Meet the Researchers

These researchers have dedicated their careers to finding new treatments and cures for people with cancer.

Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor smiling facing forward against a brown background. She has shoulder-length black hair.
Overcoming Adversity in Oncology: A Q&A with Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor
Erica Stringer-Reasor, MD, is a clinical oncologist focused on translational research for patients with aggressive diseases, such as triple-negative and HER2+ breast cancer.

Here, Dr. Stringer-Reasor shares how funding she received from Conquer Cancer helped to advance her medical training and cancer research career. She also reflects on her personal experiences with structural racism in medicine, what motivates her work, and the impact of a diverse oncology workforce for patients with cancer.

What drew you to the field of oncology and cancer research?

ESR: I first entered medical school planning to pursue a surgical specialty. But when a dear friend from college and med school was diagnosed with advanced-stage colon cancer, I found myself drawn to oncology.  

Before attending medical school, I believed that cancer mostly affected individuals with strong family histories of the disease. But as I began my own journey in the oncology realm—as part of my friend’s support system and through my training—I realized this was a myth.

Though my friend was able to receive therapies that helped her maintain quality of life and bravely continue through medical school, she ultimately passed away five months before graduation. Today, her resilience and hope reside in me. Every day, I remain encouraged that we can find new treatments and cures for patients with cancer.

Have you had personal experiences with structural or institutional racism in medicine or oncology? How have they shaped your approach and career?  

ESR: In the field of medicine, when you are twice the minority, both female and Black, your merit and expertise are often challenged by staff, colleagues, and faculty members. This is especially true during the training years.

Overcoming adversity isn’t always easy, but I’ve had good family support from my mom, dad, sisters, and spouse, as well as strong faith. I am also especially proud to be an example to my children (Ava, age 8; Harrison, age 6; and Olivia, age 4) and to demonstrate to them that challenges can be turned into opportunities. Lastly, I encourage all trainees, especially those in underrepresented populations, to know your value and seek strong mentors.  

From your perspective, why is it vital to support the advancement of Black oncology professionals? Why is it important for Black patients and patients of color to see themselves more equitably and meaningfully represented in research and cancer care?

ESR: The most recent U.S. census shows that the U.S. population is composed of 13% Black people, yet only 2.3 % of practicing oncologists self-identify as Black. Black populations face a much higher mortality rate compared to other populations, especially when it comes to cancers. Therefore, the journey of a cancer diagnosis is often difficult to navigate, especially for underrepresented minority populations and their loved ones. Having a diverse physician workforce increases cultural competency, improves communication, engenders trust, and brings comfort to patients and their families.

How have Conquer Cancer grants and awards helped to lay the groundwork for next steps in your research?

ESR: Conquer Cancer has been a vital cornerstone in my research career. The YIA helped to bolster my success in receiving subsequent early-career awards in clinical research. It’s also afforded me the opportunity to serve and lead many ASCO committees and become a more active participant in the cancer care community.

The focus of your 2014 Young Investigator Award* (YIA) project was to gain a better understanding of certain ovarian cancers and what causes it to grow and spread. What drew you to this subject, and how did Conquer Cancer funding support the research you’ve done on it so far?

ESR: During my fellowship at the University of Chicago, I obtained dual fellowship training in hematology/oncology, along with clinical pharmacology and pharmacogenomics. As I pursued my research, it was important to me that the work I was doing in the lab would ultimately translate into a clinical trial for patients.

At the time, data from The Cancer Genome Atlas showed that triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) was genomically similar to an aggressive subtype of ovarian cancer. Both tumors are aggressive, and patients have limited treatment options. Therefore, I studied pre-clinical models to translate the findings from TNBC research and to better understand this aggressive type of ovarian cancer. YIA funding supported lab supplies and my travel to conferences to present the data.

What were the key takeaways from your YIA project?

ESR: Glucocorticoid receptors (GR) are proteins in nearly every cell of the human body; they help regulate the genes that control things like metabolism and immune system. Together, my mentors and I showed that blocking the GR while patients were undergoing chemotherapy helped to induce the death of cancer cells in various research models. We then designed and launched several investigator-initiated clinical trials in both ovarian cancer and TNBC. These trials combined chemotherapy with a GR inhibitor.  

In 2010, you also received a Resident Travel Award** (RTA). What are some examples of resources that you might not have had access to without that RTA and the donors who made it possible?  

ESR: The RTA enabled me to access and navigate the ASCO Annual Meeting and to network with many different peers and mentors. This experience allowed me to get more exposure to faculty and research mentors across various hematology/oncology programs and gain a better understanding about how to approach the fellowship application process. During medical training, travel finances tend to be very limited. Therefore, residents usually select one professional meeting to attend where they can present a research abstract. The RTA supported my attendance at the ASCO Annual meeting, which propelled me towards subspecialty training in the field of cancer care.


*The YIA is a one-year grant totaling $50,000 that supports personnel and/or research expenses, and travel to attend the Conquer Cancer Grants & Awards Ceremony at the ASCO Annual Meeting. The recipient conducts their research project under the guidance of a scientific mentor.

**The RTA is now known as the Annual Meeting Research Award (AMRA). The award enables physician-residents from populations that have been structurally excluded from medicine to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting, where they network with leading oncologists and learn about career options in the oncology field.

Conquer Cancer support also helped to connect Dr. Stringer-Reasor with various mentors who have guided her professional development and cancer research. She would like to thank Suzanne Conzen, MD; Gini Fleming, MD; Rita Nanda, MD; Mark Ratain, MD; Ernst Lengyel, MD, PhD; and Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, FACP.

Conquer Cancer has been a vital cornerstone in my research career. The YIA helped to bolster my success in receiving subsequent early-career awards in clinical research.
Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor