Get to Know Dr. Ramesh Rengan
As part of a multidisciplinary approach, Rengan provides a key element that has helped turn the treatment of mesothelioma from purely palliative to potentially curative, laying the foundation for a chance at long-term survival.
Rengan works closely with a staff that includes medical oncologist Bernardo Goulartand thoracic surgeons Michael Mulligan and Farhood Farjah. All are dedicated to the treatment of mesothelioma.
He’s also constantly reevaluating the current standards for mesothelioma treatment. At the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology, Dr. Rengan discussed one of his recent studies. “Why do we re-examine these standards? Because they are imperfect,” Dr. Rengan said.
Rengan’s proton beam therapy is an essential part of the treatment plan.
“With mesothelioma, we’re asking a patient to go through a marathon, and not a sprint. It is a carefully constructed, long-term battle,” he said. “And with that, we can get them through to the other side, help them be victorious.”
He is well-known for his work with lung cancer and other more common thoracic malignancies — always seeking better, more effective therapies.
But mesothelioma patients often hit close to his heart.
“Cancer is never, never ever fair, but mesothelioma, and how it was caused by exposure [to asbestos] decades before, adds an emotional element to these patients that just resonates with me,” he said. “They’re special, and it’s a privilege to be entrusted with their care.”
Experience Matters with Mesothelioma
Rengan joined the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the University of Washington School of Medicine staff in 2013 after seven years at the University of Pennsylvania, where he served as assistant director of clinical operations, radiation oncology.
“Historically, there was a lot of hopelessness surrounding mesothelioma, but you can see light at the end of the tunnel now. Significant advancements have been made on all fronts,” he said. “From my perspective, some of the treatments we used just a decade ago seem almost primitive by what we do today. That’s how far we’ve come.”
Proton beam therapy for mesothelioma is one tool in an arsenal of other cancer treatment specialties. It is especially precise and effective, particularly combined with Rengan’s expertise. When used in conjunction with better surgical techniques and the latest immunotherapy and chemotherapy combinations, patients have a reason to hope.
“Experience matters,” he said. “And we have that here, experience with mesothelioma across the board. That’s critically important for a patient to get the best possible care.”
The SCCA tumor board meets regularly to discuss each mesothelioma case, designing a flexible, personalized approach that evolves strategically, depending upon a patient’s — and the cancer’s — reaction to treatment.
“Treatment of mesothelioma requires a team approach, and the most important person on that team is the patient,” he said. “No one works in isolation. We all are working together with better tools than we’ve ever had.”
Trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering
Rengan received his degree from the University of Michigan Medical School. He did an internship at St. Mary’s Medical Center and his residency at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
His clinical interests include thoracic malignancies, melanomas and other solid tumors. One of his current research projects involves the novel use of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) in conjunction with Yervoy (ipilimumab), a potent immunotherapy drug.
Rengan also is developing an approach to radiation treatment that evokes a tumor-specific immune response in patients with metastatic disease.
“My philosophy is fairly simple,” he said. “The patients come first.”