Dr. Melinda Biernacki is a physician at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance specializing in bone marrow transplantation.
My patient care goals are first, to provide the best care based on available scientific evidence, and second, to communicate effectively with patients and their families to help them navigate the long and complex process of stem cell transplantation.
Bone marrow transplant, hematology oncology
- Acting Instructor, University of Washington School of Medicine
- Research Associate, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
- BA: Reed College
- MD: University of Connecticut School of Medicine
- Fellowship: Hematology and Oncology , University of Washington
I have been a bone marrow transplant physician at SCCA since April 2017. Prior to this, I was a hematology and oncology fellow at SCCA and UW Medicine.
I have a longstanding love of biology and understanding of the natural world, but I realized early on that I didn't want to only spend time in a lab. Medicine allows me to combine my love of science and with my passion for communication, teaching and building relationships.
When I was in my early 20s I ended up serendipitiously working in a laboratory studying the targets of graft-versus-leukemia (GVL) responses after bone marrow transplantation. The concept of harnessing GVL responses to treat cancer – using one smart evolving system (the donor immune system) to go after another smart evolving system (the patient's cancer) – was unbelievably compelling and has been a driving interest for me over the last decade and a half. My research interests and my clinical interests converged in medical school and residency when I started taking care of patients who had the diseases I was studying in the lab, and I really enjoyed taking care of cancer patients with complex medical needs.
I am a postdoctoral scientist in Dr. Marie Bleakley's laboratory. I am interested in developing new immunotherapies that specifically target leukemia mutations. By targeting cancer specific mutations, these therapies should be able to hone in on and kill the cancer cells without harming normal healthy tissues.
It's been so exciting to see immunotherapies come to the forefront of cancer treatment. I remember back in the early 2000s when I was first studying cancer immunology, one of the senior researchers from another lab asked me, "Why are you bothering with this? We already know that immunotherapy for cancer will never work." I'm delighted that this person was wrong. I would like to see immunotherapies continue to improve so that we are able to treat more patients with more diseases effectively. I'd also like for our understanding of immunotherapies to expand so that we know who will benefit and who will have toxicities before we start treatment.
Outside of work, I hike, bike, run and dabble in Pacific Northwest natural history.