Scientist: Reham Abdel-Wahab, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Reham Abdel-Wahab is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Oncology at Assiut University – Egypt. She obtained her MD, MSc, and Ph.D. degrees and completed her clinical residency and fellowship oncology training at Assiut University. She had five years of postdoctoral fellowship training in the Department of GI Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas. Her current practice at Assiut University – Egypt and her extensive clinical and research experience in GI malignancies. Also, she holds the Chief Scientific Officer position for the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, Utah, USA. She is the recipient of the 2018 ASCO Global Young Investigator Award, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Marion Edwards Fellowship Award in Hepatic Oncology, the Leadership Award from the American University of Beirut/Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center course of oncologic sciences, and the technology transfer grant award from the European Society for Radiation Oncology. She is recognized as an expert in hepatobiliary cancers with over 25 published articles, 55 meeting abstracts in national and international meetings, and few book chapters. She is on the editorial board of many journals. She has a record of more than 100 peer reviews in several well-recognized oncology journals.
Scientist: Philipp Aftimos, M.D.
Philippe Aftimos, M.D. is a medical oncologist and the Clinical Trials Development Leader at the Clinical Trials Conduct Unit of Institut Jules Bordet, a comprehensive cancer center in Brussels.
He works in the fields of breast cancer, new drug development and precision medicine. At Institut Jules Bordet, he heads the new drug development program at the Clinical Trials Conduct Unit. He has participated in the development of novel monoclonal antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates for the treatment of breast cancer as well as in the development of novel endocrine therapies. He currently leads multiple projects with agents targeting epigenetics. As a clinical research physician, he is a member of the think tank of the Oncodistinct network and is a member of the Scientific Executive Committee of the International Breast Cancer Study Group.
In the precision medicine field, Dr. Aftimos has participated in drafting the national Belgian NGS guidelines. He is co-PI of AURORA (Aiming to Understand the Molecular Aberrations of Metastatic Breast Cancer), a large European molecular screening program launched by the Breast International Group. He is also co-PI of the Belgian Society of Medical Oncology precision medicine program, a national clinico-genomic data sharing program. He co-created and leads the Belgian national molecular tumor board.
Scientist: Meenakshi Anurag, Ph.D.
Meenakshi believes that cancer is a diverse and heterogeneous disease; hence one therapy will not be uniformly beneficial to all patients. To dissect heterogeneity at the molecular level, her research lab employs multi-omics analysis on data generated from patient tumors. She implements integrated bioinformatic approaches to understand the role of mutations, structural variations, gene expressions, genomic alterations, proteomic and phospho-proteomic signatures in promoting cancer or driving drug resistance. Her research lab focuses on improving cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survival by employing data science in precision medicine.
Scientist: Evandro de Azambuja, M.D., Ph.D.
Evandro de Azambuja, M.D., Ph.D., is the Head of the Medical Support Team (Academic Promoting Team) located at the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels, Belgium. Dr. de Azambuja earned his first PhD from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil, in May 2007 and his second PhD from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B) in December 2015.
His principal interest in oncology is breast cancer, especially in the adjuvant/neoadjuvant settings. He is deeply involved in the conduct of large phase III trials in breast cancer (some of them practice changing in breast cancer) such as HERA (adjuvant trastuzumab), ALTTO (trastuzumab and/or lapatinib), APHINITY (trastuzumab with or without pertuzumab), Alexandra (adjuvant atezolizumab in triple negative breast cancer) and – in the neoadjuvant setting – the LORELEI trial which tested the efficacy of PI3K inhibition in combination with endocrine therapy. He is also greatly engaged in studies concerning cancer toxicity of new drugs in oncology as well as in long-term follow-up of patients enrolled in clinical trials with focus in cardiotoxicity. Within the latter context, he was a co-author of guidelines on treatment-related cardiac toxicity by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). He was past chair of the survivorship of the Belgian Society of Medical Oncology (BSMO).
Scientist: Igor Bado, Ph.D.
Dr. Igor Bado is an assistant Professor of Oncological Sciences in the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai. He works on multi-processes involved in breast cancer metastasis and therapeutic resistance. Before his appointment at Mount Sinai, Dr. Bado was subsequently a postdoctoral fellow and an instructor in the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Xiang H.-F. Zhang. He obtained his Ph.D. with Dr. Jan-Ake Gustafsson at the University of Houston, where he studied nuclear receptors in breast cancer. His current interest is to investigate the role of epigenetic plasticity in breast cancer metastasis.
Scientist: Manisha Bahl, M.D.
Manisha Bahl, MD, MPH, FSBI, is the Breast Imaging Division Quality Director at the Massachusetts General Hospital, an Associate Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School, and a Fellow of the Society of Breast Imaging. Dr. Bahl is an NIH-funded physician-scientist with research interests in the application of artificial intelligence to support more targeted and precise treatment options for women with ductal carcinoma in situ and high-risk breast lesions. She has won numerous awards for her research, including the American Roentgen Ray Society President’s Award. Dr. Bahl is an Associate Editor for Radiology and Radiology: AI. She has given more than 100 invited lectures and is an award-winning teacher and mentor.
Scientist: Anne-Marie Baird, Ph.D.
Dr Anne-Marie Baird is a molecular biologist, who has worked extensively on lung and prostate cancer. Her research interests are in inflammation, drug resistance, disease biomarkers and the metastatic cascade. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and is an active member of many scientific committees and steering groups. Through the deaths of two family members from lung cancer, Anne-Marie became involved in lung cancer patient advocacy in 2012, and has been president of Lung Cancer Europe (LuCE) since May 2020.
Scientist: Tarah Ballinger, M.D.
Dr. Tarah Ballinger’s practice philosophy is to empower her patients to engage in a shared decision-making process with honest discussions at each step of treatment. She feels it is important to individualize care and to focus on the impact of cancer care on a patient as a whole person. Her clinical interests include high-risk and survivor breast oncology, particularly the role of physical activity and exercise. Aside from medicine, Dr. Ballinger enjoys spending time with her family and friends, running and cycling.
Scientist: Rani Bansal, M.D.
Rani Bansal, M.D. is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Breast Medical Oncologist at Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina. She is also Associate Director of Clinical Research for the Breast Program in Wake County, NC. Dr. Bansal has a clinical and research interest in breast oncology and is interested in clinical trial development and community outreach. Dr. Bansal completed her Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Brown University, received her M.D. through the Seven-Year Combined Medical Degree program at Boston University and completed her internal medicine training at Boston Medical Center.
Scientist: Eliza Barragan, Ph.D.
Eliza Barragan is a scientist with a diverse background in molecular biology, genetics, neurobiology, and aging. She transitioned to cancer research when she was recruited to start a tissue and body donation program, aimed to accelerate research in the metastatic setting. As a translational scientist, Eliza strives to bring scientists and clinicians together to answer critical questions that impact the care and treatment strategies for patients in the clinic. She is passionate about making science accessible and easy-to-understand for patients.
Scientist: Traci Bethea, Ph.D.
Scientist: Avni Bhalgat, Ph.D. Candidate
Avni is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the lab of Glen Barber at the University of Miami. She is working on novel immunotherapeutics utilizing oncolytic viruses.
She has a depth of experience in various cancer types and her research has varied over the years. Her interests lie in drug development and immunotherapies. While completing her undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Purdue University, Avni worked in labs that ranged from using a bioinformatics approach to identify targeted therapies for lung cancer patients, to using protein crystallography to find drug targets for various receptors associated with cancer progression and metastasis.
She is deeply involved in her research, advocacy, and on-campus/off-campus organizations. She is passionate about scientific communication and increasing access to technical scientific information for non-scientific communities.
Scientist: Paula Bos, Ph.D.
Paula D. Bos is Assistant Professor and Cancer Biology Program Co-Leader at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center (MCC). She obtained a M.S. in Genetics working in molecular epidemiology of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in cervical cancer (National University of Misiones, Argentina), a Ph.D. from Weill Cornell Medical College investigating tissue-specific metastasis biology, and did postdoctoral training in cancer immunology at Sloan-Kettering Institute. Her laboratory investigates tumor microenvironmental (TME) interactions that drive breast cancer progression and tissue-specific metastasis. Her work utilizes genetic models to delineate tissue-specific function of stromal cells, in particular regulatory T cells, in primary and secondary organ tumor microenvironments with the long-term goal of providing novel TME targets for therapeutic intervention. She currently serves in the AACR Tumor Microenvironment Steering Committee, and at NIH, ACS and DOD study sections.
Scientist: Diogo Martins Branco, M.D.
Diogo has been a board-certified medical oncologist since March 2019. During his oncology fellowship training, he completed a Master in Palliative Care from King’s College London. His research project was dedicated to models of care at the end-of-life. After completing his medical oncology fellowship, he began a Fellowship of Scientific Communication at Champalimaud Foundation in Lisbon, Portugal where he had close contact with patient advocacy groups which provided him with a better understanding of the patient perspective in translational cancer research.
Since January 2021, he has been working in Brussels, Belgium, as a medical research fellow at the Academic Trials Promoting Team and Clinical Trials Support Unit of Institut Jules Bordet. Here he works in the conceptualization, design, protocol development, implementation, and medical monitoring of clinical trials, both investigator-initiated, and industry sponsored as academic partners.
Scientist: Carmela Caballero, M.D.
Carmela is a general surgeon from the Philippines, currently working as a medical advisor for Breast International Group (BIG) in Brussels, Belgium. She and her team are involved in large scale international clinical trials on adjuvant treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer, de-escalation of radiotherapy, and molecular profiling of metastatic breast cancer. As the Steering Committee Chair of the European Society of Surgical Oncology Young Surgeon’s Alumni Club (ESSO-EYSAC), Carmela is especially interested in advancing surgical oncology research. Being a core member of the BIG Patient Partnership Initiative and BIG Asia Collaboration, Carmela is working towards the involvement of patient advocates as partners in defining research priorities and in developing clinical trials for breast cancer. To achieve balance in her life, she writes, draws and does yoga.
Scientist: Carmen J. Calfa, M.D.
Dr. Calfa is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Medical Director of Clinical Operations for the Survivorship Cancer Program at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has been recognized for her clinical care and research and has received the prestigious Zubrod 2020 Outstanding Clinical Researcher of the Year Award. Recognized for the work in the community, she is also the recipient of 2020 Miami Dolphins Everyday Hero Award.
In addition to being an outstanding and compassionate physician, she has dedicated her career to developing new treatment approaches for women with breast cancer and improving breast cancer survivorship. She is leading the Multidisciplinary Survivorship Clinic Program at Sylvester and she plays a key role in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Steering Committee. As Medical Director for Clinical Operations, Survivorship Cancer Program, she dedicates her efforts to not only improve survival by promoting access to innovative research but also quality of life for those diagnosed with cancer and their caregivers.
Scientist: Neil Carleton, M.D. & Ph.D. Candidate
Neil holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is in the MD/PhD program at the University of Pittsburgh and currently finishing his PhD in the Lee-Oesterreich Lab. He is currently studying breast cancer in the context of aging applying techniques that utilize single-cell RNA seq, organoids, and robust clinical samples, and runs a series of clinical trials geared toward “right-sizing” surgical treatments for older patients. Neil enjoys running, playing with his dogs (Otis & Stevie), and watching the Pens.
Scientist: Isaac Chan, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Isaac Chan is a physician-scientist who is dedicated to eliminating mortality associated with metastatic breast cancer. During his MD/PhD training at University of North Carolina and medical oncology fellowship at Johns Hopkins University, he developed the tools to execute a bench to bedside research vision that probes the relationship between breast cancer metastasis and the tumor environment. His research focuses 1) understanding how metastatic tumor cells can grow in distant organs and 2) discovering novel drug targets that activate a patient’s own immune cells to target metastatic cancer lesions. He chose UT Southwestern to launch his lab because of its strong laboratory-based history and foundation and the innumerable opportunities to apply basic science knowledge to clinical practice. In parallel to his research efforts, he continues to see patients, who inform and inspire his work in the lab. Outside of medicine, his interests include spending time with family and friends, cooking, and reading biographies and books on American history.
Scientist: Alexander Chang, M.D. & Ph.D. Candidate
Alexander Chang is a current MD-PhD trainee at the University of Pittsburgh, focusing on breast cancer biology. Alexander uses his experience as a clinical and basic science researcher to try and bridge gaps between different parts of medicine to advance treatments that can help patients by bringing lab discoveries to the clinic. A student in the University of Pittsburgh-Carnegie Mellon University Computational Biology graduate program and the Adrian Lee/Steffi Oesterreich Laboratory, his work focuses on precision medicine approaches for discoveries in breast cancer. Outside the lab, he is currently leading a CMU team designing an AI system to increase racial diversity in clinical trial recruitment.
Scientist: Eric Chang, Ph.D.
Eric is a professor in the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine. He is a basic scientist by training focusing on how extracellular signals can impact the growth, survival, and differentiation of the cell. These activities are often hijacked by cancer cells to promote tumor formation, drug resistance, and metastasis. His current research focuses on the cross-talks between signaling pathways controlled by RAS and estrogen receptor. Inspired by patient data, his lab has recently discovered that a well-known tumor suppressor NF1 is a key connection between these pathways. This new understanding of how cancer works has led to a new therapeutic strategy, which will be soon tested in a clinical trial to help breast cancer patients.
Scientist: Vinton Cheng, M.D., Ph.D.
Vinton Cheng is an academic clinical lecturer at the University of Leeds and St James’s University Hospital, UK. He completed his DPhil at the University of Oxford, where he studied a molecularly targeted MRI contrast agent that was shown to improve detection of brain metastasis. Vinton enjoys working at the interface of different research disciplines and most recently spent a year working in the Focused Ultrasound group at the University of Virginia investigating how to enhance the immune response against brain metastasis. He is passionate about communicating science and collaborating with patients in the clinic to improve cancer care.
Scientist: Jessica Christenson, Ph.D.
Jessica Christenson is a cancer biologist currently performing research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. For the past 13 years Jessica has made it her mission to discover more effective treatments for patients with breast cancer. In recent years her aims have shifted to focus exclusively on the study of metastatic disease. Jessica is currently investigating how the lung itself promotes the growth and survival of metastases in an effort to better understand ways in which to block metastatic progression and extend the survival and quality of life of patients with metastatic disease. In a project funded by a METAvivor Early Career Investigator Award, she is presently studying how lung-targeted therapies, such as those used to treated asthma and chronic inflammatory diseases, may be repurposed for use in metastatic patients, and while her primary research is focused on breast cancer, she has great hope that her discoveries will provide benefit for any patient with lung metastases. Like countless others, cancer has taken the lives of several of Jessica’s loved ones, and she is committed to making metastatic cancer a treatable and survivable condition.
Scientist: Claire Conley, Ph.D.
Claire Conley is a clinical psychologist with a special focus on the experiences of people living with cancer. She obtained her PhD in clinical health psychology from the Ohio State University in 2018. Claire went on to complete post-doctoral training at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Georgetown University.
Claire’s research broadly focuses on psychosocial issues across the cancer continuum, from prevention to end-of-life. Key themes of her work include: (1) quality of life and survivorship issues in breast cancer, (2) prevention and early detection among those at increased risk for breast cancer; and (3) reducing cancer-related health disparities. Dr. Conley’s research aims to promote health behavior change and improve quality of life in the context of cancer, with the ultimate goal of developing and testing interventions to improve quality of life for people at risk for and living with cancer. She has received research funding from the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Scientist: Maria J Contreras-Zarate, Ph.D.
Dr. Contreras-Zarate has been a Research Instructor at the University of Colorado since August 2021 in the field of brain metastases under the mentorship of Dr. Diana Cittelly. Dr. Contreras-Zárate completed her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the Universidad Nacional Colombia. In 2016, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Cittelly at the University of Colorado as a postdoctoral fellow, where she learned the technical skills required to perform critical in vitro and in vivo experiments in the brain metastases field. Dr. Contreras-Zarate led the efforts to decipher how estrogen modulates BDNF/TrkB signaling to promote metastatic brain colonization in younger women with triple-negative breast cancers; (Contreras-Zarate, MJ et al., Oncogene, 2019). Her research currently focuses on understanding the interaction between cancer cells and the brain microenvironment. She also studies estrogen depletion therapies as a preventive and therapeutic setting to decrease the progression of brain colonization of triple-negative breast cancer—and she is interested in defining the mechanism underlying radiation treatment side effects and the potential role of antiepileptic drugs in the metastasis progression in breast cancer patients with epileptic seizures.
Scientist: Lyndsey Crump, Ph.D.
Lyndsey’s interest in cancer research began when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She finished her undergraduate degree, then got a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, followed by a PhD from the University of Colorado. Her thesis research was on a novel mechanism of endocrine resistance and metastasis in ER+ breast cancer. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow, still in Colorado, where she studies mechanisms of immune evasion and metastasis in both breast and ovarian cancers. Her overall research goal is to complete highly translational studies to inform better therapeutic approaches in the clinic.
Scientist: Veronique Debien, M.D.
Véronique Debien was trained as a medical oncologist in France, after moving to clinical research at Institut Jules Bordet, Brussels, Belgium. Involved in academia-promoted clinical trials, the patients’ input provided helpful suggestions for the clinical trial setting. Additionally, passionate about early phases, her goal is to make cancer knowledge accessible to a larger panel of patients, demystify clinical research in oncology and thus optimize clinician-patient collaboration.
Scientist: Julia Falco, Ph.D. Candidate
Julia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Science from Loyola University New Orleans and is currently finishing up her Ph.D. in Chemical Biology at Boston College. In her Ph.D. work, she uses chemical proteomics to investigate cysteine post-translational modifications and understand their role in regulating protein activity in vivo. Outside of the lab, Julia has a particular interest in learning about breast cancer biology and treatments and hopes to pursue this in her future career. At 26 she was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer and was found to have a BRCA1 mutation. During her own cancer treatments, her mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer and her two sisters with a BRCA1 mutation. She is an advocate within the breast cancer community and is passionate about sharing educational breast cancer content on her blog, Breast Cancer Blessings. In her free time you can find her doing yoga, walking in nature, or cuddling with her dog, Newt!
Scientist: Aileen Fernandez, Ph.D.
Aileen Fernandez’s postdoctoral research is in translational oncology and focuses on identifying and developing biomarkers to better identify which patients with cancer will respond to targeted therapies, improving patient care. Aileen completed her PhD in the Tumor Biology training program at Georgetown University (GU) in 2019. While there, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Rebecca B. Riggins and focused on triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive breast cancer subtype that disproportionally affects African-American women and lacks targeted therapies. While at GU, Aileen co-founded the Women in Science and Education (WISE) group with her colleagues, serving as the group’s strategist, secretary, and diversity liaison.
Aileen is passionate about leveling accessibility in science and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also strongly believes in improving science communication to better disseminate information from the scientists’ bench to society.
Scientist: Julia Foldi, M.D., Ph.D.
Julia trained as a researcher in immunology prior to switching careers slightly to become a physician. She completed her Oncology training at Yale University, where she first interacted with patient advocates while developing her first clinical trial protocol. Julia recently moved to the University of Pittsburgh to begin her first faculty position as a Breast Medical Oncologist. In her new role as a clinical and translational breast cancer researcher, she is hoping to continue developing her relationships with local and national patient advocacy organizations and help connect other physician and scientists with patient advocates. She hopes to use these connections in her practice and research to develop patient-centered clinical studies and to ensure equitable access to evidence-based and state-of-the-art care as well as the ability to participate in research for all patients affected by breast cancer and other malignancies.
Scientist: Larisa Gearhart-Serna, Ph.D.
Larisa (“Risa”) was trained as a cancer biologist and environmental toxicologist, and completed a specialized postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University after graduating in 2021 with her Ph.D. in Pathology from Duke University. She received her MBA in Management in 2022. She is now both an Innovation Fellow for the National Cancer Institute and a Research Analyst for Duke University, and serves as a scientific Editor and an Institutional Biosafety Committee member. She is passionate about translational cancer research, therapeutic development and commercialization, and cancer community partnerships.
Scientist: Keerthi Gogineni, M.D.
Keerthi Gogineni, MD, MSHP is an Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. After completing her undergraduate degree at Brown University, she worked in Washington, DC as a public policy fellow at AIDS Action, a non-profit organization representing AIDS service organizations on Capitol Hill. She went to medical school at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and then completed her residency training in internal medicine and fellowship training in Hematology-Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While there, she completed a Masters of Science in Health Policy Research at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Gogineni was appointed to the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and moved to Atlanta to join the faculty at the Emory School of Medicine in 2015. As a breast oncologist, she guides patients through a complex maze of treatment options and explained potentially debilitating effects of disease and treatment. She takes care of patients at the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship Cancer Institute and at the Georgia Cancer Center of Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital and conducts clinical trials in breast cancer and health equity research. Dr. Gogineni also serves as Associate Director of the Hematology and Medical Oncology Fellowship Program and as Co-Vice Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology.
Scientist: Stephanie Graff, M.D.
Stephanie L. Graff is the Director of the Breast Oncology Program at Lifespan Cancer Institute, and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Translational Research Disease Group. In addition, she serves as a medical advisor to the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. She is active across numerous professional organizations in oncology, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) where she is a 2020 graduate of the prestigious Leadership Development Program and currently serves on the Joint Certifications Committee; the Rhode Island Leadership Council for the American Cancer Society; the Breast Cancer Committee for the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology cooperative group; and is on the Health Disparities Council for the Caris Precision Oncology Alliance (POA) and is chair-elect for the Breast Disease group of the Caris POA. Dr. Graff is a leader on social media and a sought-after public speaker.
Research Interests include oncology drug development and clinical trials, the breast microbiome, breast cancer genomics, health disparities, women in medicine, and rare breast cancers including male breast cancer, pregnancy-associated breast cancer, pre-menopausal breast cancer, among others.
Scientist: Gaia Griguolo, M.D.
Gaia is a breast cancer oncologist at the Veneto Institute of Oncology and a Junior Faculty member of the Department of Surgery, Oncology and Gastroenterology of the University of Padova. Gaia earned her MD from the University of Padova (Italy) in 2012 and completed subspecialty training in medical oncology at the University of Padova in 2018. During her training, she developed a strong interest in clinical research which she consolidated during her one-year fellowship at the Early Phase Clinical Trial Unit at IOSI (Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland) in Bellinzona, Switzerland.
Gaia has collaborated in several translation research projects related to the characterization of the breast cancer immune microenvironment and biological heterogeneity, both during her training at the University of Padova and during a six-month fellowship at the Translational Genomics and Targeted Therapeutics in Solid Tumors Laboratory at IDIBAPS-Barcelona, Spain. Over the last few years, she deeply involved herself in clinical research on the topic of breast cancer related brain metastasis, a key unmet need for metastatic breast cancer patients, which has been her main research focus as principal investigator. In her spare time, Gaia enjoys spending time with her family and reading in the company of her cat.
Scientist: Marielle Gross, M.D.
Marielle S. Gross is a professor of bioethics and OBGYN at University of Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins. She is an expert on ethics at the intersection of medicine and research, and has founded heny, Inc. to empower patients and their families to benefit directly from their personal research contributions. As a physician, scientist and founder, her mission is to partner with patients in advancing the art and science of precision medicine.
Scientist: Sailajah Gukathasan, Ph.D.
Sailajah Gukathasan is currently working in chemical proteomics at Weerapana Lab, Chemistry Department at Boston College, under Prof. Eranthie Weerapana as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow after successfully completing her Doctoral degree. Her doctoral work mainly focused on the unique niche of developing gold-based reagents for specific protein modulation under the guidance of Prof. Samuel Awuah at the University of Kentucky. In addition to that, she worked with developing gold(III) scaffolds for enhanced anticancer activity. She is originally from the idyllic city of Jaffna in Sri Lanka and graduated Honors with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Zoology. She left her position as a government official in Sri Lanka to realize her true passion for contributing to society through science, better achieved by devoting her time to research and completing graduate school. Taking her first step towards her goal, she moved to the US in 2015 for a Master’s degree from Tennessee Technological University.
Scientist: Erika Hamilton, M.D.
Erika P Hamilton, M.D., cares for patients with breast and gynecologic cancer. As the director of the breast cancer and gynecologic cancer research program at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, she oversees the program and the clinical trial menu for these cancers across the Sarah Cannon network. After receiving an undergraduate degree from Washington and Lee University in Virginia, Dr. Hamilton completed her medical degree and residency from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She received her fellowship training in hematology and oncology from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where she was recognized as a Top 5 Finalist for Duke’s Annual House staff Fellow Teaching Award. She is board certified in internal medicine and oncology. Additionally, she is a partner with Tennessee Oncology, PLLC.
Scientist: Ariella Hanker, Ph.D.
Ariella is an assistant professor in the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX. She pursued postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Carlos Arteaga at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her postdoctoral studies focused on mechanisms of resistance to HER2-targeted therapy in HER2+ breast cancer. More recently, she identified the HER2 gatekeeper mutation as a mechanism of resistance to HER2-targeted therapy in HER2-mutant breast cancer.
Her lab’s current work is focused on 1) therapeutic targeting of genetic alterations that drive metastatic breast cancer, and 2) delineating mechanisms of resistance to breast cancer targeted therapies, including HER2 inhibitors, antiestrogens, PI3K/AKT inhibitors, and CDK4/6 inhibitors. Her research program is supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Ariella also co-leads the Breast Organoid Working Group. In her spare time, Ariella enjoys traveling and exploring Texas with her husband and 3 children.
Scientist: Jessi Hersh, Ph.D. Candidate
Jessi Hersh is a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Her research focuses on taking advantage of biomarkers specific to certain cancers to detect and diagnose cancer in animal models. She primarily studies pancreatic and lung cancers, but also applies concepts to other diseases.
She has a passion for community engagement and science communication, and aims to promote science teaching and learning. She is working to develop patient/advocate-researcher programs in Miami, and is eager to be a part of the GRASP program and connect with a diverse global community. She is also devoted to bringing science opportunities and experiences to K-12 programs in her community, particularly to those that lack access to resources because of social and racial disparities.
Scientist: Erin Howe, Ph.D.
Erin is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Harper Cancer Research Institute. She completed her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus, and her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She transitioned to cancer biology research following the sudden loss of her father to metastatic melanoma, and is deeply committed to fighting metastatic disease. She strongly believes that because scientific research is funded by individuals, through taxes or donations, that research should also be accessible to everyone. In her spare time she enjoys gardening, quilting, and playing with her two Australian Shepherds.
Scientist: Laura Huppert, M.D.
Dr. Laura Huppert is an Assistant Professor and breast medical oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Huppert earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School. She completed Internal Medicine residency and Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at UCSF before starting on faculty at UCSF in July 2022. Dr. Huppert is interested in clinical and translational breast cancer research in both early-stage and metastatic disease. She is involved in the I-SPY2 clinical trial for neoadjuvant therapy in early-stage breast cancer. She is also interested in designing clinical trials with novel therapies for patients with metastatic breast cancer and is the PI of several investigator-initiated clinical trials with novel agents. She also has a particular interest in breast cancer that has metastasized to the central nervous system, and conducts translational research in this space aimed to better identify prevention and treatment strategies.
Scientist: Amanda Jacobson, Ph.D.
Amanda Jacobson obtained a Ph.D. in cell biology and immunology from the University of Utah, and her post-doctoral work focused on HIV pathogenesis and infant immunology. She has been in the biotech/ pharma space supporting oncology drug development in both blood and solid tumor indications for a little over 10 years. Currently, she is the director of clinical science at a small biotech company supporting clinical trials in breast cancer.
Scientist: Kevin Kalinsky, M.D.
Kevin Kalinsky, MD, MS, is Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Kalinsky serves as the director of the Glenn Family Breast Center at Winship where he is tasked with fulfilling the vision to improve breast cancer outcomes by aligning research and education with cancer treatment and prevention. A breast cancer physician and investigator, Dr. Kalinsky’s research focus is in developing new therapeutic approaches to patients with breast cancer.Dr. Kalinsky is a member of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Dr. Kalinsky received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and a Masters in Biostatistics, Patient Oriented Research Track from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. His training included a Residency and Medical Oncology Fellowship at Tufts-New England Medical Center, Breast Cancer Research Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Breast Cancer Advanced Oncology Fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Scientist: Matteo Lambertini, M.D., Ph.D.
Matteo Lambertini is associate professor and consultant in medical oncology at the University of Genova – IRCCS Ospedale Policlinico San Martino in Genova (Italy). He is mainly focused in the care of breast cancer patients and is deeply involved in breast cancer research.
Above all, he has a particular expertise in the management of breast cancer in young women, with a specific attention to the fertility and pregnancy-related issues that they have to face after diagnosis.
Thanks to the support of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), in 2018 he completed his PhD at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B.) in Brussels (Belgium) with a project entitled “Unmet Fertility and Pregnancy-related Issues in Young Breast Cancer Patients”. With this work, he has contributed to improve our understanding of many controversial aspects related to the management of breast cancer in young women specifically focusing on fertility preservation and the possibility to have a pregnancy following treatment completion, with the ultimate goal to further improve the care and quality of life of these young women.
Scientist: Chung-Han Lee, M.D., Ph.D.
Chung-Han Lee, M.D., Ph.D. is a medical oncologist that specializes in the care of people with genitourinary malignancies, including kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer. As part of a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and medical oncologists, he strives to provide the optimal care for each patient’s unique situation. In addition to standard-of-care options, our team enables patients to participate in promising and innovative clinical trials as additional options for clinical care.
His primary research interests include the development of novel agents and treatment strategies for genitourinary malignancies, especially kidney cancer. As a physician-scientist, he is also an active member of the Translational Kidney Cancer Research Program at MSK and closely collaborates with translational and basic science researchers in MSK’s Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program. His laboratory research focuses on identifying novel pathways that may be involved in pathogenesis and developing better biomarkers to predict response to therapy.
Scientist: Nathalie LeVasseur, M.D.
Nathalie LeVasseur is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver since October 2019. She received her medical degree in 2013 and completed her internal medicine residency at the University of Ottawa. She subsequently pursued a residency in medical oncology at the University of British Columbia and served as chief resident before completing a breast cancer clinical and research fellowship at the BC Cancer Agency.
Dr. LeVasseur is the current chair of Breast Systemic Policy in BC, the co-lead of the Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Unit in Vancouver and serves on the CCTG IND Executive Committee. Her research focus is in the development of personalized oncology with informative tools, genomics and transcriptomics. Additionally, the improvement of patient outcomes and survivorship is an area of ongoing research interest.
Dr. LeVasseur is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. She holds professional memberships with the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Canadian Association of Medical Oncology, among others. She has received academic achievement awards including a Conquer Cancer ASCO Merit Award, NOYCIA Award and a Coltman Scholars Award.
Scientist: Franziska Linke, Ph.D.
Franziska Linke is a senior postdoctoral researcher at the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam (The Netherlands). She is working in the Department of Experimental Urology on developing novel organ-on-a-chip devices to study (prostate) cancer metastasis.
Franziska’ s main research interest is to understand how cancer cells move away from the primary tumour and re-grow at distant sites (metastasis). She focuses on the particular organ-specific features that allow cancer cells to survive in that new environment. Although she currently works primarily on prostate cancer metastasis to the bone and to the liver, she also aims to expand her metastasis model systems to study breast and bladder cancer metastasis and closely collaborates with groups working on brain and lung disease models as well.
Importantly, her work is kindly supported by Health Holland and the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and she is an active member of the Metastasis Research Society as well as an ambassador of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR).
Scientist: Selena Lorrey, Ph.D. Candidate
A native of Maine, Selena is now an Immunology PhD candidate at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She is driven by the goal of helping cancer patients by understanding barriers to treatment success and developing rational, targeted interventions to overcome these limitations. As an immunologist (someone who studies the immune system), Selena is really interested in the application of immunotherapies, treatments that “harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer.” Although immunotherapies work really well in some cancers, they’re less effective in the setting of brain metastases and quite ineffective against primary brain tumors like glioblastoma. Selena’s work is focused on understanding the challenges that prevent effective use of immunotherapies in brain tumors and finding ways to overcome these challenges.
Prior to graduate school, Selena graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, then worked at Massachusetts General Hospital under the guidance of Dr. Marcela Maus focusing on CAR-T cell research in cancer.
Please feel free (and encouraged!) to reach out to her at any time!
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.
Scientist: Shishir K. Maithel, M.D., FACS
Dr. Maithel is a Surgical Oncologist and an expert in hepatopancreatobiliary surgery including the Whipple procedure, major hepatectomy and bile duct resections, and minimally invasive laparoscopic pancreatectomy. His clinical interests include surgical treatment of cancer of the liver (metastatic and primary) and bile ducts, and other gastrointestinal malignancies such as cancer of the pancreas, stomach, colon, and small intestine. He has worked in clinical investigation and outcomes analysis of patients treated for tumors of the liver, biliary tract, pancreas, and stomach. He served as Chair of the Gastrointestinal Surgery Working Group of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network Cancer Research Group, is a member of the NCI Hepatobiliary Task Force, and leads the US Extrahepatic Biliary Malignancy Consortium. Dr. Maithel is a strong advocate for trying to incorporate the advances that the field is making in treating patients with metastatic disease to patients with early stage disease. He is currently serving as the national Principal Investigator of three clinical trials for biliary cancers that are “forward thinking” and are trying to lay the foundation for optimizing the treatment strategy for patients with localized resectable disease.
Scientist: Midhun Malla, M.D.
Dr. Midhun Malla is an assistant professor in the section of hematology-oncology at West Virginia University (WVU). He completed his residency in internal medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. He then completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, where he simultaneously completed a Master of Science degree in Clinical and Translational Sciences (CTS).
He specializes in clinical and translational gastrointestinal (GI) oncology and his clinical areas of interest include colorectal cancers (CRC), pancreatic, hepatobiliary and neuroendocrine neoplasms. He is the lead physician in the GI medical oncology clinical trial program at WVU cancer institute. He is an active member of Alliance GI cooperative group; he represents this committee to the National Cancer Institute- Hepatobiliary committee as an early career investigator. He is an awardee of a research scholar grant by WV- CTS institute to pursue translational research in CRC wherein he aims to use precision medicine approaches to elucidate molecular biology and genetic architecture of CRC.
Scientist: Jacqueline Mann, Ph.D.
Jacqueline holds a BS in Biological Science from the University of Vermont and a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Pathology from the University of Michigan. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Medicine, where she studies immune-related adverse events in patients treated with immunotherapy.
Scientist: Guilherme Nader Marta, M.D., Ph.D. Candidate
Guilherme Nader Marta received his medical degree from the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) and completed his oncology residency in the same institution. Since 2021, he has joined Jules Bordet Institute in Belgium as a clinical research fellow, where his time is dedicated to breast cancer research.
He is currently a PhD candidate at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) with a research line in biomarkers and breast cancer special histological types, particularly lobular breast cancer.
The results of his research have been presented at international conferences, published in peer-reviewed journals and, in recognition for the high quality of his work, he received a Conquer Cancer Merit Award in 2022 and a Young Investigator Award in 2023.
Scientist: Diana Mendoza-Cervantes, Master of Bioethics (MBE)
Diana is a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her dual degree, B.S. in Neurobiology and Physiology and B.A. in Philosophy, at the University of Maryland in College Park. She joined Center for Global Health at the National Cancer Institute as a Cancer Research Training Award Fellow, during which she worked on a range of projects including HPV diagnostics and vaccination, qualitative research on breast cancer stigma in women in low- and middle-income countries, and on leveraging research to lower the burden of breast and cervical cancer in Latin America. She completed her Masters of Bioethics at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and JHU Berman Institute of Bioethics, focusing on epistemic injustice in decision making at the primary care level and within health systems. She worked with the Global Bioethics Program at JHU supporting the work of graduate fellows from low- and middle-income countries and with the development of ethics curriculum for physicians and scientists in Malaysia. She is now on a research fellowship between her third and fourth year of medical school and working on the ethics and patient experience of tissue biobanking. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking with her dog, Niko!
Scientist: Myrto Moutafi, M.D., Ph.D. (c)
Myrto Moutafi is a postdoctoral associate in the laboratory of Dr. David Rimm in Yale School of Medicine’s Pathology department. Her research in oncology focuses on different companion diagnostic tests and biomarkers in breast, lung, and head and neck cancer tissues. She obtained her medical degree at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) , Greece, in 2015 and her Master of Science in NKUA Pathology Department in 2019 , where she studied the role of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors in melanoma cancer as part of her final thesis.
Myrto enjoys being actively involved in the Postdoctoral Association and taking part in initiatives that further improve the postdoc experience.
Scientist: Steffi Oesterreich, Ph.D.
Dr Oesterreich’s area of interest is endocrine resistance and metastatic disease in breast cancer. Her lab studies mutations and epigenetic changes that lead to resistance to commonly used hormonal therapies such as Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. One focus area is the understanding of invasive lobular cancer, an understudied histological breast cancer subtype that affects 26,000-39,000 patients per year in the US alone. To reach the goal of translating findings into the clinic, she works in transdisciplinary teams, including medical oncologists, surgeons, biostatisticians, bioinformaticians, and pathologists. All of these studies include many aspects of translational breast cancer research utilizing basic biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, cell lines, rodent models, and clinical samples from retrospective cohort studies and from clinical trials.
Scientist: Sayali Onkar, Ph.D.
Sayali Onkar is a recent graduate with a PhD in Immunology. She trained in breast immuno-oncology with a focus on studying the immune response to estrogen receptor positive ductal and lobular breast carcinoma. Sayali is passionate about science outreach and has engaged with patient advocates throughout her PhD training at the University of Pittsburgh. She has presented her work and participated in meetings, discussions and events for Breast Cancer Research Advisory Network (BCRAN) and Susan G Komen Foundation in Pittsburgh. Sayali continues her efforts in the lab in the memory of her mother who passed of metastatic disease. She stays committed to the cause of improved patient outcomes through translational research.
Scientist: Tatiana Prowell, M.D.
Dr. Tatiana Prowell is breast cancer scientific liaison in the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and associate professor of oncology in the Breast Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. She was the principal architect of the FDA’s policy on accelerated approval using pathological complete response as a novel regulatory endpoint in the neoadjuvant high-risk breast cancer setting, and was a member of the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel Cancer Immunology Working Group.
She is a three-time recipient of the FDA’s Excellence in Communication Award, as well as a Giants of Cancer Care Award finalist. A passionate medical educator and mentor, she currently serves on the faculty of the Vail Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop, the Accelerating Anti-Cancer Agent Development and Validation (AAADV) Workshop, the FDA/ASCO Fellows’ Day Workshop, the Society for Translational Oncology Fellows’ Forum, and the Dana Farber Clinical Investigator Seminar Series, among others. She sees patients in the Johns Hopkins Second Opinion Breast Cancer Clinic and teaches in the medical school and medical oncology fellowship training program.
Scientist: Dionisia Quiroga, Ph.D.
Dionisia Quiroga is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and medical oncologist at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her clinical expertise is in treating all types of breast cancer. Her laboratory and clinical research focuses on breast cancer immunology and immunotherapy as well as how obesity/fat tissue can affect breast cancer outcomes. She is also passionate about racial/ethnic disparities in cancer care and improving diverse representation in clinical research. She has presented her work at several national and international conferences. She has received multiple national grants for her research and serves on an American Society of Clinical Oncology advisory board to improve opportunities for trainees and early-career oncologists. During her free time, she loves to cook new dishes, go for runs, and explore parks with her husband and son.
Scientist: Bhuvaneswari Ramaswamy, M.D.
Dr. Ramaswamy joined the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James as a breast medical oncologist in 2006 and is very active in clinical and translational research in breast cancer. She is a principal investigator for several cooperative group and investigator-initiated studies, and has authored more than 110 peer-reviewed articles published in scientific journals. As a member of the Translational Therapeutics Program, her research is focused on investigating the biology of breast tumors at the molecular level to identify characteristics of tumors that are resistant to hormone-based therapeutics, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. With this information, researchers can develop alternative therapies to treat hormone-resistant tumors. She is also interested in invasive lobular carcinoma, dormancy, cancer disparities, particularly the relationship between prolonged breastfeeding and the risk of developing triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
She is the principal investigator of multiple clinical trials, the recipient of several research grants, and has co-authored many articles in well-respected journals. She received the Stellar Practitioner for Compassionate Care Recognition from patients and caregivers as an exceptional physician. In addition, she has been the top doctor multiple years as published by Castle Connolly. She was named as one among the top 27 breast medical oncologist in the US by Forbes magazine. She has received the Best Teacher and Best Mentor award at OSU. She was elected into the Mazzaferri Master Clinicians Hall of Fame two years ago.
Scientist: Shoshana Rosenberg, ScD, MPH
Shoshana Rosenberg, ScD, MPH, is a cancer epidemiologist and cancer care delivery researcher whose research focuses on survivorship, quality of life, and treatment decision-making in young adults with breast cancer. Additionally, she is involved in designing and incorporating patient-reported outcomes measures in therapeutic breast cancer clinical trials. Dr. Rosenberg received her B.A. from Binghamton University, completed a Master of Public Health degree at NYU, and a Doctor of Science degree in Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. Following an NCI post-doctoral Fellowship in Cancer Prevention, a joint program between the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, she was a faculty member at Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School before joining the faculty at Weill Cornell Medicine in May 2021, where she is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences and a member of the Cancer Control and Prevention Program at the Meyer Cancer Center.
Scientist: Leila Ross, Ph.D.
Leila Ross is a biomedical research scientist who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2018. Her training is in biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, and she has worked in academic science as well as in drug development in pharmaceutical companies. Leila has experience as both a researcher and a participant in clinical research, including two clinical trials for her own illness. Before her diagnosis, Leila participated in many science communication and outreach activities such as public lectures and hands-on activities in K-12 after school programs. Post-diagnosis, she has transitioned these efforts towards patient advocacy and assisting fellow patients, such as practicing questions for their medical team to better understand their diagnosis and care plan, searching for and assessing relevant clinical trials, facilitating grief circles and memorials for those who have died, and connecting to patient navigator programs, support groups, social workers, palliative/supportive care, and other relevant resources.
Scientist: Rachel Schiff, Ph.D.
My research lab focuses on understanding the key signaling pathways in breast cancer and identifying therapeutic strategies to overcome them, particularly treatments targeting the estrogen receptor and the HER2 receptor. Major research themes include the crosstalk between the ER signaling network and growth factor and cellular kinase pathways, the role of ER co-regulators and pioneer factors in breast cancer development and metastasis, the identification of genomic and epigenomic alterations underlying resistance to endocrine and HER2-targeted therapies, and the development of biomarkers for effective and less toxic tailored therapeutic interventions.
Scientist: Osama Shiraz Shah, Ph.D.
Dr. Shah received his BS in Biology in Pakistan where his undergraduate research focused on utilizing mathematical modeling for colorectal cancer pathway analysis with the goal of identifying effective drug treatment combinations.
In 2018, he began his PhD in Integrative Systems Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. His PhD work focused on utilizing multi-omic assays (including bulk, single cell, and spatial transcriptomics) and bioinformatic analyses to uncover molecular underpinnings of understudied subtypes of breast cancers. His work also investigates clinically actionable alterations in metastatic breast cancers for enabling precision medicine.
Currently, as a Postdoctoral Associate, Dr. Shah is working on molecular characterization of pre-clinical models of invasive lobular breast cancers, an understudied subtype of breast cancer. The goal is to expand the list of available and well-characterized cell lines for modeling the progression and treatment response of this disease and enabling development of its precision therapies.
Scientist: Jennifer Sheng, M.D.
Dr. Jenni Sheng is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her areas of clinical expertise include internal medicine and oncology. Caring for men and women with cancer, she addresses living with, through and beyond cancer. As she primarily treat patients with breast cancer, she discusses the best treatment options, manages symptoms from the cancer and treatment-related side effects and focuses on psychosocial aspects of care. In keeping with comprehensive survivorship care, she plans surveillance and screening and encourages health promotion (diet, exercise and interpersonal relationships) and care coordination.
Scientist: Shaheen Sikandar, Ph.D.
Shaheen got her Ph.D. at the University of California – Irvine followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. Shaheen is currently an Assistant Professor of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at University of California – Sant Cruz. The Sikandar lab has identified critical regulators of breast cancer metastasis and her team aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern metastasis formation including signals from the microenvironment. Her research focuses on studying molecular changes in mammary stem cells during aging and how these changes affect breast cancer risk cancer which will lead to the development of better preventive and therapeutic strategies for breast cancer. When not doing/thinking about science, Shaheen spends her time with her two energetic boys hiking, kayaking, and exploring new places to eat in the bay area.
Scientist: Matthew Sikora, Ph.D.
The primary goal of the Sikora Laboratory is to understand how estrogen receptor alpha (ER) contributes to the development and progression of breast and gynecologic cancers. Toward this goal, we focus on invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), an understudied breast cancer subtype, and defining the ILC-specific functions of ER in tumorigenesis and treatment resistance. We also study how cellular pathways in ILC are mirrored in gynecologic cancers, and are exploring how these pathways contribute to gynecologic cancer health disparities.
Scientist: Jamie Spangler, Ph.D.
Dr. Jamie Spangler’s research aims to expand the repertoire of protein therapeutics by redesigning naturally occurring proteins and engineering new molecules to overcome the deficiencies of existing drugs. Integrating cutting-edge tools from structural biophysics, biomolecular engineering, and translational immunology, her research focuses on developing innovative platforms for the discovery and design of proteins that recruit novel mechanisms for disease therapy. In particular, Spangler’s group is interested in engineering antibody-based molecules that reshape immune cell behavior for targeted treatment of cancer, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders. The overarching goal of her interdisciplinary research program is to establish new insights into protein behavior and the extent to which it can be manipulated for medically relevant applications.
Scientist: Patricia Steeg, Ph.D.
Dr. Pat Steeg is the co-director of the Office of Translational Resources and associate director of the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). She is a senior investigator and Deputy Chief of NCI’s Women’s Malignancies Branch. She investigates mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis and discovered the first metastasis suppressor gene, nm23 (NME). This innovative research has since helped to establish an entire field devoted to understanding the structure and function of metastasis suppressor genes. Her recent work investigates brain metastasis of breast cancer. The Steeg lab has identified pathways that mediate brain metastasis, potential preventives, and studied the composition and role of the blood-tumor barrier. An open Phase I/II clinical trial of low dose, metronomic temozolomide for secondary prevention of brain metastases of breast cancer is based on the lab’s preclinical data. Dr. Steeg received the 2020 AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship.
Scientist: Rachel Steinmetz, Ph.D. Candidate
I have long been interested in pursuing a career in clinical research, specifically regarding oncology. I became interested in cancer biology after completing my degree in biology at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA and working at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in a clinical research lab. I worked on immunotherapy clinical trials at Fred Hutch for 3 years before deciding to apply to graduate school in cancer biology. I have since joined Dr. Traci Lyons’ lab at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. My predoctoral research at CU Anschutz focuses on targeting Semaphorin 7a (SEMA7A) signaling in ER+ breast cancer (BC) and resistance to ER+ BC. Our ongoing goal is the development of novel therapeutic strategies targeting SEMA7A-mediated PI3K/Akt survival signaling in combination with endocrine and/or chemotherapy to overcome resistance and prevent recurrent ER+ breast cancer.
Scientist: Hillary Stires, Ph.D.
Hillary Stires was trained as a cancer research scientist but transitioned her career towards cancer policy after interacting with patient advocates as a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University. Hillary is passionate about connecting cancer research scientists and patient advocates to improve cancer research and patient outcomes. In her work as a Science Policy Analyst at Friends of Cancer Research, Hillary uses her scientific and advocacy background to develop evidence-based policies and collaborates with diverse teams to identify challenges in cancer research and create solutions that improve and accelerate cancer care for patients.
Scientist: Jasmine Sukumar, M.D.
Dr. Jasmine Sukumar completed the dual BA/MD program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City followed by internal medicine residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. She subsequently joined The Ohio State University (OSU) James Comprehensive Cancer Center to embark upon her medical oncology fellowship. Additionally, she received breast cancer focused subspecialty training through the Breast Oncology Fellowship Program at the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center and graduated from the advanced breast cancer fellowship at OSU in 2021. During her postgraduate training she was awarded an intramural grant (Pelotonia) to support a postdoctoral fellowship year with an emphasis in cancer control and metabolism. She has published in peer reviewed journals such as Cancers and Breast Cancer Research and Treatment and presents at national conferences. In August 2022 she will transition to junior faculty at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a breast medical oncologist and clinical investigator.
Her research focuses on energy balance as a modifiable risk factor for health promotion in breast cancer survivors. Specifically, she investigates obesity, lifestyle behaviors, and inflammation as risk factors for breast carcinogenesis. She was accepted to the 2021 Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Workshop, an NIH-funded research training and mentorship program through the Yale School of Public Health for early career investigators in energetics and cancer transdisciplinary research. She aims to conduct innovative personalized interventions for improvement in metabolic health and cancer risk reduction.
Scientist: Mylin Torres, M.D.
Mylin Torres, MD is Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Torres serves as co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University where she coordinates and promotes all of the cancer prevention and control-related research activities. She previously served as director of the Glenn Family Breast Center. A board certified radiation oncologist, Dr. Torres practices general radiation oncology and specializes in the treatment of breast cancer.
Dr. Torres’ research interests include multi-disciplinary treatment techniques to improve breast cancer outcomes. Her research includes clinical trial development, outcomes measures, identifying patients at risk for side effects of breast cancer treatment and the life quality of breast cancer survivors.
Dr. Torres has been awarded many accolades for breakthroughs in breast cancer research and patient care. She has received highly competitive grants from the National Cancer Institute, Radiation Oncology Group (now NRG Oncology), Susan G. Komen and Winship Cancer Institute.
Scientist: Nicole Traphagen, Ph.D.
I’m from upstate New York. My research interests are focused on hormone receptor biology and endocrine resistance in cancer, and in developing treatment strategies for endocrine resistant disease. I received my PhD in Cancer Biology from Dartmouth College, where I worked under the supervision of Todd Miller to determine the anti-cancer mechanism of action of estrogen therapy in breast cancer. I also have a B.S. in Biomolecular Science from Clarkson University. In my free time I enjoy reading, running, and hiking with my dog, and I love to travel and visit new places.
Scientist: Karen Van Baelen, M.D., Ph.D. Candidate
Karen Van Baelen graduated as an M.D. in 2016 in Leuven Belgium and began her OB-GYN residency during which she developed a special interest in breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She started her PhD in 2020 in the laboratory of translational breast cancer research, at KU Leuven, Belgium under the lead of Christine Desmedt. Her thesis is focused on the clinicopathological characterization of Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer. She was honored to receive a Young Investigator Award from Conquer Cancer Foundation and the Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance (LBCA) for ILC research.
Scientist: Pavitra Viswanath, Ph.D. Candidate
Pavitra grew up in Bangalore, India, and moved to the United States in 2016 to pursue her master’s degree in biomedical science in Dr. Faye Johnson’s lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. With an ardent interest to study metastasis and the tumor microenvironment, she joined Dr. Alana Welm’s lab in 2019 as a PhD student. Her research is focused on studying the vicious cycle of bone metastasis and characterizing the pro-metastatic components of the bone microenvironment that drive breast cancer metastasis. When she is not in the lab, she loves hiking, exploring, and taking pictures of the scenic spots in the mountains.
Scientist: Abdalla Wedn, Ph.D. Candidate
Scientist: Michelle Williams, Ph.D.
Scientist: Jennifer Xavier, Ph.D.
Jennifer Xavier, Ph.D. is the Associate Director of Research, Institute of Precision Medicine, and Research Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Xavier joined the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 after ten years of post-doctorate research focusing on pharmacology, genetics, oncology and precision medicine. Dr. Xavier trained at St Jude Research Hospital and the Ontario Cancer Institute before joining Eli Lilly and Company where she was a Research Scientist and group leader in Investigational Toxicology. Prior to her appointment at the University of Pittsburgh Dr. Xavier was an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine where her research involved validating novel drug targets and disease models in oncology, and leading the divisions biorepository. Dr Xavier is an integral member of the Lee Oesterreich research team at Pitt where she studies endocrine resistant breast cancer with a focus on validation of novel drug targets in metastatic disease. Dr Xavier oversees biospecimens research in the Lee Oesterreich laboratory and leads the development of a patient derived organoid resource in her role with the Institute for Precision Medicine.
Scientist: Lily Xu, M.D. Candidate
Lily holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical and Physical Biology from Harvard University and is currently a medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. In the Chan lab, Lily’s current research has focused on using single-cell and spatial transcriptomics to study heterogeneity in breast cancer. She focuses on studying how heterogeneity influences immune responses in the tumor microenvironment, which will lead to the development of novel biomarker and therapeutic strategies in breast cancer. In her free time, you can find Lily hiking in nature, attempting various arts and crafts, and exploring new places to eat in Dallas!
Scientist: Mingxiao (Ming) Yang, Ph.D.
Mingxiao Yang is a senior research scientist in Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York. His research dedicates to survivorship symptom care using integrative approaches, i.e., acupuncture, massage, exercise, Tai Chi, and cognitive behavioral therapy, to ultimately improve patients’ quality of life.
For over ten years, he has developed solid expertise in comparative effectiveness and outcome research, symptom science, and integrative medicine. He has unique specialties in integrating metabolomics into the quest for metabolic signatures of integrative therapies in the general population and cancer survivors.
His training experience from East to West enables him to connect smoothly with patients, scholars, and trainees of different backgrounds. As a licensed Chinese medicine doctor in China, he has experience in real-world patient care and managed study patients in the first herbal medicine trial at MSKCC. Under a National Cancer Institute funding mechanism, he is pushing the boundaries of precision integrative sleep care among cancer survivors. At MSKCC, he taught the course Evidence-based Medicine in Herbal Therapy in Oncology. He coordinated the Global Research in Integrative Oncology Training program, engaging scholars from Nigeria, India, China, and South Korea.
Scientist: Megan Yates, M.D./Ph.D. trainee
Megan holds a BS in Biological Sciences and Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh and has completed two years of medical school training. She currently studies ESR1 fusion genes in ER-positive endocrine resistant metastatic breast cancer applying techniques in molecular biology and bioinformatics. Megan enjoys baking, running and reading.