Mentor: Sheila Johnson
Sheila Marie Johnson was diagnosed with stage IV HER2-positive, hormone receptor-positive breast cancer at age 43 in December of 2009. She is a 25-year Air Force veteran, receiving four Air Force Meritorious Service Medals, seven Air Force Commendation Medals, and four Air Force Achievement Medals.
She is an alumna of A Fresh Chapter with trips to India and Kenya and is a Young Advocate for Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Women’s Initiative Program. She volunteers her time on the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Helpline, offering emotional support to breast cancer patients. She is also a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program and METAvivor, where she reviews proposals for funding.
Sheila is a facilitator and a Board Member for Breast Cancer Recovery and a 2020 participant in the Escape to Thrive Leadership Conference. She’s a Komen Scholar and on the Komen Advocates in Science Steering Committee. She’s an active member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and is a 2015 graduate of NBCC’s Project Lead Institute. Sheila is an integral part of The Metastatic Breast Cancer Project and a co-host for Our MBC Life Podcast. She attended the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in 2015 and 2019. She has received scholarships for the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting and the Health and Racial Disparities Conferences.
Sheila is featured in a Pfizer documentary called A Story Half Told and featured in Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine. Her platform raises awareness about black women’s racial and health disparities when diagnosed with breast cancer. She is also a clinical trials advocate ensuring black women are a part of the conversation for recruitment and active involvement in research.
Scientist: Cynthia Ma, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Ma is a physician scientist with a research focus in breast cancer biomarker and targeted therapeutics development. Dr. Ma received her medical degree from Beijing Medical University and earned her PhD in developmental biology from University of Cincinnati. She completed her post-doctoral training at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina and her fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She has been on the faculty at Washington University since 2005. She is the Clinical Director of the Breast Cancer Program in the Section of Medical Oncology, Division of Oncology at Washington University.
She has designed and conducted a number of mechanism-based early phase trials of novel agents, including palbociclib, neratinib, among others, in patients with resistant breast cancer. She led a phase II trial of neratinib for patients with metastatic HER2 mutated breast cancer (MutHER trial) and demonstrated the activity of neratinib in this patient population. In collaboration with NCI and CTEP, she contributed to the development of several small molecule inhibitors, including MK2206 and temsirolimus, which target the PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway in overcoming endocrine resistance. She is the study chair for the ongoing phase III Alliance trial A011106 (ALTERNATE trial) to validate neoadjuvant biomarker endpoint as surrogate markers of long-term outcome and to investigate endocrine resistance mechanisms for estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Her laboratory has focused on biomarkers and resistance mechanisms for agents that target cell cycle and PI3K pathway through analysis of clinical specimens and preclinical studies using breast cancer cell lines and patient-derived xenograft models.