Keith D. Eaton, MD, PhD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Thoracic, head and neck
Helping people is really important to me. My childhood heroes were Gandhi and Einstein. Now, as a clinician and researcher, I get to connect closely with patients while bringing them leading-edge treatments.”
Why did you become an oncologist?
Like many doctors, I was always interested in science. Physics was my forte, and I was passionately studying it in graduate school when I met my wife. I quickly discovered she was doing more interesting things as a medical student than I was, so I decided to attend medical school while also completing my Ph.D. in physics. Though I was interested in primary care, I chose oncology because my nature drives me to become an expert in whatever I do. It’s hard to be an expert in general practice. As a scientist, I love bringing leading-edge science to my patients. As your physician, I’m focused on helping you clearly understand each step of your cancer treatment.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
As a principal investigator in many trials, one of the studies I hope to get funded uses positron emission tomography (PET) to guide how chemotherapies are selected for lung cancer patients. There are a number of chemotherapy options, and we don’t really know how to choose which to try first. Without PET, it takes six to eight weeks of treatment before we can evaluate and change the regimen if necessary. PET could show us within a couple of weeks whether a therapy is working or not, but it’ll take a study to prove this. I am also studying the influence of genetic factors in lung cancer, such as why some smokers get cancer while others don’t.
My clinical and research interests include biomarkers and supportive care for head and neck cancer as well as lung cancer. The types of head and neck cancers I treat include thyroid cancer, oral cancer and salivary gland cancer. Because head and neck cancers can be emotionally challenging — affecting your appearance as well as speech and swallowing — my goal is to limit any side effects while working to cure your disease.
Do you have a personal connection with cancer?
In 2012, I was diagnosed with leukemia and was given less than a 5% chance of survival, so I know firsthand how difficult the journey can be and I feel extremely fortunate. Kind of like Harry Potter — I’m the boy who lived. As a survivor myself, I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to help others with their disease. I consider patient education to be one of the most important aspects of my work because it empowers you to make informed decisions and participate fully in your care. I’m known as kind, patient, a good listener and an open, compassionate communicator. I’m committed to answering all your questions honestly and really getting to know you.
University of California, San Diego
University of California School of Medicine, San Diego
University of Washington, Primary Care
University of Washington/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Medical Oncology
Medical Oncology, 2003; Internal Medicine, 2001, American Board of Internal Medicine
PhD, University of California School of Medicine, San Diego