Dr. Gopal specializes in the treatment of lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and novel low toxicity therapies.
In treating serious illness, it's important for me to understand the disease, but I also need to understand the patient. Together, my patients and I work as a team to find the best treatment for their diseases to improve their health and their wellbeing.
CLL/SLL, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, low grade lymphoma, lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, Waldenström macroglobulinemia, MALT, mantle cell lymphoma and marginal zone lymphoma.
- Professor, Medical Oncology Division, University of Washington School of Medicine
- Associate Member, Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- Director of Clinical Research, Hematology Malignancies/Hematology, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
- MD: Emory University School of Medicine, 5/93
- Residency: Duke University School of Medicine Internal Medicine, 7/94-6/96
- Fellowship: University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1997-2000
- Dr. Gopal was recognized as a 2014 "Top Doctor" in Seattle Met magazine's annual survey.
- Dr. Gopal was recognized as a 2015 "Top Doctor" in Seattle magazine's annual survey.
- Visit PubMed for a full listing of Dr. Gopal's journal articles.
- Dr. Gopal discusses treatment options in lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia in this video.
Single-minded in purpose: providing the latest, best care for patients
Becoming a doctor was something Ajay Gopal always wanted to do.
“It provides a good combination of people skills, especially in stressful situations, with an intellectual challenge,” he says. “You get to know people very well and help them, which is very stimulating.”
Dr. Gopal was always into science as a kid and participated in every science fair and performed well academically. Growing up in Georgia, Dr. Gopal attended Duke University for his undergraduate studies and then Emory University for medical school. He returned to Duke for his internal medicine residency and joined the faculty at University of Washington School of Medicine (UW) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) after completing fellowship training there. Today he provides patient care at the SCCA and University of Washington Medical Center and performs research with the UW and Fred Hutch.
Married to a fellow physician who practices at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, Dr. Gopal and his wife are both busy with their careers but find time to roam the Washington mountain ranges backpacking and hiking, or traveling abroad.
From lab to clinic
Dr. Gopal wears three hats in his work at the SCCA: physician, researcher, and teacher. “I consider myself more of a clinical researcher,” Dr. Gopal says. “I want to get results out of the lab as quickly as possible to get the newest treatments into the clinic. It’s important to know how treatments work, but it may be more important to get them rapidly to patients.”
Three projects he’s actively working on include targeted therapies, particularly radio-immunotherapy used as part of stem cell transplants to reduce toxicity; other lower toxicity therapies, like a Vitamin-A derivative, fenretinide, that may cause lymphoma regression; and finally, lymphoma treatments in older adults.
“The average age for a lymphoma patient is 60 to 65,” Dr. Gopal says. “But they are the minority in trials because of toxicity issues, so these patients are not always able to get the latest therapies. In my research, I’d like to find a way to get these most effective therapies to this group, which represents half of all lymphoma patients.”
Better patient care is what motivates Dr. Gopal’s scientific research. In his work with fenretinide, he has a vision of one day being able to give some patients, who have slow-growing lymphomas, a pill to manage their disease long term, similarly to how hypertension is being treated today.
Patient care philosophy
“I’d like to think that I can provide the most current research and standard care options to my patients,” Dr. Gopal says, “and relate it in ways that they can understand so they can cope with what they are facing.”
When patients initially see Dr. Gopal with their diagnosis they may be armed with research data they found on the Web. Others may just be confused and afraid. But most become more than just patients to Dr. Gopal, they become united in a cause because first and foremost, his patients are people with families and lives.
“Oncology is an exciting field where new technology can be readily applied,” Dr. Gopal says. “It is a specialty like none other and as an oncologist I have to be there for my patients to help them through the tough times and then hopefully, years later, see them as healthy individuals free of cancer.”