Skip to main content


James M. Olson, MD, PhD

James M. Olson, MD, PhD


On staff since July 1999

Academic Title: Professor

Research Center: Center for Clinical and Translational Research

Making a Difference

  • Clues to Brain Growth Found

    The discovery of mutations in genes that help regulate brain growth could lead to better treatments for brain disorders and other conditions, including cancer, autism and epilepsy.... cont.


Board Certification(s)
Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Medical/Professional School
University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
Research Description

I am principal investigator on six projects that focus on developing effective new therapies for pediatric brain tumors, methods that allow surgeons to better visualize the border of brain cancer and normal brain, the molecular mechanisms of cerebellar development and genetic-based endpoints for neuro-degenerative diseases.

A study led by my team and I showed that tumor paint is 500 times better than a standard MRI at helping surgeons distinguish between cancer cells and normal tissue. Our team developed the paint, which is currently being studied in mice models, from a scorpion-derived peptide called chlorotoxin.

Research Focus Area


Awards and Honors

Award NameAward DescriptionAwarded ByAward Date
Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award
Children's Oncology Group Young Investigators Award
Child Health Research Center New Investigator Award
Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in Biomedical Sciences
Emily Dorfman Fellow, American Brain Tumor Association
American Academy of Pediatrics Resident Research Award
Nu Sigma Nu Medical Fraternity Scholarship in International Health
Duncan McCarthy Award for Pharmacology Research
Midwest Student Medical Research Forum XVII Award
Medical Student Research Program Award
University of Michigan Regents Fellowship
Medical Scientist Training Program Fellow


MyoD is a tumor suppressor gene in medulloblastoma.
Cancer research , Nov. 2013: 73(22)6828-37
Genome-wide RNAi screens in human brain tumor isolates reveal a novel viability requirement for PHF5A.
Genes and development , May 2013: 27(9)1032-45
Canonical TGF- pathway activity is a predictor of SHH-driven medulloblastoma survival and delineates putative precursors in cerebellar development.
Brain pathology (Zurich, Switzerland) , March 2013: 23(2)178-91
Cancer-Specific requirement for BUB1B/BUBR1 in human brain tumor isolates and genetically transformed cells.
Cancer discovery , 2013 Feb: 3(2)198-211
Sonic hedgehog-induced histone deacetylase activation is required for cerebellar granule precursor hyperplasia in medulloblastoma.
PloS one , 2013: 8(8)e71455
A distinct Smoothened mutation causes severe cerebellar developmental defects and medulloblastoma in a novel transgenic mouse model.
Molecular and cellular biology , 2012 Oct: 32(20)4104-15
Subgroup-specific structural variation across 1,000 medulloblastoma genomes.
Nature , 2012 Aug 2: 488(7409)49-56
Hedgehog pathway inhibitor saridegib (IPI-926) increases lifespan in a mouse medulloblastoma model.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2012 May 15: 109(20)7859-64
The molecular classification of medulloblastoma: driving the next generation clinical trials.
Current opinion in pediatrics , 2012 Feb: 24(1)33-9
In vivo bio-imaging using chlorotoxin-based conjugates.
Current pharmaceutical design , 2011 Dec: 17(38)4362-71
Genome-wide analyses identify recurrent amplifications of receptor tyrosine kinases and cell-cycle regulatory genes in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology , 2011 Oct 20: 29(30)3999-4006
Phase I trial of MK-0752 in children with refractory CNS malignancies: a pediatric brain tumor consortium study.
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology , 2011 Sep 10: 29(26)3529-34
Curcumin-induced HDAC inhibition and attenuation of medulloblastoma growth in vitro and in vivo.
BMC cancer , 2011 Apr 18: 11144
Integrative genomic analysis of medulloblastoma identifies a molecular subgroup that drives poor clinical outcome.
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology , 2011 Apr 10: 29(11)1424-30
Design of highly emissive polymer dot bioconjugates for in vivo tumor targeting.
Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English) , 2011 Apr 4: 50(15)3430-4
Chemical re-engineering of chlorotoxin improves bioconjugation properties for tumor imaging and targeted therapy.
Journal of medicinal chemistry , 2011 Feb 10: 54(3)782-7
Environmental enrichment reduces neuronal intranuclear inclusion load but has no effect on messenger RNA expression in a mouse model of Huntington disease.
Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology , 2010 Aug: 817-27
Environmental enrichment reduces neuronal intranuclear inclusion load but has no effect on messenger RNA expression in a mouse model of Huntington disease.
Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology , 2010 Aug: 69(8)817-27
DTI fiber tracking to differentiate demyelinating diseases from diffuse brain stem glioma.
NeuroImage , 2010 Aug 1: 52(1)217-23
Notch signaling is not essential in sonic hedgehog-activated medulloblastoma.
Oncogene , July 2010: 29(26)3865-72
Transcriptional inhibition of REST by NeuroD2 during neuronal differentiation.
Molecular and cellular neurosciences , June 2010: 44(2)178-89
Rapid pharmacokinetic and biodistribution studies using cholorotoxin-conjugated iron oxide nanoparticles: a novel non-radioactive method.
PloS one , March 2010: 5(3)e9536
DNA methylation of developmental genes in pediatric medulloblastomas identified by denaturation analysis of methylation differences.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , Jan. 2010: 107(1)234-9
PEI-PEG-Chitosan Copolymer Coated Iron Oxide Nanoparticles for Safe Gene Delivery: synthesis, complexation, and transfection.
Advanced functional materials , 2009 Jul 24: 19(14)2244-2251
Specific targeting of brain tumors with an optical/magnetic resonance imaging nanoprobe across the blood-brain barrier.
Cancer Res , 2009: 69(15)
E protein dosage influences brain development more than family member identity.
Journal of neuroscience research , 2008 May 15: 1472-81
Response of preclinical medulloblastoma models to combination therapy with 13-cis retinoic acid and suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid (SAHA).
Journal of neuro-oncology , 2008 Apr: 133-41
The Smo/Smo model: hedgehog-induced medulloblastoma with 90% incidence and leptomeningeal spread.
Cancer research , 2008 Mar 15: 1768-76
In vivo MRI detection of gliomas by chlorotoxin-conjugated superparamagnetic nanoprobes.
Small , 2008: 4(3)372-379
Tumor-targeted drug delivery and MRI contrast enhancement by chlorotoxin-conjugated iron oxide nanoparticles.
Nanomedicine , 2008: 3(4)495-505
Methylation of PTCH1, the Patched-1 gene, in a panel of primary medulloblastomas.
Cancer genetics and cytogenetics , 2008 Jan 1: 47-50
Expression profiling of Huntington's disease models suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor depletion plays a major role in striatal degeneration.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience , 2007 Oct 24: 11758-68
Assessing bias in experiment design for large scale mass spectrometry-based quantitative proteomics.
Molecular & cellular proteomics : MCP , 2007 Oct: 1741-8
Mutant huntingtin's effects on striatal gene expression in mice recapitulate changes observed in human Huntington's disease brain and do not differ with mutant huntingtin length or wild-type huntingtin dosage.
Human molecular genetics , Aug. 2007: 16(15)1845-61
Tumor paint: a chlorotoxin:Cy5.5 bioconjugate for intraoperative visualization of cancer foci.
Cancer research , 2007 Jul 15: 6882-8
Huntingtin interacting proteins are genetic modifiers of neurodegeneration.
PLoS genetics , 2007 May 11: 3(5)e82
Conservation of regional gene expression in mouse and human brain.
PLoS genetics , 2007 Apr 20: 3(4)e59
N-myc is an essential downstream effector of Shh signaling during both normal and neoplastic cerebellar growth.
Cancer research , 2006 Sep 1: 8655-61
Suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid is effective in preclinical studies of medulloblastoma.
Journal of neuro-oncology , 2006 Sep: 259-70
Congenital hypothyroidism (cretinism) in neuroD2-deficient mice.
Molecular and cellular biology , 2006 Jun: 4311-5
Assessment of the relationship between pre-chip and post-chip quality measures for Affymetrix GeneChip expression data.
BMC bioinformatics , 2006 Apr 19: 211
A statistical method for predicting splice variants between two groups of samples using GeneChip expression array data.
Theoretical biology & medical modelling , 2006 Apr 7: 19
Regional and cellular gene expression changes in human Huntington's disease brain.
Human molecular genetics , 2006 Mar 15: 965-77
Regulation of thalamocortical patterning and synaptic maturation by NeuroD2.
Neuron , 2006 Mar 2: 683-95
Regional and cellular gene expression changes in human Huntington's disease brain.
Human Molecular Genetics , 2006: 15(6)965-77
Nervous system cancer models: medulloblastoma.
Drug Discovery Today: Disease Models , 2006: 3(2)167-74
Mutant huntingtin alters MAPK signaling pathways in PC12 and striatal cells: ERK1/2 protects against mutant huntingtin-associated toxicity.
Human molecular genetics , 2006 Jan 15: 273-85
Cisplatin-based chemotherapy followed by focal, reduced-dose irradiation for pediatric primary central nervous system germinomas.
Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology : official journal of the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology , 2006 Jan: 36-9
Dysfunction of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway in Huntington's disease.
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience , 2005 Oct 26: 9932-9
Contribution of nuclear and extranuclear polyQ to neurological phenotypes in mouse models of Huntington's disease.
Human molecular genetics , 2005 Oct 15: 3065-78
The dosage of the neuroD2 transcription factor regulates amygdala development and emotional learning.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2005 Oct 11: 14877-82
Significance testing for small microarray experiments.
Statistics in medicine , 2005 Aug 15: 2281-98
Gene expression in Huntington's disease skeletal muscle: a potential biomarker.
Human molecular genetics , 2005 Jul 1: 1863-76
A class of models for analyzing GeneChip gene expression analysis array data.
BMC genomics , 2005 Feb 14: 16
An optical and MRI multifunctional nanoprobe for targeting gliomas.
Nano Letters , 2005: 5(6)1003-1008
The SmoA1 mouse model reveals that notch signaling is critical for the growth and survival of sonic hedgehog-induced medulloblastomas.
Cancer research , 2004 Nov 1: 7794-800
p38 MAP kinase: a convergence point in cancer therapy.
Trends in molecular medicine , 2004 Mar: 125-9
Regulation of neuroD2 expression in mouse brain.
Developmental biology , 2004 Jan 1: 234-45
Genetic heterogeneity of stably transfected cell lines revealed by expression profiling with oligonucleotide microarrays.
Journal of cellular biochemistry , 2003 Dec 1: 1068-78
BMP-2 mediates retinoid-induced apoptosis in medulloblastoma cells through a paracrine effect.
Nature medicine , 2003 Aug: 1033-8
Evaluating test statistics to select interesting genes in microarray experiments.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Sep 15: 2223-32
Estimating the statistical significance of gene expression changes observed with oligonucleotide arrays.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Sep 15: 2207-21
Medulloblastoma growth inhibition by hedgehog pathway blockade.
Science (New York, N.Y.) , 2002 Aug 30: 1559-61
A regression-based method to identify differentially expressed genes in microarray time course studies and its application in an inducible Huntington's disease transgenic model.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1977-85
Altered transcriptional regulation in cells expressing the expanded polyglutamine androgen receptor.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1967-76
Early transcriptional profiles in huntingtin-inducible striatal cells by microarray analyses.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1953-65
Increased huntingtin protein length reduces the number of polyglutamine-induced gene expression changes in mouse models of Huntington's disease.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1939-51
Polyglutamine and transcription: gene expression changes shared by DRPLA and Huntington's disease mouse models reveal context-independent effects.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1927-37
Dysregulation of gene expression in the R6/2 model of polyglutamine disease: parallel changes in muscle and brain.
Human molecular genetics , 2002 Aug 15: 1911-26
Prediction of central nervous system embryonal tumour outcome based on gene expression.
Nature , 2002 Jan 24: 436-42
Altered transcription in yeast expressing expanded polyglutamine.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 2001 Nov 6: 98(23)13201-6
An efficient and robust statistical modeling approach to discover differentially expressed genes using genomic expression profiles.
Genome research , 2001 Jul: 11(7)1227-36
NeuroD2 is necessary for development and survival of central nervous system neurons.
Developmental biology , 2001 Jun 1: 234(1)174-87
Gastrointestinal stromal tumor in a patient with previous neuroblastoma.
Journal of pediatric hematology/oncology , 2001 May: 23(4)255-6
Therapeutic opportunities in polyglutamine disease.
Nature medicine , 2001 Apr: 7(4)419-23
The Hereditary Disease Array Group (HDAG) - Microarrays, Models and Mechanisms: A Collaboration Update.
Current Genomics , 2001: (2)221-229
Decreased expression of striatal signaling genes in a mouse model of Huntington's disease.
Human molecular genetics , 2000 May 22: 9(9)1259-71
Generation of neurons by transient expression of neural bHLH proteins in mammalian cells.
Development (Cambridge, England) , 2000 Feb: 127(4)693-702
Treatment of diencephalic syndrome with chemotherapy: growth, tumor response, and long term control.
Cancer , 1998 Jul 1: 83(1)166-72
Expression of neurogenic basic helix-loop-helix genes in primitive neuroectodermal tumors.
Cancer research , 1997 Aug 15: 57(16)3526-31
Gene therapy of rat 9L gliosarcoma tumors by transduction with selectable genes does not require drug selection.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 1994 Aug 16: 91(17)8185-9
Localization of PK 11195 binding sites to mitochondria of human glioma cells.
J. Neuro-Oncology , 1992: (13)32-42
Positron emission tomographic imaging of human gliomas with ligands for the peripheral benzodiazepine binding site.
Annals Neurol. , 1989: (26)752-758
Presence of peripheral-type benzodiazepine binding sites on human erythrocytes.
Eur. J. Pharmacol. , 1988: (152)47-53
Autoradiographic localization of cerebellar excitatory amino acid binding sites in the mouse.
Neurosci. , 1987: 22913-923
Autoradiographic characterization of N-Methyl-D-Aspartate-, quisqualate-, and kainate-sensitive glutamate binding sites
J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. , 1985: 233254-263
Development and Evaluation of Chlorotoxin-based Tumor-specific Molecular Imaging Probes

Research Funding

Grant TitleGrantorAmountAward Date
NSF1208554 (Seibel, PI)NSF/University of Washington $$19,790, effort: 0.24 calendarSept. 1, 2012 - Aug. 30, 2016
Pilot Funds FHCRC (Olson, PI)Institutional Funds $$200,000, effort: 0.24 calendarJuly 1, 2012 - June 30, 2013
2R01CA114567-06A1 (Olson, PI)NIH NCI $$129,143, effort: 1.8 calendar April 18, 2012 - March 31, 2017
Contract (Olson, PI)Sanofi Aventis $$336,303 (no-cost extension), effort: 0.36 calendar Oct. 27, 2011 - March 3, 2013
CA100735 (Paddison, PI)Department of Defense / CDMRP $$89,402, effort: 0.24 calendarSept. 1, 2011 - Aug. 31, 2014
1R01CA155360-01 (Olson, PI)NIH NCI $$207,500, effort: 0.24 calendarJune 7, 2011 - March 31, 2016
4R42CA14410-02 (Olson, PI)NIH NCI $$441,641 (Phase II), effort: 1.2 calendarMay 1, 2011 - Dec. 16, 2012
Contract (Olson, PI)Presage Biosciences, Inc. $$53,409, effort: 0.24 calendarNov. 1, 2009 - Dec. 16, 2012
5U10 CA98543-09 (Adamson, PI)NCCF COG $$12,294 (subcontract), effort: 0.58 calendarMarch 1, 2005 - Feb. 28, 2014

Primary Office

Seattle Children's
MB.8.501 - Hematology-Oncology
4800 Sand Point Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105

Find a Doctor or Researcher

Find a Doctor or Researcher

Type the first or last name you are searching for or select a specialty.

Doctor or Researcher Name:

More search options