine


Dr. Kevin Watanabe-Smith is working on cancer research with a focus on leukemia, or blood cancers. His research includes determining the genetic mutations that cause leukemia, matching those mutations to new and targeted therapies, and finding better predictors for what drug will work best for an individual cancer patient. He hopes that his work will lead to a future where every cancer patient gets matched with a personalized therapy that leads to more cures with fewer side effects.

After training as a wet-lab biologist, Dr. Watanabe-Smith has since transitioned to computational biology, analyzing the enormous Beat AML dataset where consenting patients had their cancer cells screened on over 100 different cancer drugs. Dr. Watanabe-Smith is mentored by Dr. Brian Druker and Dr. Emek Demir, and works extensively with both groups.

Education and training

    • B.S., 2009, George Fox University
    • Ph.D., 2017, Oregon Health & Science University

Areas of interest

  • Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Drug Screening
  • Big Data
  • Genetic Mutations

Honors and awards

  • Dean's Award for Exemplary Contributions to the Graduate Program, OHSU
  • Associate Dean's Award for Exemplary Contributions to the Graduate Program, OHSU
  • Statewide 3-Minute Thesis Competition - Winner, State of Oregon
  • ARCS Scholar, OHSU
  • American Society of Hematology Abstract Achievement Award
  • Early K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Fellow


Selected publications

  • CSF1R inhibitors exhibit antitumor activity in acute myeloid leukemia by blocking paracrine signals from support cells. David K. Edwards, V, Kevin Watanabe-Smith, Angela Rofelty, Alisa Damnernsawad, Ted Laderas, Adam Lamble, Evan F. Lind, Andy Kaempf, Motomi Mori, Mara Rosenberg, Amanda d’Almeida, Nicola Long, Anupriya Agarwal, David Tyler Sweeney, Marc Loriaux, Shannon K. M
  • Functional genomic landscape of acute myeloid leukaemia. Tyner JW, Tognon CE, Bottomly D, et alNature 2018.
  • Automated decision tree to evaluate genetic abnormalities when determining prognostic risk in acute myeloid leukemia. Watanabe-Smith K, Druker BJ, Tyner JW, Edwards DK 5th. Haematologica 2018.
  • Analysis of acquired mutations in transgenes arising in Ba/F3 transformation assays: findings and recommendations. Watanabe-Smith K, Godil J, Agarwal A, Tognon C, Druker B. Oncotarget 2017.
  • Discovery and functional characterization of a germline, CSF2RB-activating mutation in leukemia. Watanabe-Smith K, Tognon C, Tyner JW, Meijerinik JP, Druker BJ, Agarwal A. Leukemia 2016.
  • Fancd2 and p21 function independently in maintaining the size of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell pool in mice. Zhang QS, Watanabe-Smith K, Schubert K, Major A, Sheehan AM, Marquez-Loza L, Newell AE, Benedetti E, Joseph E, Olson S, Grompe M. Stem Cell Research 2013.
  • Fancd2-/- mice have hematopoietic defects that can be partially corrected by resveratrol. Zhang QS, Marquez-Loza L, Eaton L, Duncan AW, Goldman DC, Anur P, Watanabe-Smith K, Rathburn RK, Fleming WH, Bagby GC, Grompe M. Blood 2010.


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