Komen Scholar Since 2010
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Benjamin O. Anderson, M.D., is Professor of Surgery and Global Health Medicine at the University of Washington (UW) and Director of the Breast Health Clinic at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA). Dr. Anderson’s clinical practice is devoted to the care of patients with breast health issues and breast cancer. Since 2005, he has published on novel surgical techniques in oncoplastic breast surgery, procedures that simultaneously improve oncologic and cosmetic outcomes in breast conservation surgery. Dr. Anderson is an internationally recognized leader in global cancer control. With joint appointments at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Division of Public Health Sciences and the UW Department of Global Health, in 2002, Dr. Anderson created the Breast Health Global Initiative (BHGI, which he continues to chair), a unique program to develop “resource-stratified” guidelines for breast cancer early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliative care in low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Anderson now co-chairs the Breast Cancer Initiative 2.5 (BCI2.5), a global campaign to reduce disparities in breast cancer outcomes for 2.5 million women between now and 2025.
UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
San Francisco, CA
Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., F.R.S., is currently President of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco, a role he began in January 2015. He was previously Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, United Kingdom. A translational biologist and laboratory researcher, Dr. Ashworth’s research focuses on understanding breast cancer genetics and applying what he learns to change the way patients are treated. He was a key part of the team that identified the BRCA2 breast cancer susceptibility gene, which is linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer. Ten years later, Dr. Ashworth found a way to kill off BRCA1- and 2-related tumor cells by treating them with Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activity inhibitors, which amplify the damage caused by the broken DNA repair machinery in those cells. Dr. Ashworth’s Komen-funded research aims to identify genes and proteins that can be targeted with drugs to cause death of breast tumor cells, and identify which patients should get which treatments with the goal of identifying new therapy options for breast cancer patients.
Indiana University- Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center
Sunil S. Badve, M.D., F.R.C.Path., is Joshua Edwards Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Internal Medicine at Indiana University. He is also the Director of Translational Genomics Core Laboratory at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. The only breast pathologist in the state of Indiana, Dr. Badve is considered the “go-to” pathologist for breast cancer diagnostic services. He regularly provides his expertise to the Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank, also located at Indiana University. His major areas of research focus on predictive factors of recurrences and distant metastasis in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, prognostic value of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (immune cells within breast tumors) in breast cancer and predictive factors of local recurrence risk for ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast. Dr. Badve’s Komen-funded research has studied late recurrences in breast cancer and the process by which one gene provides the blueprint for several different proteins.
Duke University School of Medicine
Kimberly L. Blackwell, M.D., is Professor of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Duke University School of Medicine. She is the Director of the Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Program at the Duke Cancer Institute, where she oversees all basic and translational research programs involving breast cancer patients. Dr. Blackwell is also the Co-Director of the Women’s Cancer Program. Dr. Blackwell’s research focuses on breast cancer in younger women, endocrine therapy, novel HER2 therapies, breast cancer vaccines. She also focuses on drugs that prevent angiogenesis, a process in which tumors generate their own blood vessels. Dr. Blackwell was a part of the team that developed lapatinib, a drug that targets HER1/HER2 in breast cancer. She has worked on the promising drug T-DM1 (KADCYLA® or ado-trastuzumab emtansine), which improves survival for HER2+ breast cancer patients. Her Komen-funded research aims at defining the genetic fingerprint of metastatic breast cancer to develop new therapies and new information for doctors treating women with triple negative breast cancer. Named one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World, she is also involved in her community through her local Komen Affiliate.
Komen Scholar Since 2016
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Abenaa M. Brewster, M.D., M.H.S., is a tenured Professor in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) and an adjunct in the Department of Epidemiology. She is a medical oncologist in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center. Her research focuses on investigating the role that tumor genomics and genetic susceptibility play in influencing a woman's risk and survival after a diagnosis of breast cancer. She is interested in disparities research, studying how ethnicity and obesity impact an individual’s risks to develop breast cancer. With her research team, Dr. Brewster has also developed a framework for investigating the decision-making process of prophylactic contralateral mastectomy among women with sporadic breast cancer. She directs the MDACC’s Women’s Cancer Moonshot Prevention project that is focused on increasing the uptake of anti-estrogen preventive therapy among women with premalignant breast lesions. With her Komen Scholar grant, Dr. Brewster seeks to develop a noninvasive blood test to detect both symptom- and screen-detected triple negative breast cancers to stratify women for risk of recurrence to decrease overtreatment.
Komen Scholar Since 2012
Harvard Medical School
Joan S. Brugge, Ph.D., is currently Director of the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School. She joined the faculty of the Harvard Medical School as a Professor in July 1997 as Professor of Cell Biology, and was Chair of Cell Biology from 2004 to 2014. A graduate of Northwestern University, she did her graduate work at the Baylor College of Medicine, completing her Ph.D. in 1975. She then performed her postdoctoral training at the University of Colorado with Dr. Raymond Erikson. Dr. Brugge has held full professorships at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and the University of Pennsylvania, where she was also named as an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1992-1997, Dr. Brugge was Scientific Director of the biotechnology company ARIAD. Her Komen-funded research includes identifying strategies to improve the efficacy of existing and emerging cancer therapeutics, specifically studying how antioxidant compounds contribute to the viability and drug resistance of different subsets of breast tumor cells. Dr. Brugge received the Komen-funded AACR Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research and the Susan G. Komen® Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science.
UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
Chapel Hill, NC
Lisa A. Carey, M.D., is Professor of Medicine, Alliance Breast Committee Co-Chair and Associate Director for Clinical Research at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is also the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer Research and is the Physician-in-Chief of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital. Dr. Carey’s research focuses on the identification of different subtypes of breast cancer, evaluation of new chemotherapy agents in early breast cancer, and examination of tumor characteristics that predict response to therapy. A clinical translational researcher and expert in molecular subtypes of breast cancer, Dr. Carey identified the increased risk of developing basal-like breast cancer in young African-American women. She led CALGB 40601, a randomized phase III trial of HER2-targeting in HER2-positive breast cancer that tested both dual versus single HER2-targeting and the role of tumor biology and microenvironmental factors determining response to therapy. Dr. Carey’s Komen-funded research aims to compare the genetic fingerprint in breast tumor tissue to the genetic fingerprint of metastatic sites and genetic fingerprints from the tissue surrounding the tumors, building knowledge which can be used to target metastases.
Cancer Research UK and University of Cambridge
Jason S. Carroll, Ph.D. is Faculty of the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge and Senior Group Leader at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. He is Fellow at the Clare College and the University of Cambridge. Dr. Carroll’s research interests include mapping the estrogen receptor binding in cancer to find new actionable targets and studying how certain DNA-binding factors are involved in breast cancer. He specifically focuses on FoxA1, a protein interacting with the estrogen receptor to regulate genes, primarily because it could be exploited for control of endocrine resistant cancer. Dr. Carroll also studies nuclear receptor cross-talk in breast cancer, a process in which estrogen and progesterone receptors talk to each other and used by tumor cells to resist therapy. Dr. Carroll’s Komen-funded research aims to better understand how FoxA1 regulates where the estrogen receptor can interact with the DNA and promote breast cancer growth. It will reveal ways of exploiting this mechanism clinically, including potentially repurposing well-tolerated and inexpensive existing molecules binding to the progesterone and androgen receptors for the treatment of ER+ breast cancer.
University of Washington
Nora Disis, M.D., is Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pathology at the University of Washington (UW). She is the Associate Dean for Translational Science at UW School of Medicine and is also a Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. An immunology expert, Dr. Disis’ translational research focuses on the development of vaccines and immunotherapy for the treatment and prevention of breast and ovarian cancer. She is particularly studying the role of the patient’s immune system in battling cancer. She currently holds eight U.S. patents for breast cancer immunotherapy and immune diagnostic agents. Her Komen-funded research focuses on preventing cancer associated with obesity by targeting inflammation – an immune response activated in fat tissue—with a vaccine designed to prevent inflammation from occurring. Dr. Disis is also the Editor-in-Chief of JAMA Oncology, a research journal published by the American Medical Association that focuses on cancer.
Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania
Susan M. Domchek, M.D., is the Basser Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine in Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (Penn). She is the Executive Director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center and the Director of the MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at Penn. A clinician and researcher, Dr. Domchek’s research focuses on the role genes play in the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer as well as the management of individuals with hereditary cancer. Her research expertise includes breast cancer prevention and screening, and clinical trials examining medications targeting tumors due to inherited gene mutations. Her research group has demonstrated that women with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations who undergo oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries) significantly reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer and that specific medications (PARP inhibitors) can be effective in BRCA1/2 associated cancers. Dr. Domchek’s Komen funding supports the evaluation of newer genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer and lead to better prevention and treatment options for breast cancer patients.
Komen Scholar Since 2013
Advocate in Science Since 2008
Karen Durham was originally diagnosed with an aggressive Stage 2 invasive breast cancer at the age of 38. Karen’s interest in metastatic breast cancer heightened when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic disease in 2009. Fortunately, she was enrolled in a clinical trial and was an exceptional responder for 6 years. In 2015, she had disease progression and has been undergoing treatment by way of several different clinical trials since then. Currently, Karen serves on the Tyler Affiliate Board of Directors and is the Affiliate Grants Chair. She is a member of Komen's Advocates in Science Steering Committee and chairs its Committee on Advocates in Peer Review (CAPER). Karen has participated in research peer review at Komen and the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs since 2008. Karen is an advocate reviewer for the Komen Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Karen served on Komen Roundtable on Metastatic Disease and is an appointed member of the ASCO CancerLinQ Patient Advisory Committee, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance Information Task Force, and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.
Baylor College of Medicine
Matthew J. Ellis, BSc., MB, BChir., Ph.D., FRCP is Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Biology, Director of the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center, and Associate Director for Translational Research at the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center. Dr. Ellis coordinates an interdisciplinary team of oncologists, pathologists, epidemiologists, basic scientists, and statisticians focused on improving prevention, detection, and treatment of breast cancer. He is a member of The Breast Cancer Intergroup of North America (TCBI) and Co-Chair of the translational medicine committee for the NRG cooperative group. Dr. Ellis is co-leader for The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Breast Project and has established strong collaborations with several genome centers on massive parallel sequencing of breast cancer. He also serves as co-principal investigator (PI) for the Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) that endeavors to translate TCGA genomic discoveries into protein-based biomarkers with clinical utility. Dr. Ellis’ focus includes recurrences and metastatic breast cancer. He led one of Komen’s Promise Grants, which aimed to at discover how to target abnormal cell survival mechanisms in ER+ breast cancer can prevent the disease from returning after 5 years.
Costa Mesa, CA
Sandra Finestone, Psy.D., is a 30-year breast cancer survivor and research advocate, who has been a volunteer for Susan G. Komen for over 25 years. Dr. Finestone is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is passionate about educating breast cancer patients about their disease and the importance of breast cancer research. Dr. Finestone opened the Hope Wellness Center to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors. As Executive Director, she facilitates support groups, meets individually with patients and their families and has created a peer support system where breast cancer mentors help newly diagnosed women with their journey. Sandy helped start the Orange County Komen Affiliate and has been president three times, as well as the Race chair. She is a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Ambassador and the President of the Inland Empire Komen Affiliate. In 2009, she went to Jordan to facilitate a meeting that taught healthcare providers about support groups for women with breast cancer, and later that year, trained women in Kuwait and Egypt about support groups. A Project Lead graduate, Dr. Finestone is an experienced grant reviewer for multiple organizations, including Komen.
William D. Foulkes, M.B.BS, Ph.D., is a James McGill Professor in the Departments of Human Genetics and Oncology and the Director of the Program in Cancer Genetics at McGill University. He also heads the Cancer Genetics Laboratory at Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at the Jewish General Hospital. Dr. Foulkes’ research primarily focuses on finding new genes that predispose individuals to developing breast cancer, and studying mutations that occur in hereditary forms of breast cancer. A breast cancer researcher, Dr. Foulkes is best known for his work on defining the clinical and pathological features of hereditary breast cancer and the identification of a founder mutation—a mutation that is geographically or culturally isolated in the breast cancer susceptibility gene PALB2 in French Canadian Quebecers. Dr. Foulkes’ Komen funding is looking for new breast cancer genes and investigating early introduction of genetic testing into the management plan for women with breast cancers and studying the biomedical consequences associated with next generation sequencing. Under this funding, Dr. Foulkes, along with collaborators in Canada and Poland, identified an association between mutations in the RECQL gene and breast cancer risk.
University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Patricia A. Ganz, M.D., is Professor of Health Policy & Management in the Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Professor of Medicine (Hematology-Oncology) in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. A clinician and researcher, Dr. Ganz has dedicated her research career to studying chemopreventive agents for breast cancer, improving quality of life for cancer survivors, and understanding and preventing late effects of cancer treatment. Dr. Ganz advocated for the National Cancer Institute to include an evaluation of quality of life in clinical trials – a measurement that was added because of her efforts. Dr. Ganz’s Komen Scholar grant aims to assess the benefits of mindfulness mediation in reducing stress, and improving symptoms for pre-menopausal breast cancer survivors and is investigating new psychosocial interventions for women living with metastatic breast cancer.
Komen Scholar Since 2015
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Sharon M. Giordano, M.D., M.P.H., is Chair of the Department of Health Services Research, the Interim Chair of the Department of Health Disparities Research, and a Professor of Medicine in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. A health services researcher and clinician, Dr. Giordano’s research focuses on evaluating how a variety of factors (e.g., social, financial, personal behaviors) effect access to and quality of health care, and ultimately how this impacts health outcomes for cancer patients. Dr. Giordano has led several comparative effectiveness research studies in breast cancer patients, as well as research to assess the late effects of treatment. She has led a series of studies on male breast cancer, including a Komen-funded international clinical trial to better characterize the clinical features, biology and outcomes for men diagnosed with breast cancer. Dr. Giordano’s Komen-funded research aims to understand the “real-world” toxicities (i.e., outside of the highly-selected patient populations enrolled in clinical trials), including medication-related toxicities and the financial toxicity, associated with systemic therapies for breast cancer.
Oregon Health & Science University
Joe W. Gray, Ph.D., is the Gordon Moore Endowed Chair, Biomedical Engineering; Director, Center for Spatial Systems Biomedicine; and Associate Director for Biophysical Oncology, Knight Cancer Institute at the Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Gray’s research focuses on applying advanced measurement technologies to identify the genomic abnormalities that occur in breast cancers and understanding how these abnormalities change the organization of the proteins, cells and tissues that comprise these cancers. A translational researcher, Dr. Gray uses information from his studies to improve aspects of breast cancer management, ranging from early detection to better treatment of metastatic disease. Dr. Gray’s Komen supported research aims to understand how the environment that surrounds a tumor combined with the tumor’s genetics impact its response to therapy, with a special focus on HER2-positive tumor. Dr. Gray received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 2007.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Daniel F. Hayes, M.D., is the Stuart B. Padnos Professor of Breast Cancer Research and the Clinical Director of the Breast Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Hayes has devoted his clinical and research endeavors to translating his findings in the laboratory to the clinic to improve the evaluation and care of women with breast cancer. Dr. Hayes has made significant contributions to drug development and biomarkers for breast cancer. He has led the field in developing tests for prognosis and prediction of response to therapies, including the CA15-3 blood test, which is used worldwide to evaluate patients with breast cancer. He has led studies for incorporation of HER2 and the 21-gene Recurrence score, both of which are used to guide treatments to prevent recurrence of breast cancer. His efforts have recently focused on characterizing circulating tumor cells (CTCs) – cells from the original breast tumor circulating in the blood stream – to better understand the tumor and improve therapy selection for patients. His Komen Scholar grant supports a project that aims to separate CTCs from the blood and characterize them to better understand how metastases occur.
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY
Dawn L. Hershman, M.D., M.S., is Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Director of the Breast Cancer Program of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Hershman’s expertise includes breast cancer treatment, prevention, survivorship, late-effects of cancer therapy, health outcomes and health disparities research. A clinician scientist, Dr. Hershman’s research interests focus on understanding ways to improve breast cancer outcomes by identifying factors that are associated with suboptimal breast cancer therapy, and conducting clinical trials aiming at predicting which patients may be more susceptible to experience either treatment or financial toxicities related to their breast cancer care. Dr. Hershman investigates over-use of procedures and drugs with uncertain benefit to the patient. Her Komen Scholar grant focuses on better understanding the impact of comorbidity, such as diabetes and hypertension, on complications and outcomes of cancer therapy, on breast cancer outcomes (toxicity, survival and healthcare utilization) and how clinical trials can be generalized to avoid an underestimation of the true efficacy and toxicity in the general population.
Komen Scholar Since 2012
Peggy Johnson is a five-year breast cancer survivor and has been an active healthcare advocate for more than two decades. Her involvement with Komen began in 1990, when she played a large part in bringing the Race for the Cure to Wichita. Since then, she has served as Chair of Komen’s National Board of Directors in the mid-1990’s, and has continued to be active with the Komen Kansas Affiliate as Chair of the Affiliate’s Mission Advisory Council and a member of the Board of the Directors. In her role as Chairman, Ms. Johnson testified before Congressional committees on several occasions, speaking on subjects such as funding for research and access to quality health care. She currently serves on Komen’s Advocates in Science Steering Committee. Ms. Johnson believes that bringing the consumer/patient’s voice to research is an important part of her job professionally and as a Komen Advocate in Science member.
Komen Scholar Since 2016
Yibin Kang, Ph.D. is a Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. After completing his graduate study at Duke in 2000 and his postdoctoral training with Dr. Joan Massague at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Kang joined the faculty of Princeton in 2004. Dr. Yibin Kang’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. He discovered new genes that promote breast cancer recurrence, metastasis, and resistance to chemotherapies. His research focuses on tumor-stromal interactions that mediate organ-specific metastasis of breast cancer to bone and other vital organs. Dr. Kang also studies epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a key step in metastatic progression, to find new actionable targets. Dr. Kang’s Komen Scholar grant will study how E selectin, an adhesion molecule normally recruiting leukocytes during infection or vascular damage, functions as an essential component of cancer cells metastasizing to the bones, including promoting the survival and proliferation of metastatic tumor cells.
University of Washington School of Medicine
Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., is American Cancer Society Research Professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington. Dr. King proved that breast cancer is inherited in some families, due to inherited mutations in the gene that she named BRCA1. Her research focuses on the identification and characterization of mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 and in their 18 “sister genes” that also carry mutations that significantly increase breast cancer risk. Dr. King’s Komen-funded research aims to identify mutations in genes that cause inherited breast cancer in women from families severely affected by breast and ovarian cancer, but without mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2. In addition to her work in breast cancer, Dr. King has used her knowledge of genetics for human rights, from reuniting children with their grandparents in Argentina after their parents were killed by the military dictatorship to helping identify American MIAs from World War II to Vietnam. She was the recipient of the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 1999.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Tari A. King, M.D. is the Chief of Breast Surgery at the Dana Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) and the Associate Division Chief for Breast Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As a surgeon scientist, Dr. King’s research mainly focuses on two challenging clinical scenarios: lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) and metastatic breast cancer (MBC). She studies the clinical and molecular factors that underlie LCIS, a well-established risk factor for the development of breast cancer. She is also looking for biologic predictors that would allow for selection of local therapy in patients with MBC, leading a prospective multi-center registry trial addressing the role of surgery in Stage IV breast cancer. Her Komen-funded research aims at developing a comprehensive risk assessment, surveillance and prevention program for women of all racial and economic backgrounds that seek care within the Brigham and Women’s Hospital System. She will develop tools and strategies to engage these women, who may not otherwise seek these services, to provide appropriate counseling and education regarding breast cancer risk, timely referrals for genetic counseling and/or testing, screening and opportunities to participate in both standard and novel prevention programs.
Mayo Clinic- Jacksonville
Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D. is Professor of Immunology at the Mayo Clinic and Affiliate Research Associate Professor at the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. His work focuses on getting vaccines into the clinic, including efforts that are currently in various phases of clinical trials (including Phase III) and showing significant activity in preventing recurrence. One project is looking at integrating seven or eight national clinical research sites to conduct a Phase II clinical trial to test whether vaccination after conventional treatment can prevent recurrence of triple negative breast cancer. With Komen funding, Dr. Knutson is studying the first human breast cancer preventive vaccine by identifying a panel of overexpressed antigens that are widely shared amongst all major breast cancer subtypes, and targeting the immune response to cancer cells within a developing tumor. This strategy will allow for developing immunization systems to persistently detect and eradicate malignant cells before they become invasive and to continuously survey the gland lumen and the underlying stroma in the absence of disease.
Ian E. Krop, M.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also the Chief of Breast Medical Oncology and Director of Clinical Research for the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Krop is a clinical translational medical oncologist whose primary research focuses on understanding and overcoming mechanisms of resistance to HER2-directed therapies. Dr. Krop played a major role in developing T-DM1 (KADCYLA® or ado-trastuzumab emtansine), a new therapy for HER2-positive breast cancers, including metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Krop is currently leading several clinical trials exploring combinations of novel targeted therapies designed to overcome resistance to HER2-directed agents. Dr. Krop’s Komen-funded research supports a project that seeks to understand how breast tumors and metastatic tumors from breast cancer patients become resistant to HER2-targeted therapies.
University of Pittsburgh
Adrian V. Lee, Ph.D., is Director of the Women’s Cancer Research Center, co-leader of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program, and Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Dr. Lee is a translational researcher whose interest focuses on understanding the genomics of breast cancer metastasis. His laboratory is using a large cohort of primary and metastatic tissues to understand the molecular changes that occur in metastasis, particularly to the brain. He studied mutations in estrogen receptor (ESR1) in brain metastases, and found that these ESR1 mutations can be detected in blood (liquid biopsy).
Vanderbilt-Ingram cancer Center
Mia A. Levy, M.D., Ph.D., is the Director of Cancer Health Informatics and Strategy for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of breast cancer, Dr. Levy’s research interests include biomedical informatics methods – used to collect and analyze complex biological data (big data) – to support the continuum of cancer care and cancer research. Her current research projects include developing informatics methods for clinical decision support systems that will help physicians with prioritizing patient treatment based on the molecular subtypes of cancer. She is also the co-inventor of MyCancerGenome.org, a publicly-available knowledge resource for cancer treatment selection based on the patient’s own tumor genetics. Dr. Levy’s Komen-funded focuses on delivering precision cancer medicine using novel clinical decision support tools and knowledge resources, assessing the impact on clinician decision making and patient outcomes, and identifying active clinical trials for which a given patient qualifies based on complex biomarker eligibility criteria. Dr. Levy is also one of the experts involved with Komen’s big data initiative.
Jennifer A. Ligibel, M.D., is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Associate Physician at the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Senior Physician at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). She is also the Director of the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at DFCI. Dr. Ligibel’s research interests focus on the impact of lifestyle factors, such as physical activity and body weight, on cancer risk and outcomes. She has conducted several lifestyle intervention trials in cancer populations, looking at endpoints such as biomarkers associated with cancer risk and outcomes, fitness, measures of body composition and of quality of life. Dr. Ligibel specifically aims at developing interventions that can be implemented across sites, to allow a rapid and wide implementation into oncology practice. For example, she has recently studied distance-based lifestyle interventions, looking at the feasibility of a telephone-based physical activity intervention conducted in a cooperative group setting. Dr. Ligibel’s Komen-funded grant supports a weight-loss intervention as part of a multicenter trial (Breast Cancer Weight Loss or BWEL) looking at the impact of novel treatment approaches in women with residual breast cancer after neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
David H. Livingston, M.D., is the Emil Frei Professor of Medicine and Professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He is also Deputy Director of the Dana-Farber/ Harvard Cancer Center. A laboratory researcher and a medical oncologist, Dr. Livingston heavily contributed to the breast cancer field by using genetic, biological and biochemical analyses to identify the role the mutant products of BRCA1, BRCA2 and related genes play in triggering breast cancer development. He has extensively studied oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes and has defined how they regulate cell growth in the body and how they can cause cancer when not controlled properly. Through his research, Dr. Livingston has uncovered detailed biochemical steps that occur when normal cells become cancerous. Dr. Livingston’s Komen funding supports a project that defines how the BRCA1 gene interacts with SWI/SNF Complex-containing subunits, such as BRG1, to control mammary gland development, and how, when this interaction is disrupted, breast cancers develop. Dr. Livingston received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 1997.
University of Pennsylvania
David A. Mankoff, M.D., Ph.D., is the Gerd Muehllehner Professor of Radiology and Chief of the Division of Nuclear Medicine and Clinical Molecular Imaging at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Mankoff’s research focuses on the use of molecular imaging in breast cancer to direct more individualized and effective therapy and to better understand the factors that lead to therapeutic resistance. His work includes studies using positron emission tomography (PET)/computerized tomography (CT) scans for breast cancer staging and response evaluation. This method of imaging provides an accurate representation of in vivo biology (as it actually happens in a living organism) such as metabolism (with PET), and PET findings can be related to the part of the body it is taking place (with CT). This study helped direct the appropriate use of PET/CT imaging that is now part of routine clinical care. Dr. Mankoff’s Komen-funded grant supports a project that evaluates the use of molecular imaging to measure breast cancer metabolism and to predict and measure breast cancer response to therapy.
Komen Scholar Since 2017
Advocate in Science Since 2010
Anne M. Meyn, M.Ed., was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1989 and throughout 1990. While in treatment, the Komen Houston Affiliate was founded, offering knowledge, support and long-lasting friendships. Ms. Meyn was compelled to be involved in an organization whose goal it was to eradicate breast cancer. She has served on the Komen Houston Affiliate Board of Directors since 2011, and she co-chairs the Komen Houston Medical Advisory Council Adjunct committee. Selected as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s patient advocate on the Komen-funded Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC), she became the TBCRC Patient Advocate Working Group Co-Chair in 2016. As an AIS member, Ms. Meyn received scholarships to Komen-funded advocate programs at ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium. She was also introduced to the Komen Tissue Bank while she participated in Komen Promise Grant-funded advocate workshop at Indiana University, and she was instrumental in having Komen Houston host a tissue collection event in the most diverse city in the country. An experienced research grants reviewer, she is passionate about research, as she knows new treatments and cures will be the ultimate result.
Indiana University School of Medicine
Kathy D. Miller, M.D., is the Ballvé-Lantero Scholar and Professor of Medicine in the Division of Oncology at Indiana University School of Medicine. She also serves as co-leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Dr. Miller focuses on testing new therapies for breast cancer patients through clinical trials. Dr. Miller’s Komen-funded grant studied a new treatment regimen for triple negative breast cancer patients, combining chemotherapy and a drug called Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activity inhibitor that causes DNA damage leading to cell death to identify patients who will not respond to common therapies. Through this lens, Dr. Miller and team measured the impact of various treatments (surgery, radiation, anti-estrogen drugs, and chemotherapy) during the first year after diagnosis. They found patients were not as physically strong at baseline than anticipated, and that muscular mass and power decline during therapy. Her current Komen-funded project uses a novel physical training technique to help breast cancer patients. The technique was initially developed to assist astronauts returning from long-term space flight and is based on the principles of blood flow restricted (BFR) training.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, M.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mittendorf completed medical school at Case Western Reserve University where she remained for her surgical residency. After completing her residency, she served on active duty in the United States military before completing a surgical oncology fellowship at MD Anderson, and then joined its faculty in 2008. Her work focuses on identifying novel tumor antigens and investigating aspects of tumor microenvironment impacting response to vaccination. Specifically, she focuses on cyclin E, a cell cycle regulator that is dysregulated in breast cancer, as a target for vaccination and on the impact of neutrophils (a type of white blood cells) present in the microenvironment as a link between innate and adaptive immune responses to cancer. Dr. Mittendorf has led many clinical trials, from phase I to phase III, with a specific interest in breast cancer immunotherapy. Her Komen-funded research supports a clinical trial aiming at assessing the impact of radiation therapy on patients’ T cell levels, a possible marker for response to immunotherapies.
Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., is the Wiess Distinguished University Chair in Cancer Medicine, Director of the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers and Co-Director of the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. A clinician-researcher, Dr. Mills has championed a systems biology approach to understand the impact of genetic abnormalities on complex signaling networks in cancer with the goal of personalizing cancer diagnosis and treatment. An internationally renowned researcher in proteomics, Dr. Mills credited Komen for funding his efforts with extending the utility of Reverse Phase Protein Arrays (RPPA) to characterize the breast cancer proteome – the entire set of proteins expressed by breast cancer. He has since made the RPPA approach and data available to the research community, providing a powerful functional proteomics resource. Dr. Mills’ Komen funding supports a project that aims to understand the genetics of breast cells’ resistance to HER2-targeted therapy and to develop combination therapy approaches to bypass and prevent the emergence of drug resistance. He received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 2013.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Elizabeth A. Morris, M.D., FACR, is Chief of the Breast Imaging Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) and Professor of Radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Larry Norton Endowed Chair. She currently serves as President of the Society of Breast Imaging. A graduate from the University of California Davis, Dr. Morris received her medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco. She completed her residency at Cornell University Medical College and her breast imaging fellowship at MSKCC. Her research focuses on optimizing the use of newer techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect breast cancer early and improve the workup of breast lesions, with the goal of finding those lesions when they are small and treatable. Dr. Morris and her colleagues have pioneered high risk screening with MRI, and offer screening with MRI, ultrasound, contrast-enhanced digital mammography, and tomosynthesis. An accomplished clinician-scientist, Dr. Morris has published many papers on and spoken at many conferences about breast disease and the use of MRI. Her recent research efforts have involved looking at imaging biomarkers to assess risk and treatment response.
Harikrishna Nakshatri, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., is the Marian J. Morrison Chair of Breast Cancer Research and professor of surgery, biochemistry and molecular biology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He co-leads the Breast Cancer Program and Associate Director for Education at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. Dr. Nakshatri studies the molecular drivers of therapy resistance in breast cancer. His laboratory was the first to identify the role of the protein complex, NF-kappaB, which controls genes that respond to environmental stress and infection in triple negative breast cancer. He also identified biomarkers that may predict response to anti-estrogen therapy. Utilizing normal breast tissues donated to the Komen Tissue Bank, his group has discovered ethnicity-dependent and independent heterogeneity in the normal breast, which has important implications in how tumors are characterized for genomic abnormalities. His recent efforts are using systems biology approaches to understand organ-specific breast cancer metastasis. Dr. Nakshatri’s Komen funding supports a project that aims to understand why ER+ breast cancers become resistant to therapy, building on previous work showing these cells can acquire features of triple negative breast cancer while retaining ER expression.
University of California-San Francisco
Anna M. Nápoles, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a Professor and behavioral epidemiologist in the Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She is Director of the UCSF Center for Aging in Diverse Communities and leads the Health Disparities initiative of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center Cancer Control Program. Dr. Nápoles’ research focuses on psycho-oncology, a multidisciplinary field of study that deals with aspects of cancer that go beyond medical treatment and include lifestyle, psychological and social aspects of cancer. She studies patient-clinician communication, cancer health disparities and community-based models of research in ethnically and socioeconomically diverse groups. Dr. Nápoles is working on three community-based participatory randomized controlled trials: one that is translating into rural settings an evidence-based, peer-delivered cognitive behavioral stress management intervention her team developed for Latinas with breast cancer (Nuevo Amanecer), another testing a mobile health (mHealth) intervention to facilitate survivorship care planning and physical activity among low-income breast cancer survivors, and another, funded by Komen, testing an mHealth fatigue management tool for low-income women receiving chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer.
Steffi Oesterreich is Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and Director of Education at the Women’s Cancer Research Center, Magee Women’s Research Institute, University of Pittsburgh. She is also a Faculty Member at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Academy. Since her early graduate studies in Germany, Dr. Oesterreich has been dedicated to curing breast cancer. Understanding that this would be a very challenging task that would require multi-disciplinary approaches, she has been closely working with medical oncologists, surgeons, bioinformaticians, pathologists, epidemiologists, and physical scientists in teams, motivated by clinical problems. Dr. Oesterreich’s research focuses on endocrine resistant breast cancer, using diverse approaches and models to identify genetic and epigenetic changes that cause resistance to antiestrogen therapies. Over the last few years, she has begun to study invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC), a histological subtype of breast cancer that accounts for 10-15% of all breast cancers. Her Komen-funding supports a project aiming at deciphering how ILC tumors become resistant to therapy and the mechanisms by which tumor cells are able to survive, and thus ultimately cause metastatic disease.
Komen Scholar Since 2017 and 2010-2016
The University of Chicago Medicine
Olufunmilayo “Funmi” Olopade, M.D., F.A.C.P., is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics, Associate Dean, Global Health, and Director, Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Medicine. Dr. Olopade is a widely respected leader in breast cancer research. She is an expert in cancer risk assessment and individualized treatment for the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Her research has developed novel management strategies based on an understanding of the altered genes in individual patients. She stresses comprehensive risk reducing strategies and prevention in high-risk populations, earlier detection through advanced imaging technologies, as well as quality of life concerns for breast cancer patients. Dr. Olopade’s work has helped scientists around the globe gain a greater understanding of breast cancer. She currently serves as Director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Olopade received the Komen-funded AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in 2011.
Ben Ho Park
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Ben Ho Park, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Oncology, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins University, and he is a Joint Appointment in the Whiting School of Engineering. He is also the Associate Director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Training Program and for Research Training and Education, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in 1995 at The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Further specializing in Internal Medicine and Hematology/Oncology, he came to Johns Hopkins for a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer genetics, before joining its faculty in 2002. Dr. Park’s research focuses on using genetic models to identify, validate and develop targeted therapies for breast cancer. He specifically studies the PI3 Kinase/AKT signaling pathway and his work identified high frequency of mutation in the PIK3CA gene in human breast cancers, opening the door for PI3K-targeted therapies in breast cancer. With Komen-funding, Dr. Park is pursuing his efforts in precision oncology: specific drugs to specific patients, focusing on targeting mutations in a gene called SF3B1 that are present only in cancer cells and not normal cells.
Ann H. Partridge, M.D., M.P.H., is the Founder and Director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer and the Director of the Adult Cancer Survivorship Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She also is Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and is co-Chair of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Breast Committee. A medical oncologist and researcher, Dr. Partridge’s research focus is to improve the care and outcomes of cancer patients by understanding the psychosocial, behavioral, and communications issues in breast cancer care and treatment. Dr. Partridge has a special interest in the experience of young women with breast cancer. Dr. Partridge’s Komen-funded research aims to elucidate and improve the unique medical and psychosocial issues facing young women with breast cancer.
University of North Carolina
Charles M. Perou, Ph.D., is the May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology, Co-Director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) Bioinformatics Group, Program Co-Director of the LCCC Breast Cancer Research Program, Professor in the Department of Genetics, and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina. Dr. Perou’s research has focused on genomics to identify breast cancer subtypes that are of prognostic and predictive value. Dr. Perou aims at translating his findings to the clinic, by using genomics to inform therapeutic decision making. With Komen funding and in sponsorship with the Danaher Corporation, his research started showing how the immune system contributes to patient outcomes and how immunotherapies had potential in treating aggressive breast cancers, like triple negative and basal-like breast cancers. With additional Komen funding, Dr. Perou aims at harnessing big data to molecularly characterize HER2+ breast cancer and identify additional genetic drivers that could be targeted to improve patient outcomes. Dr. Perou was the first to deliver the Komen-funded AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in 2010. He received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 2016.
University of Michigan
Lori J. Pierce, M.D., is Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Pierce attended Duke University School of Medicine and completed a radiation oncology residency and chief residency at the University of Pennsylvania. She was then a senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. In 1992, Dr. Pierce joined the faculty at the University of Michigan. Since coming to Michigan, she has served as residency director and clinical director in the Department of Radiation Oncology. In August 2005, the University of Michigan Board of Regents appointed Dr. Pierce to be Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs. Dr. Lori Pierce’s research focuses on the use of radiotherapy in the multi-modality treatment of breast cancer. She particularly concentrates her work on treatment planning and the use of radiation sensitizers and outcomes following radiation in women with breast cancer who carry a BRCA1/2 breast cancer susceptibility gene.
Komen Scholar 2010-2012 and Since 2016
Kornelia Polyak, M.D., Ph.D., is a Professor of Medical Oncology, Molecular and Cellular Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, in Boston, MA. She is Principal Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and is Associate Member at The Broad Institute. Dr. Polyak has dedicated her research to the molecular analysis of human breast cancer, with the goal of improving the clinical management of breast cancer patients. She has been at the forefront of studies analyzing the expression of genes from normal and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) at the single-cell level and applying mathematical and ecological models to better understanding breast tumor evolution. Her work has shed light on tumor evolution in women carrying BRCA1/2 mutation as well as deciphered the large diversity of cells within a tumor (tumor heterogeneity). Dr. Polyak never loses track of her goal of eradicating suffering from breast cancer and pushes her findings to the clinics, including the testing in clinical trials of the efficacy of Janus kinase (JAK) and bromodomain and extraterminal proteins (BET) inhibitors for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer.
New Haven, CT
Lajos Pusztai, M.D., D. Phil. is Professor of Medicine at Yale University, Chief of the Breast Medical Oncology Section and Co-Director of the Cancer Center Genomics and Genetics Program at the Yale Cancer Center. Dr. Pusztai has made important contributions to establish that estrogen receptor-positive and -negative breast cancers have fundamentally different molecular, clinical, and epidemiological characteristics. He has been a pioneer in evaluating gene expression profiling as a diagnostic technology to predict chemotherapy and endocrine therapy sensitivity, and has shown that different biological processes are involved in determining the prognosis and treatment response in different breast cancer subtypes. His group has developed new bioinformatics tools to integrate information from across different platforms, which could inform individualized treatment strategies. Dr. Pusztai’s research also clarified the clinical value of preoperative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy in different breast cancer subtypes. With Komen funds, he studies the immune microenvironment of primary breast cancer before and after preoperative chemotherapy, and assesses similarities and differences in the immune microenvironment of primary and metastatic samples from the same patient with the goal of better understanding what drives immune cell infiltration to improve tumor vaccination strategies.
Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Deborah J. Rhodes, M.D. is a Consultant in the Breast Diagnostic Clinic in the Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic. She is an Associate Medical Director in the Department of Development, and Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Preferred Response Program. Dr. Rhodes joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1997 as Associate Professor of Medicine. Dr. Rhodes’ research interests focus on the impact of breast density on the detection of breast cancer. She has worked with a team at Mayo Clinic to develop and implement a new imaging device known as MBI (Molecular Breast Imaging), which is optimized to detect breast cancers obscured on mammography by background dense tissue. Crediting Komen for funding her early efforts with MBI, Dr. Rhodes’ additional Komen funding supports a multicenter clinical trial enrolling women with dense breasts and a negative screening using digital breast tomosynthesis who will undergo both MBI – a functional imaging technique – and whole breast ultrasound (WBUS) in random order to determine which test has the best benefit/harm balance in women with dense breasts who do not qualify for screening magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based on risk.
Jeffrey M. Rosen, Ph.D., is the Charles C. Bell Professor and Vice-Chair of Molecular & Cellular Biology and a Distinguished Service Professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Rosen’s research focuses on the biology of normal mammary gland development and determining how these processes go awry in breast cancer. Dr. Rosen was one of the first scientists to consider the existence of tumor-initiating cells (also called cancer stem cells) in solid tumors. He and his team went on to identify such cells, and even more importantly, the reasons why these cells might be resistant to conventional radiation and chemotherapy. Dr. Rosen’s Komen funding supports a project that aims to identify how loss of the PLK2 (Polo Like Kinase 2) protein, an enzyme that normally controls cell division, contributes to the development of triple negative breast cancer.
Bryan P. Schneider, M.D., is the Director of the Indiana University Health Precision Genomics Program and Associate Director of the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center. Dr. Schneider cares for breast cancer patients as a medical oncologist and has a special interest in novel therapeutic agents (new treatments) and markers to predict who will best respond or experience side effects. He led a Komen-funded Promise Grant that tested ways to better guide appropriate patient selection for new therapies. He worked with research advocates through Komen’s partner, the Research Advocacy Network, to educate the community about clinical trials and improve enrollment. Under that funding, Dr. Schneider found that Black and African-American patients were more likely to suffer from peripheral neuropathy and hypertension following bevacizumab (Avastin®). He also found several biomarkers linked to higher risks of developing treatment-induced peripheral neuropathy, hypertension, and congestive heart failure. Dr. Schneider’s current Komen-funded project aims to identify genetic markers that will predict which patients will experience higher levels of toxicity because of chemotherapy.
Advocate in Science Since 2016
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bárbara Segarra-Vázquez, D.H.Sc., has been a faculty at the University of Puerto Rico for 29 years, and is currently the Dean of the School of Health Professions and the Director of the Post-Doctoral Master in Clinical and Translational Science. Dr. Segarra-Vázquez was diagnosed with breast cancer Stage IIB on December 2003 and was in remission for 13 years. On January 2017, she had a recurrence of metastatic breast cancer to the skin. A volunteer for Komen Puerto Rico since 2006, she was Board President for four years, during which they received the “Promise Award 2013” for their commitment to innovation and forward thinking in reducing overall breast cancer mortality. She is an active participant in the Puerto Rico Cancer Control Coalition. She has served several times as a consumer reviewer for research programs and traveled to Komen Global Initiative to meet with different groups that provided services to breast cancer patients and participate in a public activity of breast cancer awareness. Dr. Segarra-Vázquez is a medical technologist and she received her D.H.Sc. from Nova Southeastern University.
Patricia (Patty) A. Spears is a 17-year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed at the age of 40 with locally advanced breast cancer. Following treatment, she began volunteering with the Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast Affiliate as Chair of the Education Committee and joined the Board of Directors in December 2001. Ms. Spears is devoted to science and has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology/Microbiology and extensive laboratory experience in Molecular Biology. She serves as an advocate reviewer for the Susan G. Komen Research Program, the Duke Cancer Institute Cancer Protocol Committee, and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She also serves on the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the Community Advisory Board of the Office of Health Equity and Disparities at Duke Cancer Institute. With her inquisitive nature of being a scientist and of understanding scientific concepts along with her personal experience through cancer treatment (including two clinical trials), Ms. Spears also serves as a patient advocate on a research projects, bringing a broad patient perspective and adding urgency to the translational potential of the project.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Melinda L. Telli, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Telli's clinical research focuses on breast cancer treatment, particularly in the early disease setting, and survivorship. She has led several clinical trials testing novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of triple negative and BRCA mutation-associated breast cancers. She has an interest in the cardiotoxicity of novel anti-cancer agents and the prevention of treatment-related cardiac injury in breast cancer patients. Dr. Telli’s Komen-funded research aims at optimizing treatment for triple negative breast cancer patients by identifying genomic instability and immune biomarkers that will help predict which patients are most likely to benefit from platinum-based chemotherapy and spare toxicity for those unlikely to benefit.
The Salk Institute
La Jolla, CA
Geoffrey M. Wahl, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, CA and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Wahl is also the Daniel and Martina Lewis Chair of the Salk Institute Faculty. A laboratory scientist, Dr. Wahl studies the genetics of the initiation and progression of breast cancer, and aims at understanding why tumors become resistant to therapy. His laboratory is also working to determine whether mutations in mammary stem cells (cells that generate breast tissue), or cells that resemble them, lead to breast cancer and contribute to metastasis. Dr. Wahl’s Komen-funded grant aims to improve our understanding of the growth and survival of newly formed normal mammary stem cells and to determine whether the same pathways are important in triple negative breast cancers so that new therapies can be developed. Strong proponent of including patient advocates in research, he joined Komen's Advocate Research Mentor Taskforce in 2016.
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, KS
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D., founded and currently chairs the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, where he is Associate Director for Basic Science & Education and Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar. Dr. Welch’s research primarily focuses on the science of tumor progression and cancer metastasis. A laboratory and translational researcher, he has discovered eight of the 30 known metastasis suppressor genes, which prevent metastasis from occurring but do not block growth of the primary tumor. Dr. Welch’s Komen-funded research has established roles of mitochondrial genetics in the metastatic process and is currently focused upon dissecting the mechanisms responsible for metastasis regulation by mitochondria. Dr. Danny Welch has been a strong proponent of the inclusion of patient advocates in research, including serving as co-chair on Komen’s Advocates & Scientists: Partners in Research Excellence (ASPIRE) since 2010 and on Komen’s Advocate Research Mentor Taskforce since 2016.
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Salt Lake City, UT
Alana L. Welm, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences and Investigator at the Huntsman Comprehensive Cancer Institute, University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. Dr. Welm’s research focuses on two major emphases centered on breast cancer metastases: better understanding the biology of metastasis in order to develop new therapies, and creating innovative models of human breast cancer that more accurately reflect behavior of tumors and response to therapy. After discovering that the macrophage stimulating protein (MSP) – a protein that alters activity of cells from the immune system – is an important facilitator of breast cancer metastasis in humans, Dr. Welm studies the mechanisms that lead MSP to promote the escape of cancer cells from the primary tumor, and the mechanisms by which MSP induces metastasis to the bones. Dr. Welm’s Komen funding explores new approaches to stimulate the immune system to kill cancer (immunotherapy), specifically focusing on inhibiting activity that contributes to breast cancer metastasis. These inhibitors will allow better activation of specialized immune cells that will attack the tumor, and lead to the elimination of cancer cells. Click here to hear Dr. Alana Welm speak about breakthrough research for metastatic disease.
The Ohio State University
Julia R. White, M.D., is a Professor and Vice Chair of Radiation Oncology, Klotz Sisters Chair for Cancer Research, and the Breast Disease Specific Leader at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. A clinical-translational researcher, Dr. White’s academic work focuses on developing new radiation treatment methods for breast cancer patients, which improve patient outcomes, shorten treatment, and are more precise. Dr. White’s Komen-funded grant supports the development and testing of a novel radiation approach, that uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to guide pre-operative partial breast irradiation for early stage breast cancer patients, and aims to improve targeting of radiation and identify factors that are associated with radiation response.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Antonio C. Wolff, M.D., is Professor of Oncology in the Breast Cancer Program at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. A clinician and researcher, Dr. Wolff focuses on developing new markers of breast cancer in tissue and blood and improving the quality of predictive markers to match patients with breast cancer treatments. He promotes the implementation of research findings in clinical practice, survivorship, and quality of care for breast cancer patients. Dr. Wolff is also the Executive Director of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC)—a research group funded by Komen and that convenes a multidisciplinary group of researchers who plan and conduct studies to better understand breast cancer biology and test new therapies. Dr. Wolff’s Komen funding supports the development of a tissue and bodily fluid repository that has patient samples linked to clinical data and surveys that can be used to answer critical research questions.
Kim E. Wright is a Clinical Embryologist and a 22-year breast cancer survivor and advocate, diagnosed with invasive triple negative breast cancer in 1995, and recently diagnosed a second time with breast cancer. Kim is a member of the Komen Advocates in Science. Ms. Wright became interested in advocacy work after her first diagnosis and remains active at the local and national levels. Her activities range from the day-to-day volunteer activities to the more involved review of scientific proposals. Ms. Wright is passionate about research advocacy, and she serves as an advocate on the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC) and as an advocate member of the Johns Hopkins, NCI-funded Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Breast Cancer grant.
University of Minnesota
Douglas Yee, MD, is the John H. Kersey Chair in Cancer Research, Director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. A clinical translational researcher, Dr. Yee is best known for characterizing the role of insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in breast cancer. His lab has shown IGF-1 can stimulate cell growth, enhance survival, and stimulate mobility. The long-term goal of Dr. Yee’s research agenda is to identify key pathways regulated by this system and develop new therapies designed to interrupt IGF signaling and function. Recently, Dr. Yee’s work has implicated the highly-related insulin receptor as an important breast cancer target. Dr. Yee’s Komen funded research aims to develop a cancer specific inhibitor of insulin receptor and test it alone and in combination with IGF receptor inhibitors. Dr. Yee also serves on the Susan G. Komen Minnesota Board of Directors.