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.
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.
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 2018
Advocate in Science Since 2015
Wayne Dornan, Ph.D., is a 10-year breast cancer survivor, diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, or stage IIB breast cancer. Like most men who are diagnosed with breast cancer, he found his breast cancer completely by accident. Now a retired Academic Dean with over 35 years in Academia, Dr. Dornan remembered feeling embarrassed when he heard of his diagnosis, but he quickly decided that he would take this disease head on. Using his scientific training, he began working with cancer associations both nationally, and regionally as a patient and research advocate. Dr. Dornan joined Komen’s Advocates in Science (AIS) in 2015 and its Steering Committee in 2018. He also co- chairs its Committee on Advocates in Peer Review (CAPeR). A strong advocate for male breast cancer, Dr. Dornan published a book on his journey in 2016 that allowed him to have a platform to provide public presentations and media interviews on issues of breast cancer treatment and diagnosis, breast cancer awareness, and the importance, for both men and women to know that “men can get breast cancer too.” After 10 years being cancer-free, Dr. Dornan is proud to say that what once made him uncomfortable, now feels like a badge of honor.
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.
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 has been fortunate to have had funding as a Komen Scholar to pursue several research projects that have focused on the psychosocial needs of breast cancer survivors, and in particular, younger women. Her newest Komen-funded research is addressing the gaps in information about post-treatment survivorship care information provided by oncologists to their patients. A toolkit for oncology clinicians will be developed based on the results of a large survey of medical oncologists.
Komen Scholar Since 2015
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Sharon H. Giordano, M.D., M.P.H., is Chair of the Department of Health Services 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 epigenomic and architecture influence cancer genesis, progression and response to therapy. 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. Dr. Hayes served as President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the world's largest professional oncology society, from 2015-2018.
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.
University of Michigan
Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., is Professor and Deputy Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, and the Director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. A practicing breast radiation oncologist, Dr. Jagsi has focused her work on improving the quality of care delivered to patients with breast cancer. With a medical degree, a social science doctorate, and fellowship training in ethics, Dr. Jagsi has a unique educational background that allows her to work at eradicating breast cancer through both medical and social research. Studying radiation treatment, she aims at advancing the ways in which breast cancer is treated with radiation and the understanding of patient decision-making, cost, and access to appropriate care. Her social scientific research includes research into issues of bioethics arising from cancer care and research regarding gender issues, including studies of women's representation in the medical profession. Dr. Jagsi’s Komen-funded research aims at better understanding inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), specifically the mechanisms by which drugs targeting DNA damage (PARP inhibitors) and radiotherapy may interact to improve the efficacy of radiotherapy, while reducing its toxicity, and the outcomes for women diagnosed with IBC.
Komen Scholar Since 2012
Advocate in Science Since 2008
Peggy Johnson is a six-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, where she is a member of its Committee on Advocates in Peer Review (CAPeR) and leads its Communications Taskforce. Ms. Johnson believes that bringing the consumer/patient’s voice to research is an important part of her job professionally and as a Komen Advocates in Science member.
Advocate in Science Since 2010
Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Biology and Environmental Sciences, University of the District of Columbia (UDC), where she worked for 23 years and Adjunct Professor, Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A cancer researcher, microbiologist and educator, Dr. Johnson-Thompson began her career at UDC and later joined the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), an institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she retired after 16 years as Director of Education and Biomedical Research Development. A long-time advocate for health equity, she is frequently invited to address issues of science equity, health disparities and environmental justice, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and mentoring issues and human subjects protection – Dr. Johnson-Thompson was NIEHS IRB Chair for 8 years. Avid Komen supporter, she has participated in many Komen national and local programs and events, and she has been part of the Komen’s Advocate Advisory Task Force since 2014. Dr. Johnson-Thompson’s role as a mentor has been recognized by many awards. In 2009, she even received the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from Howard and is featured as a Science History Maker, an online repository of outstanding African American contributors, housed at the Library of Congress. This year, she was the subject of an entire chapter in "Women in Microbiology," where the author wrote that Dr. Johnson-Thompson's "life’s work has directly and indirectly led to the production of female scientists in academia, industry, and government, and her contribution to the pipeline continues to grow exponentially."
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 Associate 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 and Healthy Living 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 and Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Radiology 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.
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
Ingrid A. Mayer, M.D., M.S.C.I., is the Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology, the Leader of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) Breast Cancer Research Program and Co-Principal Investigator of the VICC Breast Cancer SPORE. A clinical scientist and principal investigator (PI) on more than 80 clinical trials, Dr. Mayer has been focusing on identifying how to target specific pathways activated in breast cancer and in mechanisms of treatment resistance. Dr. Mayer’s research interests include testing combinational therapies to restore sensitivity to endocrine treatment in ER+/HER2+ breast cancers and studying whether the addition of PI3K inhibitors to therapy could be more effective against ER+/PI3K mutant breast cancers compared to antiestrogen alone. Dr. Mayer is currently the co-PI of a clinical trial testing whether the combination of several immunotherapies could improve the response and delay tumor recurrence and progression in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Mayer’s Komen-funded research aims at performing genetic profiling of samples from triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients before and after treatment to identify changes that will accurately predict chemotherapy resistance and recurrence.
Donald P. McDonnell, Ph.D., is the Glaxo-Wellcome Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology and Chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University School of Medicine. In addition, he serves as Co-Director of the Women’s Cancer Program within the Duke Cancer Institute. With a career spanning industry and academia, Dr. McDonnell’s research has focused on defining the mechanisms of action of estrogens and its cognate receptors in breast cancer and the exploitation of this information to develop new endocrine therapies. He has a specific interest in developing new therapeutic interventions to treat cancers that have become resistant to standard of care endocrine therapies, work that resulted in the discovery by his group of the first oral selective estrogen receptor downregulator. Recently, his group has determined that metabolites of cholesterol, elevated in patients with dyslipidemia, can function as bona fide estrogens establishing a biochemical link between high cholesterol/obesity and breast cancer pathology. Dr. McDonnell’s Komen-funded research aims are directed towards the development of approaches to interfere with the activity of LYPD3 (Ly6/PLAUR domain-containing protein 3) and AGR2 (Anterior Gradient 2); two components of a novel signaling pathway that his team has shown to be important in the pathobiology of endocrine therapy-resistant breast cancer.
Komen Scholar Since 2017
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.
Gordon B. Mills MD PhD has recently moved from the MD Anderson Cancer Center to become the Director of Precision Oncology and SMMART Trials at the Knight Cancer Institute of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR. 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 breast cells’ resistance to 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.
Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, M.D., Ph.D., is the Rob and Karen Hale Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Director of Surgical Research and Breast Immuno-Oncology Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). Dr. Mittendorf completed medical school at Case Western Reserve University, where she did surgical residency. After, she served on active duty in the U.S. military, followed by a surgical oncology fellowship at MD Anderson, where she was faculty until she joined DFCI in January 2018. 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.
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.
Steffi Oesterreich is Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology and Director of Education at the Women’s Cancer Research Center, Magee Women’s Research Institute, University of Pittsburgh. 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 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.
Julie R. Palmer, Sc.D, is Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health and Associate Director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. Her research interests focus on racial disparities in the occurrence of hormone receptor negative breast cancer and in breast cancer mortality. Dr. Palmer is a founding leader of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), a prospective cohort study of 59,000 African American women who have been followed since 1995. Her breast cancer research within the BWHS includes work on risk prediction models for breast cancer in African American women, identification of childbearing patterns as a contributing cause to the excess incidence of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer in African American women, and investigation of the relationship of type 2 diabetes to breast cancer risk and prognosis. Dr. Palmer received the Komen-funded AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in 2017. Dr. Palmer’s Komen Scholar grant supports work on determining the interrelationships of family history, genetic susceptibility (including BRCA1/2 mutation status), and modifiable factors on prediction of breast cancer risk among African American women.
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
Chapel Hill, NC
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.
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, Director of Breast Cancer Translational Research and Co-Director of the Yale Cancer Center Genomics Genetics and Epigenetics Program. He is also Chair of the Breast Cancer Research Committee of the Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG). 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. 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 and metastatic breast cancers before and after therapy, and uses that knowledge to design new treatment strategies for breast cancer. With Komen funds, he studies the immune microenvironment of primary breast cancer before and after preoperative chemotherapy to improve tumor vaccination strategies.
Scientific Advisory Board 2010-2017
UT Health San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, an internationally recognized cancer and chronic disease health disparities researcher, is interim chair and professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UT Health San Antonio, where she also is founding director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research and associate director of cancer prevention and health disparities at the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center. Over 30 years, she has led behavioral and communications research that reduced cancer and chronic disease, increased screening rates and clinical trial accrual, and improved healthy eating and physical activity among U.S. Latinos. Dr. Ramirez directs the Salud America! multimedia program to empower healthy changes to promote healthy weight among Latino children (salud-america.org and @SaludAmerica on social media). She also uses innovative technology—such as text messaging, social media, and mobile apps—to reach Latinos in real-time with behavior-change messages and interventions on smoking cessation and other topics. Her recognitions include the 2014 Making a Difference Award from Latinas Contra Cancer, the 2011 White House “Champion of Change” and the 2007 election to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Mayo Clinic, Rochester
Deborah J. Rhodes, M.D. is a Professor of Medicine and a Consultant in the Breast Diagnostic Clinic in the Department of Medicine at Mayo Clinic. She is the Research Director for the Healthy Living Program at Mayo Clinic, as well as an Associate Medical Director in the Department of Development. Dr. Rhodes joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1997. 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 comparing screening mammography (using the new “3D” mammography also known as digital breast tomosynthesis) and MBI. This trial will determine which of these imaging tests detects the most cancers at the earliest stage while minimizing harms such as additional biopsies, with a goal of improving the early detection of breast cancer in women with dense breasts.
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 2012
Rebecca Seago-Coyle is almost an 8-year breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 2010 at the age of 35 with Stage 1 ER+, HER2+ and BRCA2+. Working as a Product Manager for a healthcare technology company in Seattle, WA, she leverages her organizational skills to her advocacy, ensuring projects she’s involved with move forward and get done. Ms. Seago-Coyle was exposed to the power of advocacy even before she was diagnosed: she remembers a woman sharing her story of survivorship and how impactful she was to others. With a strong family history of breast cancer in her family, Ms. Seago-Coyle was inspired to advocate for breast cancer research, specifically for young women who are newly diagnosed, like she was. Her volunteer and advocacy work has only grown over the years, including with helping her local Komen Puget Sound Affiliate, even filling the role of Race for the Cure Co-Chair. She has been an Advocate in Science member since 2012, and she has been involved in many organizations’ review committees and on many research projects, providing the patient perspective to scientists. A volunteer at the breast cancer clinic at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Ms. Seago-Coyle makes herself available to provide hope to those recently diagnosed. She is a believer in the importance of a healthy lifestyle, especially for those diagnosed with breast cancer. Leading by example, she runs marathon, cycles and practices yoga.
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 30 years, and is the Dean of the School of Health Professions and one of the Principal Investigators of the Hispanic Clinical and Translational Research Education and Career Development (HCTRECD) program (R25MD007607) funded by NIH. 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 a member of the Puerto Rico Cancer Control Coalition, currently serving as the leader of the survivorship committee. She has served several times as a consumer reviewer for the Breast Cancer Research Program of the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical 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. She is the Vice-Chair of Steering Committee for Komen Advocates in Science, and is a member of SWOG Patient Advocates Committee. She is the founder and co-investigator of HIDEAS (Hispanics Increasing Diversity to Enhance Advocacy in Science) cancer awareness. Dr. Segarra-Vázquez is a medical technologist and she received her D.H.Sc. from Nova Southeastern University. She is a member of Komen's Advocates in Science Steering Committee.
Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Sohrab P. Shah, Ph.D. is the inaugural Chief of Computational Oncology in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MKSCC). He previously was Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at University of British Columbia, and Senior Scientist, Molecular Oncology at BC Cancer Agency. Dr. Shah’s research is centered on breast cancer genomics, developing technology and computational methods to analyze and interpret cancer genomes and their evolution. His pioneer studies on genomics and cancer evolution shed a light on the nature of cancer evolution and on how the mutation landscape of a patient’s tumors changes over time. Dr. Shah was the first to study the mutation landscape of a patient population with triple negative breast cancers (TNBC), showing that those patients’ tumors were at widely varying stages of evolution at the time of diagnosis – an important finding when those patients are primarily uniformly treated. Dr. Shah’s Komen-funded research aims at identifying the mutational landscape within the DNA repair mechanisms in TNBC and use that knowledge to stratify patients into biologically distinct subgroups that could respond to specific therapies.
Patricia (Patty) A. Spears is a 19-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 as chair of the Patient Advocate Committee of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology and the University of North Carolina Patient Research Advocacy Group. 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 several research projects, bringing a broad patient perspective and adding urgency to the translational potential of the projects. She currently is Co-chair of Komen's Advocates in Science Steering Committee, and she chairs its Membership Taskforce.
Stanford University School of Medicine
Melinda Telli, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Telli’s research focuses on the development of novel therapies for the treatment of triple-negative and hereditary cancer. Her work has focused on the validation of homologous recombination deficiency biomarkers to help identify patients with non-hereditary triple-negative breast cancer that may specifically derive benefit from platinum chemotherapy. In addition to her involvement in the clinical development of PARP inhibitors for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation-associated cancers, she has also explored the use of ‘beyond BRCA’ DNA repair gene mutations as potential biomarkers to select patients for PARP inhibitor therapy in the advanced disease setting. Dr. Telli’s Komen funded research aims to optimize therapy for early stage triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients by identifying genomic instability and immune biomarkers that will predict which patients are most likely to benefit from platinum-based chemotherapy. She is also assessing a strategy of combined intratumoral plasmid IL-12 electroporation and the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab in patients with recurrent TNBC with the goal of converting immunologically cold tumors into inflamed ones where the benefit of anti-PD-1 checkpoint blockade can then be realized.
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.
Advocate in Science Since 2013
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. He also directs the graduate program in Cancer Biology. 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 defining 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 (ARM) Taskforce since 2016.
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Salt Lake City, UT
Alana L. Welm, Ph.D., is the Ralph E. and Willia T. Main Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, 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 and its receptor Ron kinase to promote metastasis, and the mechanisms by which MSP induces destruction of bones in metastatic breast cancer. 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. 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 the Executive Officer 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. In 2017, Dr. Wolff became Chief of the NCI ECOG-ACRIN Breast Cancer Committee. 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 23-year breast cancer survivor and advocate, diagnosed with invasive triple negative breast cancer in 1995, and diagnosed a second time in 2015 with breast cancer. Kim is a member of the Komen Advocates in Science Steering Committee. 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.