Perspectives in Breast and Colorectal Cancer Research

Exploring the Great Unknown with Dr. Tatjana Kolevska
NSABP Foundation

Exploring the Great Unknown with Dr. Tatjana Kolevska

Tatjana Kolevska, MD, Associate Director, Kaiser Permanente Oncology Clinical Trials Program

Pushing the boundaries of science and knowledge both intrigue and motivate Dr. Tatjana Kolevska. Discovering “the great unknown” is a concept that appeals to her, and she says that if she did not practice medicine, she would love to be a space explorer.

Dr. Kolevska practices medical oncology and hematology, and is also a cancer researcher, where she applies her passion for discovery and understanding to her desire to help people with cancer. She says, “being able to help people when they are unwell and most vulnerable helps me feel fulfilled and gives my life meaning.”

Dr. Kolevska chose to be a physician and researcher because “I can make a positive impact on people's lives at the hardest moments, when their well-being and health are in danger. Helping my patients in one of the hardest battles a human being can have - fighting cancer - was my goal when I chose oncology.” She says, “I want to dedicate the time I have with my patients to helping them choose the best treatment option for their medical condition. I want that choice to be based on only the most current medical knowledge and up-to-date scientific data.”

Finding new treatment options and bringing them to the forefront is always on Dr. Kolevska’s mind. She finds the fast and ever-changing landscape of cancer research both exciting and challenging. “With the explosion of cancer targeted therapy medications and genomic testing, clinical research is transforming fast. Our usual way of conducting clinical research is too slow and inefficient. I am hoping to help develop the new 21st century clinical cancer research mechanism that will give us answers to stop cancer-related suffering as fast as our patients need them.”

Her passion for clinical trials research is what keeps her up at night, thinking of not only new ideas but also new ways to involve more people in clinical trials.

"Future successful cancer treatments and millions of lives depend on our ability to accelerate clinical cancer research,” she says. “Only through research, can we transform our hypothesis and ideas into future cancer cures. It is devastating that despite that knowledge, only 2-5% of US cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials should be standard of care for cancer patients and the first option whenever available.”

Dr. Kolevska practices at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center at Vallejo, CA and teaches oncology and hematology at the University of California at San Francisco. She is the Chair of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Oncology and Hematology Chiefs Group and Associate Director of the Kaiser Permanente Oncology Clinical Trials Program. After attending the University of Zagreb in Croatia for her Master of Science and Medical degrees and cardiology fellowship, she practiced internal medicine in Europe for a time. She then came to Columbia University in New York to complete her oncology and hematology fellowship, where she found her passion for treating cancer.

Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and exploring the unknown to save lives is Dr. Tatjana Kolevska’s mission, and she pursues this goal every day in her practice and research. “Research,” says Dr. Kolevska, “is our most powerful tool to conquer cancer.”

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