Stephen Skapek, M.D.

Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology

  • Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research
  • Pediatrics - Hematology-Oncology
  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma


Stephen Skapek, M.D., is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. In addition to being the Interim Chair of the Department, he serves as Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology and holds the UT Southwestern Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research. He also serves as Medical Director of the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. He specializes in the treatment of children with soft-tissue sarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma.

Dr. Skapek earned his medical degree at the Duke University School of Medicine. He completed a residency in pediatrics at Wilford Hall Medical Center, a U.S. Air Force treatment facility in San Antonio, Texas, and then performed a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Children’s Hospital Boston, as well as a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School. Previously, he served at Wilford Hall Medical Center, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, and the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.

Certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in pediatric hematology/oncology, he joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2011.

Dr. Skapek is Co-Leader of the Cancer and Development Scientific Program at UTSW’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and Chair of the Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancer for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. He serves on several leadership committees for the international Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest clinical research organization focused on childhood cancers. He's a member of several other professional organizations, including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, and the American Association for Cancer Research.

Dr. Skapek leads a research lab that focuses on tumor-suppressor genes in soft-tissue sarcomas. He has delivered numerous invited lectures and published countless academic articles.

He is a past recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Research Scholar Award and has been named a D Magazine Best Doctor.

Meet Dr. Skapek

Stephen X. Skapek, M.D., believes that caring for children with cancer requires both clinical and research excellence. As Chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at UT Southwestern, he settles for nothing less.

Childhood cancer is much less common than adult cancer, so when it comes to treating these illnesses, experience is essential. Children with cancer may need a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – much of which requires specialized expertise and close observation to make sure the kids, whose bodies are still growing and developing, suffer as few side effects and complications as possible. 

Dr. Skapek leads one of the larger pediatric cancer programs in the United States, comprising some 25 faculty physicians, all of whom have established and growing expertise in specific areas of childhood cancer and blood disorders.

“We can offer our patients and their families doctors who have significant expertise in their child’s particular illness,” Dr. Skapek says.

Most of the program’s physicians care for their patients at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, in the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, where Dr. Skapek serves as Medical Director. The UT Southwestern pediatric cancer program is also a major program of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of fewer than 60 centers in the U.S. – and the only one in North Texas – designated as Comprehensive Cancer Centers by the National Cancer Institute.

“Being part of the Simmons Cancer Center allows us to do research and to conduct clinical trials that improve the care that we provide,” Dr. Skapek says, noting that one of his main jobs as division chief is to support and strengthen the research that’s being done to unravel the problems of blood diseases and cancers in children and translate those discoveries into new therapies. 

Soft-tissue sarcoma expert

D Magazine Best Doctor, Dr. Skapek himself is also a physician scientist; both his clinical and research expertise is focused on children who have soft-tissue sarcoma, especially rhabdomyosarcoma, which is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma that children get.

His lab at UT Southwestern researches tumor suppressor genes in these types of cancers and investigates how soft-tissue sarcoma cells mimic aspects of developing muscle cells. Dr. Skapek also holds leadership positions in the NCI-supported Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest clinical research organization focused on childhood cancer.

One of the exciting areas his division is developing is an experimental therapeutics program for early-stage clinical trials, which explores new treatments for children whose cancers relapse, or who have types of cancers that can’t be cured with existing treatments.

“In the last couple of years we’ve really amplified our capacity to offer new treatments, including immunotherapies, where we take immune-system cells out of a patient’s body and reprogram them to fight against cancer cells,” he explains. UT Southwestern is one of only a handful of sites in the country to offer such treatments for childhood leukemia.

“I feel really honored and privileged to be able to do this work,” Dr. Skapek says. “I’m lucky to be working at one of the nation’s finest medical schools, in one of the larger childhood cancer programs, leading a team of great physicians and working with an even larger team of researchers across the whole UT Southwestern campus. I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked in my life since I’ve come to UT Southwestern, but it’s been more satisfying than anything I’ve ever done before.”

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Education & Training
  • Fellowship - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (1991-1994), Pediatric Hematology/oncology
  • Residency - Wilford Hall Medical Center (1988-1991), Pediatrics
  • Medical School - Duke University (1984-1988)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Pediatric Oncology Group/Children's Oncology Group
  • Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
  • American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology
  • American Association for Cancer Research
Honors & Awards
  • D Magazine Best Pediatric Specialist 2020-2021
  • Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research 2013, UT Southwestern
  • Distinguished Professorship in Pediatric Oncology Research 2011, UT Southwestern
  • Research Scholar Award 2004, American Cancer Society
  • Honorable Discharge (Rank: Major) 2001, United States Air Force
  • Medical Research Award 1999, G and P Foundation for Cancer Research
  • Clinical Investigator Development Award (K08) 1994, NIH
  • USAF Achievement Medal 1992, United States Air Force
  • Resident Physician of the Quarter 1991, Wilford Hall Medical Center
  • Pediatric Research Resident Research Award (Runner-up) 1991, Howard Johnson
  • Pediatric Resident Research Award (Finalist) 1990, Howard Johnson
  • Alpha Omega Alpha 1988, Duke University
  • Summa Cum Laude Graduate 1984, Duke University
  • USAF Health Professions Scholarship 1984, United States Air Force
  • Commissioned, Second Lieutenant 1984, United States Air Force
  • Phi Beta Kappa 1983, Duke University
Books & Publications
  • Elucidating Molecular Mechanisms Controlling CDKN2A Expression During Development and in Cancer
  • Understanding Molecular and Genetic Mechanisms Coordinating the Initiation of Differentiation with Cell Proliferation Arrest in Skeletal Myoblasts, and Determining Whether the Manipulation of These Programs Alters the Biology of Rhabdomyosarcoma-derived Cells
  • Studying the Molecular Basis by Which Regulated Cyclin D1 Engages p53 to Foster Cell Senescence as a Tumor Suppressor Mechanism
  • Defining Actionable Vulnerabilities in Rhabdomyosarcoma and Other Types of Childhood Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

Clinical Focus

  • Soft Tissue Sarcoma
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma

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Q&A by Dr. Skapek

Stephen Skapek, M.D.

Dr. Skapek talks about his approach to patient care.

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