Patricio Polanco, M.D.

Director Of Robotic Surgery Training, Co-Director Pancreatic Cancer Program, Co-Director Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Clinic

  • Surgery - Surgical Oncology
  • Liver Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer


Patricio Polanco, M.D., is an Associate Professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Polanco is a gastrointestinal surgical oncologist with vast expertise in minimally invasive/robotic pancreas and liver surgery. He serves as the Director of the Robotic Surgery Training Program at UT Southwestern as well as Co-director for the Pancreatic Cancer Program and the Pancreatic Cancer Prevention Clinic.

He also leads the Peritoneal Surface Malignancies and HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) Program at UT Southwestern's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

A native of Peru, Dr. Polanco graduated as valedictorian of Universidad de San Martin de Porres Medical School. After completing his surgical training in Lima, Peru, he moved to the United States, where he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship and a general surgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh.

During his training, Dr. Polanco received several prestigious accolades, including the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Charles C. Moore Teaching Award at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. He later pursued a complex surgical oncology fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

A double board-certified surgeon by the American Board of Surgery (general surgery and complex general surgical oncology), Dr. Polanco joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2014.

His clinical interests and expertise include pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, neuroendocrine tumors, minimally invasive techniques, robotic surgery, HIPEC surgery, and hepatic artery infusion pump surgery, among other complex gastrointestinal diseases and procedures.

Dr. Polanco's research interests include health services research, disparities, and surgical outcomes in hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) malignancies and pancreatic cancer. He is also the site principal investigator for several clinical trials for pancreatic cancer.

He is a recognized educator and investigator in the field of robotic surgery training and simulation. His research has been presented at national and international meetings, and he has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles in several surgical and cancer journals. He has received several research awards and grants, including the Eugene P. Frenkel, M.D., Scholar Award in Clinical Medicine from the Simmons Cancer Center.

He has served on several committees and held leadership positions in academic associations, including the Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, the Society of Surgical Oncology, and the American College of Surgeons, among others. He also serves on the pancreatic cancer and malignant peritoneal mesothelioma expert panel for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines.

Dr. Polanco's commitment to the advancement of medical knowledge extends globally, as he has trained and guided several international surgeons in establishing robotic surgery HPB programs. Furthermore, his extensive experience in medical mission trips to Central and South America highlights his dedication to providing health care access to underserved populations.

Dr. Polanco was included in D Magazine's Best Doctors list for 2019 to 2023.

Meet Dr. Polanco

Gastrointestinal Surgical Oncologist in Dallas

Surgical oncologist Patricio Polanco, M.D., focuses on treating complex gastrointestinal malignancies including liver cancer, pancreas cancer, colorectal cancer, gastric cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumors, and neuroendocrine tumors.

Dr. Polanco also has advanced training in cytoreductive surgery, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), minimally invasive techniques, and robotic surgery.

Cytoreductive surgery is a complex procedure that removes any visible tumors or cancer that has disseminated in the abdominal cavity, and HIPEC delivers a high concentration of heated chemotherapy drugs directly to the affected areas.

For select patients with appendiceal cancer, mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer that has spread throughout the abdomen, this treatment offers the chance to control the disease and prolong their lives.

“It is a delicate, complex, and challenging surgery but safe and beneficial when it is performed by experienced and well-trained surgeons,” Dr. Polanco says.

“Understanding each patient’s disease process helps us to select patients that will benefit from this procedure. Before the development of this technique, patients with carcinomatosis or peritoneal dissemination of cancer had little to no options to treat their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and obtain long-term survival,” he says.

Dr. Polanco also focuses on treating gastrointestinal tumors with minimally invasive and robotic surgery options when appropriate. These techniques allow for smaller incisions that lead to minimal postoperative pain and a faster recovery after surgery.

“With the use of the latest technology and advanced surgical skills, minimally invasive or robotic surgery can be an important option for some patients with abdominal tumors,” he says. “The faster they can recover from surgery, the sooner they can get to the next stage of their cancer care, whether that’s resting at home or receiving chemotherapy or radiation.”

Beyond his technical expertise, Dr. Polanco prides himself on bringing warmth and compassion to every patient he treats.

“My profession isn’t just a job or part of a routine,” he says. “I truly care about my patients and want to do what’s best for them. I take their struggles and concerns as my own. When I discuss treatment options I try to put myself in their shoes and offer them the care that I would like my own family to receive.”

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Education & Training
  • Medical School - Universidad de San Martin de Porres (1997-2000)
  • Internship - Hospital Nacional Arzobispo Loayza (2000-2001), General Surgery
  • Residency - Hospital Nacional Guillermo Almenara I. Essalud (2001-2004), General Surgery
  • Fellowship - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (2005-2007), Post Doctoral
  • Residency - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (2007-2012), Surgery
  • Fellowship - University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (2012-2014), Surgical Oncology
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Society of Surgical Oncology (2012), The Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO) is a dynamic global community of cancer surgeons shaping advancements in the profession to deliver the highest quality surgical care for cancer patients. SSO promotes leading edge research, quality standards, and knowledge exchange connecting cancer surgeons worldwide to continuously improve cancer outcomes.
  • Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (2014), The Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association (AHPBA), an incorporated, nonprofit organization, was created with a vision of devoting itself to relieving the human suffering caused by HPB disorders throughout the world, by improving education, training, innovation, research and patient care.
  • American College of Surgeons (2007), The American College of Surgeons (ACS) is a scientific and educational association of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to improve the quality of care for the surgical patient by setting high standards for surgical education and practice. The American College of Surgeons is dedicated to improving the care of the surgical patient and to safeguarding standards of care in an optimal and ethical practice environment.
  • Association for Academic Surgery (2016), The mission of the AAS is to inspire and develop young academic surgeons.Active members have traditionally held faculty appointments at a recognized academic center. The impetus of the membership remains research-based academic surgery.
  • Gold Foundation for Humanism and Honor Medical Society (2010)
  • Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Society (2019), AΩA - the honor medical society recognizing, advocating for, and inspiring physicians in the care of patients and promotion of health. Members may be elected throughout their career and epitomize professionalism, leadership, academic and clinical excellence, research, community service, and "being worthy to serve the suffering."
  • The Association of VA Surgeons (2015)
  • Peruvian American Medical Society (2010)
Honors & Awards
  • D Magazine Best Doctor 2019-2022
Books & Publications

Clinical Focus

  • Liver Cancer
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Peritoneal Cancer
  • Anal Cancer
  • Pelvic Malignancies
  • Rectal Cancer
  • Stomach/EG Junction Cancer
  • Surgery for Gastrointestinal Cancer
  • Gallbladder/Bile Duct (Cholangiocarcinoma) Cancer
  • Surgery for Pancreatic Cancer
  • Pancreatic Disease
  • Gastrointestinal Cancers
  • Gallbladder & Bile Duct Disease
  • Biliary Tract Disorders

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Q&A by Dr. Polanco

Patricio Polanco, M.D.

Dr. Polanco talks about his approach to patient care.