Marco Mielcarek, MD, PhD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Bone marrow transplantation
Research is the backbone for improving patient care.”
What do you love about your job?
I arrived in Seattle in 1994 for a research fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. My plan was to stay for two years and then return to my home in Germany. As you can see, I’m still here. I learned a lot during my fellowship — it was a good collaboration — but I didn’t want the kind of career where I was restricted to the lab. I wanted the privilege of taking care of patients, too. So I decided to stay in the U.S. to pursue those two passions. At SCCA, I get the best of both worlds — working closely with patients and conducting research to make treatment for blood cancers more tolerable.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a board-certified oncologist with more than 20 years of experience caring for patients who receive stem cell transplants for blood cancers. I also serve as medical director of SCCA’s Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. My research is aimed at the prevention and treatment of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) — a potentially dangerous complication that can develop post-transplant where immune system cells attack healthy tissues and organs. For example, one study I led found that patients with GVHD could be effectively treated with lower doses of prednisone (a steroid that can have negative side effects) than most physicians had been using. Currently, my colleagues and I are testing whether treating stem cell donors with statins (drugs widely used to lower cholesterol) can prevent GVHD in transplant recipients.
How do you care for patients?
I believe there are two key ingredients to providing excellent care. The first is tailoring treatment according to your needs and philosophy. An approach that is a good fit for someone else may not be ideal for you, and I never want to make assumptions about what you prefer. The second ingredient is incorporating up-to-date research so that you’re receiving the very best treatment that medicine has to offer, which can sometimes be clinical trials. Participating in trials helps us increase our understanding of diseases and achieve better cure rates.