Joshua A. Hill, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Infections in patients with cancer or weakened immune systems
Infections can be scary, particularly in the context of cancer, but my hope is that you’ll pass some of that burden on to me and the other members of your health care team. Our goal is to help you be cancer-free and infection-free.”
What drew you to you to the cross-section of infectious disease and cancer care?
I did my training in general internal medicine in Boston, and the hospital where I worked was affiliated with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. During my rotations, I met many patients who had undergone blood or bone marrow transplants. Because their immune systems had been wiped out during the transplant process, many of them had contracted a serious viral infection in their brains. At that point, it wasn’t really known how to best treat infections for people who had cancer. If a person’s malignancy is cured, but then they die of an infection, we haven’t really helped them. I realized that there was a tremendous opportunity to improve the way we approach infectious disease in patients with cancer. It was a whole new area of medicine, rapidly evolving alongside oncology, where I felt I could make a lasting impact.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am an infectious-disease specialist who cares for patients with cancer or other conditions that affect the immune system. Board-certified in both internal medicine and infectious disease, I am a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy and the American Society of Transplantation.
In addition to caring for patients, I lead a translational research group focused on improving strategies to prevent and treat infections in people whose immune symptoms have been compromised. We lead clinical trials testing new therapies and collaborate with researchers from a variety of disciplines. One specific area of focus is exploring infection prevention for patients getting CAR T-cell therapy. This type of therapy engineers patients’ immune cells to attack tumors; however, it can also increase the risk of infection. In 2020, we received a $3.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Moonshot program to better understand how CAR T-cell therapy impedes the functioning of the immune system and how to safely and effectively manage this issue.
How do you help patients?
As an infectious disease doctor, I’m like a detective. I have to sort through all the clues about a person’s life to make sense of what’s going on — not only how someone is feeling but what they do for a living, where they’ve traveled and what their family situation is like, for example. This information enables me to make a diagnosis, and it also puts me in a position to help patients understand how an infection fits into the broader picture and what the path forward looks like. Infections can be scary, particularly in the context of cancer, but my hope is that you’ll pass some of that burden on to me and the other members of your health care team. Our goal is to help you be cancer-free and infection-free.
University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard, Boston, Internal Medicine
University of Washington, Seattle, Infectious Diseases
Infectious Disease, 2015; Internal Medicine 2012, American Board of Internal Medicine
Internship, Brigham and Women's Hospital