Dr. Ronald Balassanian is a pathologist (a specialist in examining tissue samples for signs of disease) in the UCSF Fine Needle Aspiration (FNA) Biopsy Clinic at Mission Bay. He performs fine needle aspiration biopsies – removing sample cells with a needle and syringe – primarily on lumps in areas such as the breasts, thyroid or lymph nodes. This procedure can yield a quick assessment of whether a lump is benign or malignant, usually in a day or two. In some cases, ultrasound is used to guide the needle when obtaining a biopsy.
In his research, Balassanian studies minimally invasive diagnosis through FNA biopsy and investigates the use of molecular diagnostics to increase the value of FNA biopsy. He also studies breast cancer diagnosis through FNA biopsy and surgical pathology (analyzing samples removed during surgery). He is involved in the I-SPY research trials, which aim to hasten the availability of better, more personalized treatments. He also participates in the Athena Breast Health Network, a framework to allow doctors to learn from all 150,000 patients at UC medical centers and their affiliates rather than from only the patients they treat or those in clinical trials. In addition, he leads a research project called "Ask Your Pathologist," which has the goal of improving communication between pathologists and breast cancer patients.
Balassanian earned his medical degree at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. At UCSF, he completed residency training in pathology and laboratory medicine, as well as fellowship training in surgical pathology and cytopathology.
Balassanian is a fellow of the College of American Pathologists. He is a member of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, American Society for Clinical Pathology, American Society of Cytopathology and Papanicolaou Society of Cytopathology. He participates in the UCSF Global Cancer Program, contributing to teaching, implementation and research projects on breast FNA biopsy in Peru and Tanzania.