Supporting Patients Through a Difficult Diagnosis
Amanda Cashen, MD, medical oncologist at Siteman Cancer Center and associate professor at Washington University School of Medicine, has spent the past 14 years treating patients with a range of hematologic malignancies, from lymphoma to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). She is part of the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) & Leukemia team, with expertise in stem cell transplantation – a typical treatment for patients with these aggressive diseases.
Dr. Cashen became interested in oncology early on in her medical training, finding the field intellectually and scientifically fascinating. When she was in medical school, she spent time caring for cancer patients firsthand, which helped her determine a career in oncology was the right fit. “I really enjoy shepherding them through the challenging treatments of these difficult diseases,” says Dr. Cashen. “I’m always inspired by their positivity.” One of her leukemia patients is Dennis Gittemeier, you can read more about Dennis in this issue of In Touch.
After receiving her undergraduate education from Yale University, Dr. Cashen received her medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in 1999. She completed an internal medicine residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and was chief resident of internal medicine at John-Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis. She also completed a clinical hematology-oncology fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine.
Originally from Louisville, Ky., Dr. Cashen has remained in St. Louis, continuing to expand her career here. “It has been a terrific place to both learn and work. I’ve forged many relationships here throughout the years, with both close friends and colleagues in different specialties. It’s great to be able to collaborate with them to provide our patients with multidisciplinary care,” says Dr. Cashen.
Focused on Translational Research
Along with her clinical work, Dr. Cashen is actively involved in clinical trials focused on novel therapies for hematologic malignancies. Currently, she serves as the principal investigator on a lymphoma malignancy banking protocol that involves coordinating the collection of tissue samples from patients with lymphoma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The goal of this trial is to better understand the genetics of lymphoma, allowing identification of treatment targets. Translational research like this allows the findings in the laboratory to be used to develop new ways to treat diagnoses like leukemia.
Dr. Cashen is also involved with numerous other research endeavors. One of these projects entails collecting blood samples from lymphoma patients following an autologous stem cell transplant. This research project, led by Daniel Link, MD, assesses the effects of chemotherapy on blood cells following a transplant.
For research like this to progress, patient participation is critical. Dr. Cashen informs patients about clinical trials that may be available to them, and encourages them to participate when they’re a good candidate. Patients can partake in clinical trials from first diagnosis, where new drugs could be incorporated with standard treatment, or in the event of a relapse, where clinical trials could provide the only feasible treatment option.
“Clinical trials allow the standard of care to advance. They have enabled exciting and remarkable progress on many facets of leukemia research. It gives me hope that we will be able to find new therapies and continue to improve patient outcomes,” says Dr. Cashen.
A Collaboration of Care
Many of the projects Dr. Cashen is involved in are supported by Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Leukemia. The SPORE team is a collaboration of basic and translational scientists and clinicians, like Dr. Cashen. She believes the success of the program would not be possible without strength in both realms.
“At Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center, we have a very robust team, dedicated to treating leukemia patients. From outstanding nurses and staff, to the remarkably creative scientists, we can provide these patients with the best care that medical science has to offer,” says Dr. Cashen.
It’s rewarding for Dr. Cashen to see her patients recover and go on to live their lives. Each year, she attends the Bone Marrow Transplant Survivorship Celebration, an annual event honoring bone marrow transplant patients and their family and friends. Dr. Cashen always brings her husband, Matthew, who enjoys meeting many of the patients his wife has cared for.
Dr. Cashen and Matthew have been married for 20 years and have two young boys. When she isn’t working, Dr. Cashen enjoys spending time with her family, either swimming or biking outdoors or taking road trips around the United States.
“My patients are truly an inspiration to me. They show us the importance of appreciating life and the people around us,” says Dr. Cashen. “It’s one of the reasons I love what I do.”
If you’d like to read more about the SPORE in Leukemia projects, click here.