ASTCT asked Amanda Cashen, MD questions about what it is like to be a woman in the transplantation and cellular therapy field in celebration of Women's History Month, March 2022.
What inspired you to enter the BMT and Cellular Therapy field?
During my oncology fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine, I was drawn to the challenge and complexity of taking care of patients undergoing stem cell transplants and other intensive therapies for hematologic malignancies. Also, the scientific advances in the field were incredibly exciting. At the time, imatinib was coming on the market as the first targeted leukemia therapy, and researchers at Wash U, led by Dr. Tim Ley, were getting the first glimpses of the genomic landscape of AML. Most importantly, my outstanding mentors in BMT and heme malignancies, including John DiPersio, Hanna Khoury, and Nancy Bartlett, inspired me to enter the field.
How do you inspire others?
I like to share with trainees the stories of amazing patients I’ve known and cared for—patients whose lives were saved by participation in a clinical trial or treatment with a cellular therapy. I also try to model effective, compassionate communication with patients so that trainees have an example of how to explain complicated treatments or collaborate with a patient on their goals of care.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in this field?
I’m very proud to be a woman in the BMT and Cellular Therapy field. When I joined my section, I was the only woman in the group, and I had to figure out how to balance the demands of the clinical and research arenas with my home life as the mother of two young boys. Now I have many outstanding women colleagues in our BMT group, and I think that all of us, men and women alike, have more support in balancing our professional and personal goals. I hope that I can be a role model to inspire more women to join this challenging, rewarding field.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
A few years ago, I was appointed Executive Chair of the Washington University IRB, which has been a terrific opportunity to impact the research activities across the university. In particular, I was able to work with other research leaders as the COVID pandemic evolved, to facilitate COVID-related research and maintain vital research activities that benefit our patients.
Who are your heroes in real life?
I am filled with admiration for the inpatient and outpatient nurses who take care of BMT and heme malignancies patients. They are on the frontline of addressing patients’ complex questions, social challenges, and symptoms, and their expertise and compassion are critical to the success of our patients’ treatments.
Is there anything else you would like to say to the ASTCT community?
I have missed our in-person meetings and conferences over the past two years, and I look forward to resuming in-person collaborations and conversations as the pandemic eases. The ASTCT community is a diverse group of clinicians and scientists, and I hope we remain welcoming to women and men of all backgrounds as we mentor our future colleagues.
About Amanda Cashen, MD:
Dr. Amanda Cashen is a professor medicine in the Division of Oncology, Section of Bone Marrow Transplantation and Leukemia, at Washington University School of Medicine and Siteman Cancer Center. As the principal investigator of the institutional Lymphoid Malignancies tissue bank, she collaborates on translational research in lymphomas and lymphoid leukemias. She conducts clinical research focused on the treatment of relapsed lymphomas with novel therapies and the treatment of acute leukemia with NK cellular therapy. She is also the Executive Chair of the Washington University IRB.