Cancer fighter

Joseph Slaughter found inspiration in the words of a U of M cancer researcher. “He said, ‘If you live long enough, you will get cancer.’

“That was profound, and it started me thinking,” says Slaughter, who grew up in Bloomington and heard the talk as part of a lecture series. “Cancer is a complex disease, and I like complex things.”

Slaughter’s quest to learn more about how cells function—and what happens when they malfunction—led him to the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, where he earned a degree in genetics and cell biology in 2016.

He started medical school at the U in 2016 and received the Joan L. Shapiro in honor of Dr. Stuart H. Bloom Scholarship. Named for Bloom, an oncologist and U of M alumnus, the scholarship is awarded to a first-year medical student with an interest in oncology.

Slaughter, who has been involved in cancer research since he arrived at the U, was a natural fit. As an undergraduate, he worked at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, investigating variations of the P53 gene, which senses damage to DNA and can alert other genes to repair that damage. He later studied pancreatic cancer.

More recently, he has been looking into how heat, cold, and electricity can destroy a tumor and cause it to release antigens that act as a vaccine to prevent recurrences.

Slaughter plans to do a residency in general surgery, then perhaps earn a Ph.D. His goal is to develop cancer treatment and intervention strategies that will translate directly to the operating room.

He says having the four-year scholarship keeps him motivated toward achieving that end. “The sponsors think I can have a great impact on cancer research or care,” he says. “I want to be able to live up to those expectations.”

The Joan L. Shapiro in honor of Dr. Stuart H. Bloom Scholarship was established with an estate gift. To learn more about ways you can give to the University of Minnesota, contact the planned giving team at or 800-775-2187.