William Warner Shingleton, M.D., a distinguished surgeon and the founding director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, died in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jan. 2, 2005. He was 88.

Shingleton was instrumental in developing and expanding the burgeoning cancer center at Duke into a nationally recognized program. He was one of the signers of the 1971 National Cancer Act, legislation passed by Congress which appropriated federal funds to build 15 cancer centers nationwide.

The Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center was among these original centers and was established in 1972. The first building was constructed with a $5.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute in 1972, and by 1977 the Duke center had achieved the highest national standing when the National Cancer Advisory Board rated it first among the nation’s comprehensive cancer centers, ahead of Memorial Sloan Kettering and Sidney (now Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), the Mayo Clinic and Yale.

Under Shingleton’s direction, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center saw tremendous growth in the number of investigators, from 50 physicians and scientists to more than 200, as well as dramatic expansion in clinical and laboratory space and in research accomplishments.

Duke University School of Medicine amphitheater classroom, William W. Shingleton, MD, at lectern.

In 1987, Dr. Shingleton stepped down from the directorship, but his work on behalf of all cancer patients and his commitment to the Duke Cancer Center continued. Colleagues and peers praised his skills as a clinician, researcher and administrator, noting his particular warmth and personal rapport with patients and colleagues alike.

Former United States Senator and former President of Duke University Terry Sanford once said, “Dr. Shingleton’s distinguished service has always been characterized by his extraordinary humanity. In creating and administering Duke’s outstanding cancer center, he was tenacious and determined to get the job done. It was a great achievement and his work was recognized nationally. Dr. Shingleton met those demands with courtesy and sensitivity to others, as he has in all of his undertakings. He has a special talent for combining achievement with compassion. He is a man to admire and respect, and all of us will remain in his debt.”

H. Kim Lyerly, M.D., current director of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, said, “Dr. Shingleton’s passing is a profound loss to his family and friends, to Duke Medical Center, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, and to the community of cancer researchers and clinicians worldwide. Dr. Shingleton remained a friend to the Cancer Center long after his tenure as director and will forever be remembered as the man who created the foundation on which we all stand today.”

Shingleton was born in Stantonsburg, N.C., on Nov. 26, 1917. His parents, the late Mattie Cook and William Wiley Shingleton, operated a family farm supply store there until the Depression. He attended the University of North Carolina for three years, working at various jobs to pay his way, then finished his final year of undergraduate work at Atlantic Christian College in Wilson, NC, where he graduated summa cum laude in 1939. In 1982, he received an honorary doctorate from Atlantic Christian College.

He then enrolled at Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University and graduated with the school’s first medical school class in 1943. Following an internship at Duke, Shingleton spent two years on active duty as an Army captain in Italy. He served as chief of the surgical service at the 92nd station hospital in Naples, then chief of surgical service at the 392nd station hospital in Trieste.

He returned to Duke in 1948 as an instructor in surgery and to conduct his surgical residency. He became an associate of surgery in 1951 and ascended through the ranks to become chief of general surgery in 1964 and director of the cancer center in 1971.

His interest in cancer was born out of a desire to help the patients he operated on who had the disease. Shingleton was quoted in a 1987 Duke publication entitled, The Shingleton Years, as saying, “We saw then that there wasn’t anyone here who was really concentrating on oncology and tumors. A lot of people were doing work in those fields, but no one was making it a specialty. I saw an opportunity to go into general surgery with emphasis on the gastrointestinal tract and oncology.”

One of Shingleton’s research papers was widely credited with changing the way drugs were delivered for metastatic tumors to the liver. He demonstrated that injecting drugs intravenously was just as effective – and far simpler for the patient – than administering drugs into a hepatic artery, which required patients to be hospitalized for two weeks. He was also involved in some of the early studies on the effects of combining surgery and drug treatments against cancer. Shingleton was a strong proponent of outreach and education as a means of cancer prevention. Over the course of his career, Shingleton published more than 85 articles in professional journals, three book chapters, and a book.

Shingleton is survived by his wife of 55 years, Jane Bruce Shingleton of Palatka, FL. He is also survived by his sons, William Bruce Shingleton, M.D. and Marsha Shingleton of Shreveport, LA, and their children, Robley Bruce and Margaret Merriman Shingleton; Arthur Bradley Shingleton and his wife Sherburne Laughlin of Bethesda, MD, and their children, William Wiley and Matthias Bernhardt Shingleton; daughters, Catherine Shingleton Branch and her husband Bradford Branch of Atlanta, and their children Julia Catherine, William Warner, Sarah Elizabeth and Oliver Douglas Branch; Betty Shingleton Franklin of Cary, NC and her children, Sarah Catherine and Richard Carter Franklin; Susan Shingleton Sutcliff and her husband Michael Sutcliff of Alpharetta, GA, and their children Catherine Harper and Lindsay Jane Sutcliff.

A memorial service will be held Wed., Jan. 5, at 1:00 pm at the Duke Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center (to support the Jane Bruce Shingleton Endowed Fund for Breast Cancer), DUMC 3828, Durham, NC 27710.