William Rayford Gwin III, MD
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
University of Washington School of Medicine
One of the aspects of my profession that I really enjoy is bringing new clinical trials to patients and witnessing how the therapies being tested often change their lives for the better.”
What personal experiences informed your decision to focus on breast oncology?
When I was growing up, two of my grandparents had metastatic cancer. Seeing what this disease put them through — emotionally, cognitively and physically — was what initially got me interested in this field. I felt like there was a lot that could be done to improve the lives of people with breast cancer, and I wanted to contribute to that goal. Since then, there’s been significant progress in breast cancer treatment, particularly in the last 10–15 years. A lot of new targeted therapies are available now that don’t have the grueling side effects of general chemotherapy. One of the aspects of my profession that I really enjoy is bringing new clinical trials to patients and witnessing how the therapies being tested often change their lives for the better.
Specialties and clinical expertise
The branch of medicine a provider practices and their areas of focus
I am a board-certified medical oncologist who treats patients with all stages and types of breast cancer. In addition to providing care, I am a principal investigator with UW Medicine’s Cancer Vaccine Institute. My research focuses on the development of immune system-based therapies, such as vaccines or checkpoint inhibitors, for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I oversee clinical trials and manage the care of patients who participate in them.
Tell us about an interaction with a patient that had a significant impact on you.
There was a patient I treated who loved to garden and cook. Whenever she came to the clinic, we’d talk about what she was growing and what recipes she’d tried recently. I always knew things weren’t going well if she told me that she hadn’t been in the garden lately or hadn’t set foot in the kitchen to prepare a meal. It was a signal that we needed to adjust what we were doing so that she could get back to her beloved activities. I invest a lot of time in learning about patients and their families so that I can support them throughout treatment and we can make decisions that align with their goals.