In His Blood

One of Shashank Cingam’s first lessons in biology and medicine came from his father, and it’s stuck with him his whole life.

“My father teaches biology for high school students. That’s how I got interested in biology to start with,” Cingam said. “I remember this one day where I had my father explain to me about meiosis and mitosis, which is the cell reproduction cycle. And now that I think about it, just that one chapter in the cell cycle really made me interested in biology.”

This fascination with cell reproduction led him into medical school and eventually to cancer treatment.

The science behind how cells reproduce, and particularly how they can carry mutations with them, lies at the heart of cancer research and treatment.

It is especially true for Cingam’s chosen specialty: hematological malignancies.

“Studying pathology in my second year of medical school, they also talk about the cell cycle; how it gets overwhelmed when there are certain mutations, and when and how the immune system works to try to prevent all these cancers from showing up,” he said. “That’s where my love for cancer treatment started.”

Cingam completed his undergraduate and medical degrees in his native India before coming to the U.S. He did his internal medicine residency at Louisiana State University before looking further west to New Mexico.

“I was really shocked to see such a big cancer center out of nowhere, helping the whole of New Mexico. I decided to rank it No. 1 on my interview list,” he said. He was impressed by The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center’s role within a largely rural state, with no other similar center within 500 miles.

“It was such a unique situation, and it was a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, with all the research that goes on here,” he said.

Cingam came to UNM Cancer Center in 2018 and completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology.

As Cingam’s career in cancer treatment grew, his fascination with cellular biology continued to inform his choices. After finishing his fellowship at UNM, he moved to Stanford, where he completed a year-long fellowship in cellular therapy and bone marrow transplantation.

Cingam would not be gone from New Mexico for long. After finishing his fellowship, Cingam returned to the UNM Cancer Center in June and joined the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Myeloma team.

Cingam said he and his wife love New Mexico and he hopes to become involved with patient outreach and education here.