For Doctors Day, we asked doctors at the Knight Cancer Institute two important questions. Kevin Billingsley, M.D., is the chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology, with a special focus on sarcoma and cancers of the bile duct, gall bladder, liver and pancreas.
What drives you to want to take down cancer?
I went into oncology because I like big challenges. Unfortunately, cancer is complicated, unpredictable and indiscriminate in who it afflicts. As a surgical oncologist, I am privileged to have the opportunity to confront the disease very directly in each of my patients. But even more, as a surgeon at the Knight Cancer Institute, I contribute to the work of discovery that will fundamentally change the game on the way we treat and cure this disease.
How has the overall outlook for your patients changed over the course of your career?
When I went into surgical oncology, the liver operations we did for metastatic disease were limited and often hampered by early recurrence. We now safely perform very complicated resections of multiple tumors from the liver and we have effective chemotherapy that works in concert with surgery. Patients who used to be inoperable are now surgical candidates – and in many cases, long-term survivors. It is enormously gratifying.