Physician scientist Sasha Stanton, M.D, Ph.D., began her career journey in college when a friend lost her mother to breast cancer. That experience along with witnessing the devastating effects of cancer on friends and family led her to a career in medical oncology with a focus in breast cancer research.
“We have come so far in understanding the causes, genetics and immunology of so many cancers,” said Dr. Stanton. “I want to #FINISHCANCER by creating vaccines that can prevent cancer from ever developing.”
It was during her postdoc and fellowship at the University of Washington under her mentor, scientist Nora Disis, M.D., that she was introduced to cancer immunology. This arm of cancer research is focused on new therapies that target immune cells in and around cancers. However, although Dr. Stanton started her career as a biomedical researcher, she knew she wanted to form deeper connections to the cancer patients that benefited from her research.
This understanding is what led Dr. Stanton to Providence Cancer Institute, where a "bench to bedside" approach makes it possible for research results from the lab to directly benefit patients in the clinic. Dr. Stanton says she chose to join Providence because of the collaborative environment that allows her to act as a bridge between the lab and her patients.
“While I enjoyed the rigor of working in the lab, ultimately it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be directly involved with patients and use my discoveries to improve current therapies,” said Dr. Stanton. "I want to use my science to make an impact in people’s lives.”
Focusing on the future of breast cancer treatment
In addition to her responsibilities as a medical oncologist, Dr. Stanton leads the Cancer Immunoprevention Laboratory at Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, a division of Providence Cancer Institute. Her team is working on developing a vaccine for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), an early form of breast cancer that predicts an increased risk of developing invasive breast cancer.
“My goal is to identify proteins that are overexpressed in both pre-cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ) and in invasive breast cancer, then develop vaccines that can teach patients' immune systems to both eliminate pre-malignant lesions and any developing invasive disease,” says Dr. Stanton.
It’s all about balance
When she is not dividing her time between research and patient care, Dr. Stanton finds ways to pursue her passions outside the medical field, which includes a love for singing.
“I can’t live without music. I love opera, English church music, large choral works…I have pretty eclectic taste.”
She was a member of the choir throughout medical school, residency and her fellowship and now serves as first soprano at Trinity Cathedral Sanctuary. While Dr. Stanton has accomplished a lot, she still has one big goal in mind: to sing the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach, a daunting feat since it requires a full orchestra, two choirs, soloists and a children's choir!
You can learn more about Dr. Stanton, her research and approach to care by visiting her care team profile.