Laureate says women in medicine should fight for ‘equality, pay, justice’

September 22 2022

4 minutes to read

Healio . Interviews

Bhardwaj reports on consultant/consultant or board member roles with Apricity, BioNTech, Boehringer Ingelheim, BreakBio, Carisma Therapeutics, CureVac, Genentech, Gilead, Novartis, Primevax, Rome Therapeutics, Tempest Therapeutics and Rubius Therapeutics; and industry research support from DC Prime, Dragonfly Therapeutics, Harbor BioMed Sciences, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

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Nina BhardwajMD, PhDShe has spent her career investigating dendritic cells and identifying new cancer-specific antigens with the goal of developing a ready-to-treat vaccine, work that has recently gained recognition.

This year, Bhardwaj won the Lifetime Achievement Award in Cancer Research from the American Association of Indian Scientists in Cancer Research. Every year, the assembly presents her award To an eminent scientist in recognition of significant contributions to cancer research that have had a lasting impact and demonstrated a lifelong commitment to making progress against cancer.

Source: Healio . Interviews

“It was a great honor,” said Bhardwaj, who is currently the Director of Immunotherapy, Medical Director of the Vaccine and Cell Therapy Laboratory and Co-Director of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, as well as the Ward Coleman Chair in Cancer Research at the College of Medicine. Medicine in Icahn, for Healio. “When I look at who received this award in previous years, it is absolutely amazing. I am very proud and grateful to the committee and the community for this recognition.”

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Bhardwaj originally started as a rheumatologist and was fascinated by immunology. As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked in a laboratory Ralph M. SteinmannDoctor of Medicinethe Rockefeller University scientist who won the Nobel Prize 2011 in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the dendritic cell.

“I was fortunate to have had training in his lab to begin investigations into human dendritic cells, which were not very well studied at the time,” she told Healio. “I had the opportunity to be part of the first wave of investigation into the biology of human dendritic cells, and this led to trying to understand how these cells play a role in stimulating the immune system not just in autoimmunity, but in viral immunity, and eventually cancer.”

Through Steinmann’s lab, Bhardwaj moved into oncology and made important discoveries related to dendritic cells with her own team.

“We were one of the groups that discovered dendritic cells,” she said. “We also learned how to grow dendritic cells in the lab and apply them as cellular adjuvants for cancer vaccination.”

Bhardwaj added that her team is focused on understanding how the immune system recognizes cancer-related or cancer-specific antigens.

“In the past few years we have developed what we call the new antigen discovery pipeline, where we are trying to identify new antigens from cancer patients’ tumors that can be used and formulated for vaccines,” she said. “We have identified ways and means to induce immunity to new patient-specific antigens (a patient-specific repertoire of new antigens), but have also been instrumental in identifying antigenic epitopes from novel antigens that are shared between patients so that they can eventually create a ready-made vaccine for patients with of certain types of tumors, such as patients with myeloproliferative neoplasms or microsatellite instability.”

‘Extraordinary Mentors’, Rising for Equality

When asked how she got to where she is today as an oncologist, Bhardwaj emphasized the positive impact her mentors had on her career.

In addition to Steinmann, Steven BurakovDoctor of MedicineLloyd JDoctor of Medicine; And the Arnold c. Levine, Ph.D.They were all “exceptional guides,” Bhardwaj said, adding that she believes they are excellent examples of what makes a good guide.

“They really care about you as a person and your career path; you as a person come first,” she said. “I think the unconditional support, the kindness, the selflessness, and the fact that they were always available no matter what helping me find jobs or advising me on negotiating is Qualities of a good mentor.

Although Bhardwaj described her impressive group of mentors and how fortunate she has been in her career path, she also admitted that she still faces challenges as a woman in the field.

“The biggest challenges have been dealing with difficult personalities and having to stand up for myself as a woman to ensure equality, which hasn’t been evident for many years,” she said. Having to fight for equality, salary, and sometimes justice in scientific arguments has been a major challenge.

“I’m so proud to speak up for myself and my team when I had to,” she added. “These are tough fights sometimes, and you have to step up when things aren’t even. Even if it costs you to stand up for yourself, you have to do it so you can go back and look in the mirror and say I did what I thought was the right thing to do.”


As part of a wave of oncology that has included new treatments, Bhardwaj is excitedly looking forward to what the new generation of oncologists will reveal.

“For young people, it’s really a fun time to be in the field,” she said. “I wish I was twenty years younger so I could see what would happen in the next twenty years.

“I urge young investigators and students, especially women, to remember that the world is open in this field,” she added.

With such a successful career and recently receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, Bhardwaj offered some advice to young oncologists.

“You have to find people who will give you unconditional support,” she said. “Surround yourself with a team of people who will support you. When you go and let’s say work in a lab, you need to make sure that the lab and mentor will give you that unconditional support and guide you through your career no matter what stage you are in. This network is very important, and you shouldn’t to consist of women only; It can be both women and men. In my case, my guides were all men, and they were great.”

“They need to stand up for themselves, find networks and support teams in the departments or divisions they are in, and connect with people as well,” concluded Bhardwaj.


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Nina BhardwajMD, PhDAnd the She can be reached at

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