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OncoLink Celebrates 20 Years!

Creator Joel Goldwein, MD, Honored with “Visionary Award” at Anniversary Event

Before there was Yahoo or Google, there was OncoLink—one of the first web sites to provide to cancer information, or really any information, on the internet. And it started right here at Penn Medicine. Today, 20 years later, it’s one of the most trusted sources of cancer information, having reached nearly 40 million patients, families and healthcare professionals.

Oncolink-108“That’s an amazing accomplishment,” said James Metz, MD, professor of Radiation Oncology and the site’s Editor-in-Chief. “It is truly amazing to be part of the innovation that happens at Penn. I challenge any one to think of a single invention, discovery, or vision that has touched over 40 million individuals in the past 20 years: one man, with one computer and one vision, and millions given hope and inspiration through education on OncoLink.”


That man is Joel Goldwein, MD, an adjunct professor in the department of Radiation Oncology, who established the site back in 1994 as a tool for physicians to share information with one other. It was one of only 30,000 sites at the time—there are nearly 1 billion today—and was managed by a team of doctors and nurses at Penn.  Disease descriptions, information about open clinical trials, supportive care for cancer, and financial issues were just some of the topics they tackled. (Check oOncolink-1996ut the photo to the right to see what the site looked like in 1996). 

Not long after it started, the team began writing their own content and soon expanded to include conference coverage – physicians reporting from professional meetings so colleagues around the globe could get the latest research reported the day it was presented.  

Over the years, the features and volunteers kept growing, and it now includes webcasts and content written by many disciplines, including nurses, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers from across the country. Visit the site and you’ll find over 150,000 articles used by both patients and health care professionals.

OncoLink also has a strong social media presence (Facebook, Twitter and Google+), video content (Vimeo page), and blogs from inspiring survivors and caring oncology nurses and registered dieticians. 

Today, it’s led by Dr. Metz, managing editor Maggie Hampshire RN, BSN, OCN, and nurse educator Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN—who gathered with 150 others in early March to celebrate this 20-year milestone for a night of recognition, reflection and congratulations.

Dr. Metz also presented Dr. Goldwein with the “Visionary Award” for his dedication and creation.

“It’s been great to see it grow and mature,” said Dr. Goldwein during his acceptance speech. “OncoLink has tremendous credibility among patients, among institutions all over world. One reason is leadership over the years, and support from industry with no strings attached. That’s the key to credibility. We’re proud – it’s great for the department, great for the school, and great for the cancer center.  We think it’s great for just about everybody.”


Chi V. Dang, MD, PhD, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, also spoke that night to congratulate the team for their hard work and the site’s powerful impact.

“OncoLink is not a website, it’s a community. For 20 years, the OncoLink team has listened to thousands of patients, their caregivers, physicians and researchers to bring the most up to date and focused information to patients and their caregivers and the physicians who treat them,” Dr. Dang said that night. “It’s a vital part of Penn Medicine and we are honored its headquartered here. We look forward to continuing this conversation into the next decade…and beyond.”

**Photos Courtesy of Tom Leung Photography

Did you know?

  • OncoLink is run by a full-time staff of just 4 people 
  • First to develop a personalized Cancer Survivorship Care Plan program
  • First to develop a cancer risk assessment tool encompassing all cancers
  • 70 percent of users are female
  • OncoLink is developing Proton Therapy educational modules and certificates of completion for credentialing in partnership with the Department of Radiation Oncology

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