Vinod P. Balachandran, MD

About Me

I am a surgical oncologist who specializes in treating people with both benign and cancerous diseases of the pancreas, bile duct, gallbladder, and liver.

Our team philosophy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is that every patient is unique in all aspect. Each person has individual needs, from the time of diagnosis, through treatment, and during recovery. This is particularly important when treating cancers of the pancreas, bile duct, gallbladder, and liver. These cancers are among the most complex to treat. They require an experienced surgical team. My partners at MSK and I have extensive experience treating these tumors and have pioneered many of the surgical techniques to safely remove them. We perform close to 1,000 operations a year. We have also developed laparoscopic and robotic surgical approaches and use these techniques whenever possible. They allow people to recover faster after surgery. Individualized treatment can often have many parts, such as chemotherapy and other treatments in addition to surgery. The international leaders on our team have expertise in medical oncology, gastroenterology, radiology, pathology, and nursing. We work to ensure the best possible treatment for every person we care for and meet as a team to discuss all details of patient care. Our primary goal is to provide people with exceptional care in the most careful, efficient, and speedy way possible.

In addition to performing surgeries and caring for patients, I do laboratory research to identify new ways to use the immune system to fight pancreatic cancer. I am also a member of the David M. Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK. T cells are highly specialized cells in the immune system that are designed to protect the human body from infections and cancer. In the past decade, we have discovered that T cells can recognize and kill cancers. With this understanding, we have been able to develop treatments called immunotherapies to supercharge T cells and overcome cancer’s defenses.

Immunotherapies for pancreatic cancer have been limited because we didn’t know what draws T cells into these tumors. My laboratory tackled this question with a deep examination of extremely rare long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer. This group survived six years on average. Most other people with the disease do not survive that long. Our investigations have found that tumors of long-term survivors have 12 times more activated T cells. The exceptional survival of these people is linked to the T cells recognizing a certain mutation in cancer proteins called neoantigens. These proteins make cancer resemble an infection. Strikingly, T cells recognizing these neoantigens can be found in the blood of long-term survivors up to 12 years after the tumors were surgically removed. This finding suggests that neoantigens are very effective in generating long-lasting “immune memory” against tumors, and they could serve as effective cancer vaccines. We are now developing clinical trials of personalized cancer vaccines in combination with other immunotherapies to treat pancreatic and other cancers.

I am a recipient of the National Institutes of Health Paul Calabresi Career Development Award, the Society for Surgical Oncology Harvey Barker Travelling Fellow Award, the American Association for Cancer Research Career Development Award, and the Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award. I am the principal investigator of several research initiatives, including a Cancer Moonshot Award from the National Cancer Institute and a Convergence Award from Stand Up To Cancer.

  • Clinical Expertise: Pancreatic Cancer; Benign, Premalignant, and Malignant Diseases of the Pancreas, Bile Duct, Gallbladder, and Liver
  • Languages Spoken: English; Chinese; Hindi; Tamil
  • Education: MD, SUNY at Stony Brook
  • Residencies: General Surgery - New York-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Fellowships: Complex Surgical Oncology - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Board Certifications: Surgery

My Research

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See Vinod P. Balachandran’s laboratory
research at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

See My Colleagues

Publications

Visit PubMed for a full listing of Vinod P. Balachandran’s journal articles

Pubmed is an online index of biomedical articles maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Clinical Trials

As home to one of the world’s top cancer research centers, Memorial Sloan Kettering is typically involved in more than 900 clinical trials at a given time. Currently, clinical trials focused on the conditions I treat are enrolling new patients. If you’re interested in joining a clinical trial, click to learn about the trial’s purpose, eligibility criteria, and how to get more information.

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Insurance

Most major health insurers offer plans that include MSK as one of their in-network providers. If MSK is in-network, it means all our doctors are too. Medicaid and New York State Medicare also provide benefits for care at MSK.

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