Top Doctor Top Doctor
The Top Doctor award is a peer-nominated award for providers who give exceptional care.

Venu G. Pillarisetty, MD

Physician
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Professor, General Surgery
University of Washington School of Medicine
Physician
UW Medicine
Specialty:
Surgery
“My goal is to get patients back to their normal lives as fast and painlessly as possible.”
— Dr. Pillarisetty
What led you to oncology?

When I started college, I thought I wanted to be a scientist, not a physician. Since my father was a general surgeon, I was wary about going into medicine as a reflex response. But halfway through my undergraduate studies in biochemistry, I realized I really liked working with people; medicine offered me a way to continue in science while satisfying my social nature. Caring for patients with pancreatic cancer allows me to perform challenging operations while fueling my scientific interest in developing new therapies. I want to help the field find lasting, long-term options that don’t require surgery or chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy.
Venu
What guides your approach to care?

As a cancer doctor, my primary role is to help you choose the right treatment for you from among a dizzying array of options, which may include surgery. Compassion is always my guiding principle. At SCCA, we use a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, which means we strive to advise you and your family just as we would our own — with the caveat that I recognize there may be fundamental differences in your belief system versus mine or anyone else’s. So, by forming a team that includes you, your family, physicians and other caregivers, we aim to help you clearly define your goals in the treatment of your cancer, then set out together to achieve them.

Provider background

Specialty: Surgery

Area of clinical practice

Gastrointestinal cancers

Pancreatic cancer

I am a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating patients with pancreatic cancer. My expertise includes both open and minimally invasive surgical techniques. I am also the medical director for the Continuous Performance Improvement Department at SCCA. In this role, I help ensure the quality and safety of our health care service. I am a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the Society of Surgical Oncology, the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Association of Immunologists.

In the lab, I study the body’s immune response to pancreatic cancer as well as other solid tumors. Data suggests that pancreatic cancer may not only be evading the immune system, but actually getting assistance from it. Recently, my colleagues and I have found that the right combination of immunotherapy drugs prompts cells in the immune system to kill tumor cells. Our hope is to continue enhancing the body’s immune response within the tumor microenvironment.

Gastrointestinal Refers to the stomach and intestines. Also called GI. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Oncologist A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment, such as treating cancer with radiation. A physician who has special training in diagnosing and treating cancer. Some oncologists specialize in a particular type of cancer treatment. For example, a radiation oncologist specializes in treating cancer with radiation.

Diseases treated

Education, experience and certifications
Undergraduate Degree
University of Michigan
Medical Degree
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Residency
University of Massachusetts, General Surgery
Fellowship
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Surgical Oncology
Board Certification
General Surgery, 2008, 2018, American Board of Surgery
Other
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Languages
English
Awards
Seattle Met's 2021 Top Doctors award

Dr. Pillarisetty has been recognized as a Top Doctor in this peer-nominated award multiple years in a row.

Research

Clinical trials

We make promising new treatments available to you through studies called clinical trials led by SCCA doctors. Many of these trials at SCCA have led to FDA-approved treatments and have improved standards of care globally. Together, you and your doctor can decide if a study is right for you.

Publications

Many of our SCCA physicians conduct ongoing research to improve standards of patient care. Their work is evaluated by other physicians and selected for publication to the United States National Library of Medicine, the largest medical library in the world. See scientific papers this SCCA provider has written.

Your care team

At SCCA, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a team coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.
Registered nurse (RN)
Registered nurse (RN)
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician and assists with care procedures and treatments.
Patient care coordinator
Patient care coordinator
Your patient care coordinator works closely with you and your physician and serves as your scheduler.

Insurance

SCCA accepts most national private health insurance plans as well as Medicare. We also accept Medicaid for people from Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. We are working to ensure that everyone, no matter what their financial situation, has access to the care they need.

For providers