Pamela S. Becker, MD, PhD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Bone marrow transplantation, hematologic malignancies, leukemia, myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN)
I feel like I have a responsibility to always do better for my patients. It’s up to me to make sure that we give them every opportunity to preserve their quality of life and cure their disease.”
Why did you become a hematologist?
I have been interested in hematology since I was about 12 years old. I would hang out in the hospital laboratories with my father, who’s a pathologist. I’d look at blood under the microscope at home. My interests in hematology just took off from there as I entered college. I conducted undergraduate research on the proteins present in blood plasma. My PhD thesis was on red blood cells. During residency, I fought for extra rotations on hematology oncology and bone marrow transplant. I enjoy that half of my time is spent in my lab and the other half with my patients.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I conduct work on the development of precision medicine for blood cancers. In my laboratory, we test for gene mutations and gene expression, and we perform functional screening where we take an individual patient’s blood, bone marrow or tissue samples and expose those cells to panels on disease-specific compounds. We have 150 to 175 different drugs and drug combinations that are tested for each disease. Using an artificial intelligence system, algorithms are developed to fine-tune drug combinations. We pick these combinations by choosing the ones that are most effective at killing the blood cancer cells. After determining which drug combinations work best for the patient, I enroll the patient in a clinical trial that offers those drugs.
Most of my patients have already failed all other standard drug regimens so they are anxious to participate in a clinical trial. I currently have trials open for acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and multiple myeloma. Additional rare blood disorders will be eligible for my trials in the future.
What is your approach to care?
I always think about how Captain “Sully” Sullenberger landed his commercial airplane on the Hudson River then kept asking if all his passengers were okay. He didn’t rest until he knew that every single passenger had survived. He had a 100 percent survival rate. I feel like I have that responsibility in my work as well. It’s up to me to try to do better for patients and make sure that we give them every opportunity to preserve their quality of life and cure their disease. That’s what I strive to do for all my blood disorder and blood cancer patients.
Harvard Medical School
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center-Harvard Medical School, Internal Medicine
Yale University School of Medicine, Hematology
Internal Medicine, 1990, 2000; Hematology, 1992, 2002, 2012, American Board of Internal Medicine
PhD, Harvard University; Teaching appointment, Yale University School of Medicine; Faculty appointment, University of Massachusetts Medical School