Venu G. Pillarisetty, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
My goal is to get patients back to their normal lives as fast and painlessly as possible.”
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.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
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.
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.