Faculty Feature: Angela Steineck, MD

Angela SteineckAngela Steineck, MD, joined the MCW Cancer Center in October 2023 as a Research Member aligned with the Cancer Control program. Dr. Steineck is an assistant professor at MCW and a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Children’s Wisconsin. Her research focus includes the investigation of novel therapies and interventions to improve clinical care, quality of life, and survivorship in children with cancer.

Q&A with Angela

Tell us about your role as a physician—and your research focus.
As a physician, I care for any patient with a pediatric malignancy, which means I have the privilege of taking care of children and young adults across a wide age range. My research aims to describe quality of life from the perspective of the patient and caregivers, with an ultimate goal of finding ways to improve quality of life in advanced cancer.

What are your aspirations as a member of the Cancer Control program?
I am absolutely hoping to affect change in standard of care. As a palliative oncologist, my greatest hope is that my research helps improve how we support patients and families at all points along the cancer continuum. Applying patient-centered investigation tools, such as patient-reported outcomes and stakeholder interviews, are methods central to my study design and help ensure equitable delivery across patient groups. These tools also help to address health system mechanisms that perpetuate inequity in access and outcomes.

Your research focus includes CAR T-cell therapy. Tell us more.
To date, my research has focused on identifying psychosocial care needs in children undergoing CAR T-cell therapy and their families. CAR T-cell therapy can be a lifesaving treatment for children with cancer, particularly those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. We are learning that by using side effect profiles (symptoms patients report experiencing during and after treatment and how symptoms impact their daily lives), we can identify which treatments are most favorable for each patient so they can return to a baseline quality of life that is faster than conventional therapies, such as hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

How does a cancer diagnosis impact pediatric patients and their families?
Patients and families experience emotional and social challenges with having their routines disrupted including missing school, missing normal child and teen pivotal experiences, traveling for treatment, and potentially having their family split up for extended periods of time. These “normal” things we tend to take for granted become stumbling blocks for our patients and families.

From a treatment standpoint, one of the greatest challenges we encounter is that the needs of our patients vary greatly based on their age and developmental stage. Our counseling becomes highly individualized based on what the patient and family needs at that moment and time, recognizing that it may change over time. Children also (hopefully) have many more life years ahead of them and so considering the potential impact of treatments decades in the future and strategizing treatment options based on those considerations can also be challenging and unique to pediatrics.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
Growing relationships with patients and their families. It is an incredible honor to walk alongside my patients, celebrate victories big and small, and sit together when challenges arise.

What excites you about being a Cancer Center member?
Community. It is so wonderful to hear what other Cancer Center members are doing on campus and to have a platform to share ideas and collaborate to advance the science of cancer care.

Learn more about Dr. Steineck’s research, including: