Elihu H. Estey, MD

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Professor, Hematology and Medicine
University of Washington School of Medicine
Director of AML Clinical Research Division
UW Medicine
Professor and Director of AML Clinical Research Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Medical Oncology
It is with great sadness that we share that Dr. Elihu (Eli) Estey passed away on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.

Dr. Estey was a rigorous clinical scientist, a wonderful citizen of academic medicine and a tremendous physician. We are proud to have had him as a member of the Hematology faculty, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him, including his colleagues and patients at SCCA. We will  honor his legacy by continuing to pursue new approaches to treating AML and providing patients with the best possible care.

In memoriam: Elihu Estey, University of Washington Department of Medicine

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.

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.

Provider background

Specialty: Medical Oncology

Acute myeloid leukemia

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.

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS)

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.

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
Yale University
Medical Degree
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
Board Certification
Medical Oncology, 1980; General Internal Medicine, 1975, American Board of Internal Medicine
Teaching Appointment, MD Anderson Cancer Center


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.

Study ID:
Complete title
Assessing Selection Bias in AML Therapy: a "Minimal-Risk" Study
Study ID:
Complete title
Surveillance Study for Acute Leukemias
Study ID:
G-CSF and Continuous Infusion Chemotherapy (CI-GCLAM) for the Treatment of Relapsed or Refractory Acute Myeloid Leukemia or Other High-Grade Myeloid Neoplasms
Complete title
Dose-Finding (Phase 1) Study of G-CSF and Continuous Infusion Cladribine, Cytarabine and Mitoxantrone (CI-GCLAM) for Adults with Relapsed/Refractory Acute Myeloid Leukemia or Other High-Grade Myeloid Neoplasms Treated at UW/SCCA


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.

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.
Heather A. Smith, PA-C, MMSc
Heather A. Smith, PA-C, MMSc
Physician Assistant
Advanced Practice Provider
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.

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