National Minority Health Month Spotlight: iCURE Scholar Sheryse Taylor, PhD
, by CRCHD Staff
For National Minority Health Month, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) will feature CRCHD-supported researchers working in cancer and cancer health disparities research. This first spotlight is a conversation with Intramural Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (iCURE) scholar Sheryse Taylor, PhD, who works in the lab of Bríd M. Ryan, PhD, MPH, in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. Dr. Taylor is a Postdoctoral Fellow who completed her PhD in Toxicology at Rutgers University.
Examining Immune Differences in Disparities and Lung Cancer: Finding Your Research Potential
What inspired your interest in cancer research?
Although I entered college believing I was going to pursue a career in forensics, I was always interested in the immune system and cancer—as separate entities. I can trace my interest in immunity back to my childhood, when I saw an illustration about wound healing after a scraped knee. As a disease, I found cancer fascinating not only because of the multiple failures of checks and balances needed in tumorigenesis, but also the subsequent disorder it creates, becoming its own self-preserving entity. Once I learned that chronic inflammation played a key role in cancer development and progression, I knew I’d found what I wanted to study. I’m sure every person has a story of how they’ve been affected by cancer, and I’m no different. These experiences have also served as strong motivators for me to make a difference in the field.
Would you briefly describe your current research?
I currently study population differences in immunity as it pertains to lung cancer. I work in the NCI Center for Cancer Research with Bríd M. Ryan, PhD, MPH, who studies health disparities primarily between African Americans and European Americans with lung cancer. African American men experience lung cancer at a higher rate than any other demographic group.
Previous and current work from Dr. Ryan’s laboratory has shown that not only are there differences in tumor biology between these two populations, but also differences in immunity.
Given that there is a large body of work that demonstrates immune variability is in part driven by genetic ancestry, we are trying to determine if there are unique aspects of pulmonary and systemic immunity in African Americans that contribute to the observed disparity.
Sheryse is an outstanding member of my group. She joined us at a particularly exciting and serendipitous time. We had just recently discovered population differences in immune and inflammation proteins between European Americans and African Americans with lung cancer and were starting out on a journey to try to understand the factors contributing to those differences. Sheryse’s expertise in immunity and her passion for cancer research were the perfect for this project and I have been really impressed with her intellect and how she has driven the project forward. I am very excited to watch her career and the next steps that she takes after her iCURE program ends. — Dr. Bríd Ryan
What aspirations do you have for your career?
I’m currently trying to figure out my next steps. The most definitive aspiration I have for my career is that I continue to do impactful work that benefits all members of society. I would definitely like to remain in this exciting field, which exists at the intersection of immunology and cancer. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll continue to do disparities research, but because of the perspective I’ve gained through my current studies, any work I do in the future will certainly be inclusive of historically underserved populations. Ultimately I would like to fulfill the goal I set when I entered the field, which is to do work that makes a difference.
What has your experience been like in the iCURE program?
My experience in the iCURE program has been nothing short of spectacular. Very few programs take the holistic and hands-on approach embraced by the iCURE program. The iCURE team is tirelessly and relentlessly invested in the success of trainees. I appreciate the mission of the iCURE program, which provides its scholars with a truly immersive experience. By being an iCURE scholar you not only receive all that NIH offers trainees, but also the additional support of the iCURE leadership. This extra support is absolutely invaluable. It’s really helpful knowing that there are so many people in your corner and rooting for you.
Visit the iCURE webpage to learn more about the program.