Derek L. Stirewalt, MD

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Associate Professor, Division of Hematology
University of Washington School of Medicine
UW Medicine
Professor, Clinical Research Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Medical Oncology
“One of the most important things I can do is listen so that I can find the best way to help you navigate diagnosis and treatment.”
— Dr. Stirewalt
What motivates your work with blood malignancies like leukemia?

In recent years, there have been a lot of amazing breakthroughs in the treatments of some cancers. However, progress in the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), especially for adults over the age of 65, has been slower than we would like. As the population ages, AML will thus become an increasing health problem, and we desperately need to develop novel therapies that are more effective and less taxing on the body. Such therapies will help to curb the rising tide of AML-related deaths. So I’m driven to better understand the biology of AML and to develop innovative ways to improve treatment for this devastating disease.

What do patients appreciate about working with you?

Every patient is different, with unique goals, needs and life stressors. One of the most important things that I can do is listen. Truly hearing patients and understanding their concerns allows for the development of trust, which is essential for providing optimal care. Some patients want to know every detail about their disease and treatment, while others prefer to focus more on their recuperation. Whatever their preference may be, I work with them to help ensure the details of their care are attended to and that they feel supported.

Provider background

Specialty: Medical Oncology

Area of clinical practice

Adult Blood and Marrow Transplantation

Leukemia, other blood malignancies

I have been caring for patients as a board-certified medical oncologist at SCCA since it opened in 2001. My expertise centers on the treatment of blood malignancies such as leukemia. Most of the patients that I have the pleasure of seeing are faced with a very challenging decision: whether they should consider stem cell transplantation. I work with these patients to weigh the risks and benefits of choosing a transplant or other therapies.

In addition to caring for patients, I study how the process of aging affects the development of leukemia and other blood diseases. My colleagues and I seek to identify novel biomarkers (molecular signposts) that can help predict a patients’ response to therapy, lead to new tests for early cancer detection and give us insight into how a disease progresses. My research has been published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, such as Nature, Blood and Leukemia. I also serve on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guidelines Committee for senior adult oncology. 

Medical oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer in adults using chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and targeted therapy. A medical oncologist is often the main health care provider for someone who has cancer. A medical oncologist also gives supportive care and may coordinate treatment given by other specialists. Stem cell A cell from which other types of cells develop. For example, blood cells develop from blood-forming stem cells.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
Davidson College
Medical Degree
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
University of North Carolina Memorial Hospitals, Internal Medicine
University of Washington, Hematology-Oncology
Board Certification
Medical Oncology, 1999, American Board of Internal Medicine


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.


Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.


SCCA providers are often asked to give their medical expertise for press and news publications. Read articles by or about this SCCA provider.

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.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care 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.

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