Jerald P. Radich, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Bone marrow transplantation
Nothing is more rewarding than seeing patients cured of their disease.”
What drew you to oncology?
I’m the son of a tinkerer — my father loved to invent, build and rebuild. We used to do things like tear apart an old Jeep and put it back together. Early on, I knew I wanted to have a creative career. In college, I studied fiction writing for a while, but then I took a molecular biology class, which spawned my interest in medicine. By the time I started medical school, I knew that I wanted to specialize in cancer; it was the best way to use my molecular biology training to help people who were really sick. Now, instead of tinkering under the hood of a Jeep, I peek inside cancer cells so we can better understand why some patients respond well to treatment and others don’t.
I am a medical oncologist who specializes in the molecular genetics of leukemia. I lead a research lab that studies why patients with leukemia do or don’t respond well after therapy. Our two other areas of focus include exploring how groups of cancer cells that share distinctive genetic mutations, known as “clones,” evolve over time and finding ways to make molecular diagnostic testing more affordable — a necessity for countries with few resources.
Our research has led to significant breakthroughs in the detection and treatment of leukemia. For example, I was part of a team that developed a test for detecting very small amounts of cancer cells in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) following treatment. The test helps physicians gauge a patient’s risk of relapse so they can pursue additional treatments before the disease progresses. Outside the lab, I serve on CML guidelines panels for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network and European LeukemiaNet, organizations that gather evidence to support optimal medical decision-making for patients with CML.
What is the “biology of luck” and why do you study it?
We all know people diagnosed with cancer who were expected to do well but relapsed after treatment, or people who didn’t have a good long-term prognosis but stayed in remission. Why is that? Is it their lifestyle? Their strength of will? What about luck? I define “luck” as the measure of our profound gap in knowledge about the interaction between a person, their cancer and their therapy. By better understanding the molecular underpinnings of therapy response, resistance and relapse, we can help physicians make better treatment decisions. They’ll know what therapies are likely to produce a lasting response or how likely it is a patient’s cancer will return, so they can intervene sooner. Ultimately, we are seeking to improve the odds for all patients, changing bad luck to good.
University of California
Univ. of Calif. Davis
UW - Division of General Internal Medicine
University of Washington Dept. of Medical Oncology
Internal Medicine, 1986, Medical Oncology, 1989, American Board of Internal Medicine