Why did you choose UCSF?
I wanted to be in a world-class medical center with a culture of innovation, scientific discovery, collaboration and outstanding clinical care.
UCSF has a tremendous sense of interdisciplinary collaboration. That's where you bring everybody's talents together to focus on a problem. Pancreatic cancer is one of the most difficult problems we face in modern medicine, so I can't think of a better place to understand this disease. And if we can understand it, we can beat it.
What gives UCSF that culture of innovation?
The scientists here aren't afraid of taking risks. That gives a very different flavor to their work. They will try new things, they will think out of the box, they won't back off from a difficult problem. In fact, sometimes the harder it is, the more they want to come to the table to try to unravel it.
How did you decide to focus on pancreatic cancer in your career?
Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal of all malignancies. It was recently classified as the most difficult of all the recalcitrant [difficult to treat] cancers that we deal with today.
When I first got into academic medicine, I looked for an area to focus on. I appreciated that patients with pancreatic cancer didn't have any real champions at that time, and thought that I could be that champion, I could pull a team together that could be champions for these patients. I've dedicated my life to patients with pancreatic cancer.
What do you tell patients when they hear scary statistics and ask about their odds?
Odds deal with groups of people. I emphasize the individual nature of their problem, and how our treatment can make a difference in prolonging their lives and improving their chances for a long-term cure.
I tell them that individuals can beat this, and we treat our patients as individuals.