Cristina Merkhofer, MD, MHS

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Assistant Professor
University of Washington School of Medicine
Assistant Professor, Clinical Research Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Medical Oncology
“I believe in treating you as a whole person and not just focusing on your cancer diagnosis. I enjoy learning about your values and your goals so that we can create a treatment plan that helps you reach those goals.”
— Dr. Merkhofer
Why did you choose your specialty?

As a medical oncologist, I am always working to stay on top of the latest treatment advances and to gather the data needed to make treatment decisions. However, the heart of what I do is not in reading medical journals, reviewing patient records or interpreting test results. I chose this specialty because I love translating the science of cancer care into custom treatment plans for my patients. The most rewarding part of being an oncologist is working together with my patients to meet their goals, whether it’s attending a granddaughter’s wedding or running a marathon.

What is your approach to care?

As the daughter of a physician, I understood from a young age that the physician-patient relationship is sacred. It is a privilege to share in your hopes and to try to lessen the burden of your fears. I believe in treating you as a whole person and not just focusing on your cancer diagnosis. I enjoy learning about your values and your goals so that we can create a treatment plan that helps you reach those goals. Communication is a priority, whether it’s making sure that you understand the risks and benefits of your treatment options or taking the time to call you with an update on your test results.

Provider background

Specialty: Medical Oncology

Lung cancer, head and neck cancers, thyroid cancer

I am a board-certified physician who specializes in treating patients with cancers affecting the lung, head, neck and thyroid. I work closely with surgeons, radiation oncologists and other providers to review your scans and medical data so that we can come up with the best treatment plan for you. Our team of thoracic and head-and-neck cancer experts has a strong clinical trial portfolio, and I am happy to discuss how trials may fit into your care.

The time that I spend with patients — discussing clinical trials, deciding between treatment options or connecting them with financial resources — directly informs my research. I study the value of clinical trial participation, both in terms of patient outcomes and costs to health care payers. I also investigate the effectiveness of lung cancer treatments in the “real world,” meaning whether patients experience similar responses and survival benefits from these treatments when receiving them outside a clinical trial. My goal is to help to facilitate decision-making for patients and oncologists and ultimately to inform health care policy.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
University of Pennsylvania
Medical Degree
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Internal Medicine; Global Health and Underserved Populations
University of Washington, Hematology-Oncology
Board Certification
Medical Oncology, 2020, American Board of Internal Medicine; Internal Medicine, 2017, American Board of Internal Medicine
MHS, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Conquer Cancer Young Investigator Award

Dr. Merkhofer received this award in 2020 from Conquer Cancer, the foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The award provides funding for promising researchers in clinical oncology.

Stork Petersdorf Lung Cancer Research Award

Dr. Merkhofer received this award in 2020. Sponsored by UW Medicine, this award supports researchers aiming to develop new therapies for patients with lung cancer.


Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Team coordinator (TC)
Team coordinator (TC)
Your team coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.


SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.

For providers