Shaveta Vinayak, MD, MS
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Oncology is a perfect blend of science and humanism — you have to take care of the whole person.”
Why do you work with patients who have breast cancer?
I tend to see a lot of younger women and women with families. I find that I can relate easily to their lives and their concerns, like how treatment may affect their fertility or how to support themselves as well as their young children. I’m also a big proponent of women’s health; I enjoy teaching women how to take care of themselves, educating them about what having breast cancer really means and how treatment may affect them. The other great thing about this field is that it’s very data-driven. There’s a wealth of breast cancer literature to draw from that helps us make good treatment decisions. Breast cancer isn’t a journey that anybody wants to go on, but through my expertise and positive attitude, I strive to offer my patients hope.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a medical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of breast cancer. My research is focused on an aggressive subtype known as triple-negative breast cancer, which tends to affect younger people and those with a BRCA1 gene mutation. I design and lead clinical trials that explore targeted therapies like immune checkpoint inhibitors, which help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells, and PARP inhibitors, a type of drug that may prevent cancer cells from fixing the damage caused by chemotherapy. PARP inhibitors may hold particular promise for people with BRCA-related cancers. In addition to treating patients and conducting research, I also lead education seminars about triple-negative breast cancer for African American women, who are three times more likely to be diagnosed with this form of cancer than women of other ethnicities.
What is your approach to care and treatment?
I’ve dealt with cancer in my own family, so I understand what it’s like to be on the other side of this experience and the stress it puts on relationships. When first diagnosed, many people feel an overwhelming anxiety. I like to help you work through that by breaking down the process of treatment into more manageable chunks, taking it one step at a time. Research is also a big part of what I do, so I make a point of talking about clinical trials that may be appropriate. Participating in trials can be a chance to advance your own care and the field of breast cancer in general.