Elihu H. Estey, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)
When it comes to treatment, always be prepared for success instead of failure.”
What do you want patients to know about working with you?
If you’ve been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), you’ve probably heard a lot of pessimistic talk about your health and what’s to come — statements like, “Chemotherapy is horrible,” or, “You have three months to live.” I try to be the antidote to all that negativity. Now that we have a greater understanding of the genetics of AML, treatment is improving and people do get cured. While I won’t be a Pollyanna about your situation, I think it’s important for you to be prepared for success rather than failure.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a board-certified oncologist and researcher who specializes in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and other blood cancers. Prior to joining SCCA in 2008, I spent 30 years coordinating clinical AML research and treating patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Given the length of my career, I’ve likely seen as many adults with AML as anyone in the world. In addition to treating patients, I am a principal author of the European LeukemiaNet (ELN) expert guidelines for the treatment of AML. My research focuses on two main areas. The first is optimizing clinical trial methodology so that the design is more in keeping with the complexities of medical practice — for example, monitoring multiple endpoints, such as survival and toxicity, rather than just one endpoint. The second area is enhancing the treatment of AML and myelodysplastic syndromes by collecting and analyzing data, so that care decisions are always based on evidence rather than convention. I have published more than 200 scientific papers investigating these two areas.
MDS is a group of disorders that stem from abnormal blood-forming cells in the bone marrow. About one in three patients with MDS will develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Treatment options vary according to the type of MDS; however, I am striving to improve those options.
What is your approach to cancer treatment?
AML is the most common leukemia in adults, and treating it can be challenging due to its high number of chromosomal abnormalities. For that reason, many of the patients I see are unlikely to do well when treated with standard therapies. I believe that one of the most important things I can do is inform you about clinical trials testing new approaches; participating in a clinical trial is often the best option for successfully treating this disease. There are many to choose from, and picking the right one for you isn’t easy. However, we’ll discuss the risks and benefits as well as quality of life and logistical issues, so that together we can decide if enrolling in a clinical trial is in your best interest.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
New York University School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital Center, General Internal Medicine and Neurology
MD Anderson Cancer Center, Developmental Therapeutics
Medical Oncology, 1980; General Internal Medicine, 1975, American Board of Internal Medicine
Teaching Appointment, MD Anderson Cancer Center