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.
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 Fred Hutch, 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.
Area of clinical practice
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 Fred Hutch. 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.
University of Michigan
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
University of Massachusetts, General Surgery
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Surgical Oncology
General Surgery, 2008, 2018, American Board of Surgery
Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Seattle Met's 2023 Top Doctors award
Dr. Pillarisetty has received this peer-nominated award for exceptional patient care for multiple years.
At Fred Hutch, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes doctors, a patient care 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.
Fred Hutch 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.