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). 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 in the next decade.
Komen Scholar Since 2019
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Regina Barzilay, Ph.D., is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Barzilay is a computer scientist with extensive expertise in applied machine learning and natural language processing. She is focused on bringing the power of big data and machine learning methods into cancer care and prevention. Dr. Barzilay’s current research efforts involve developing deep learning models that utilize imaging, structured data, and other inputs to identify trends that affect early diagnosis, treatment, risk assessment, and disease prevention. She is poised to play a leading role in creating new models that advance the capacity of computers to harness the power of human language data. Crediting Komen for funding her early efforts with cancer and deep learning, Dr. Barzilay’s additional Komen funding supports a project that will fully utilize the richness of information available in mammograms to develop more accurate and personalized breast cancer risk models.
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 investigations of the mechanisms involved in cancer initiation in cancers associated with mutations in BRCA1. 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.
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 in Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. She serves as Executive Director of the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center and Director of the Mariann and Robert MacDonald Cancer Risk Evaluation Center. A clinician and researcher, Dr. Domchek’s research focuses on the genetic evaluation and medical management of individuals with inherited risk factors for cancer. Dr. Domchek is particularly interested in developing new cancer therapies, such as PARP inhibitors, for breast cancer patients due to genetic risk factors. An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, American Association of Physicians, and American Society of Clinical Investigation, Dr. Domchek is also a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology for which she had served on a number of committees. A significant contributor to the oncology literature, she has authored/co-authored more than 250 articles. Dr. Domchek’s Komen funding supports the evaluation of newer genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer to lead to better prevention and treatment options for breast cancer patients.
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.
Komen Scholar Since 2015
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Sharon H. Giordano, M.D., M.P.H., FASCO, 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 'omic and image analysis technologies to identify molecular and structural abnormalities that 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 ER-positive tumor. Dr. Gray received the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science in 2007.
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 2018
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
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 2010-2012 & 2019
Scientific Advisory Board 2012-2017
Advocate in Science Since 2008
Cheryl L. Jernigan, CPA, F.A.C.H.E., is a 20+ year breast cancer "thriver" and cancer research advocate. She was previously CEO of the Kansas City Area Hospital Association, and has over 20 years of experience in health policy, advocacy and community/national leadership on behalf of hospitals. She is Chair of the Breast Cancer Prevention Center’s Advocate Advisory Board for The University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital. Over the past four years, she has served as the Lead Advocate of Patient & Investigator Voices Organizing Together (PIVOT), a new University of Kansas Cancer Center initiative. Ms. Jernigan was a founding and past board member and Chair of the Strategic Mission Committee of the Greater Kansas City Komen Affiliate. She joined Komen’s Advocates in Science (AIS) and its Steering Committee in 2008, served as a Komen Scholar from 2010-2018, and as a Scientific Advisory Board member from 2012-2018. An active research advocate, Ms. Jernigan is a member of many clinical trial initiatives, including the National Cancer Institute’s Central Institutional Review Board for Adult Late Phase Clinical Trials and the Patient Advocate Committee of SWOG Cancer Research Network. Ms. Jernigan was a prior chair of Komen's Advocate Research Mentor (ARM) Taskforce. She is also one of the experts involved with Komen’s big data initiative. Her passion is seeking ways to change research to better serve patients. She strives to inform and empower patients to be effective partners, working with researchers and clinicians to enhance and focus research on what matters to patients.
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 investigate the function of a key metabolic enzyme in metastasis and chemoresistance of breast cancer and test the therapeutic efficacy of a novel compound that target this enzyme.
Mayo Clinic- Jacksonville
Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D. is Professor of Immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. His work focuses on getting vaccines into the clinic, including efforts that are currently in various phases of clinical trials (including Phase II) 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.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Ian E. Krop, M.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Chief of the Division of Breast Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is also serves as the Chief Scientific Officer for the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium (TBCRC). 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 trastuzumab emtansine), a new targeted therapy for HER2-positive breast cancers, including metastatic breast cancer. Dr. Krop is currently leading several clinical trials exploring combinations of novel targeted therapies and immune 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 patients with HER2-positive breast cancer become resistant to HER2-targeted therapies.
University of Pittsburgh
Adrian V. Lee, Ph.D., is Pittsburgh Foundation Chair and Director of the Institute for Precision Medicine, and Professor of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 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). With Komen funding, Dr. Lee extend his work on the study of breast cancer metastasis using the large Health Sciences Tissue Bank (HSTB) at the University of Pittsburgh to investigate molecular changes in breast cancer metastasis. By examining whether there is a difference between breast cancer metastasis to bone compared to brain, new treatment targets and approaches will be identified to treat metastases and then tested in clinical trials.
Rush University Medical Center
Mia A. Levy, M.D., Ph.D., is the Director of the Cancer Center at Rush University Medical Center and the System Vice President for Cancer Services at Rush System for Health. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and a practicing medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of breast cancer and precision oncology. Dr. Levy’s research mission is to develop and disseminate learning cancer systems that deliver data and knowledge driven clinical decision support across the continuum of cancer care and research. She applies biomedical informatics and implementation science methods to real-world problems in healthcare delivery systems. Dr. Levy is leading efforts to create a learning healthcare system as part of the strategic direction for continuous discovery and improvement of cancer outcomes embedded into routine clinical practice. Precision cancer medicine implementation also continues to be a driving use case for the learning systems framework, combining integration of genomic data into clinical workflows within the electronic health record, knowledge driven clinical decision support systems driven by the My Cancer Genome knowledge base, and infrastructures for secondary use of data for discovery both locally and as part of the international data consortium AACR GENIE. Dr. Levy is 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 M. Livingston, M.D., is the Emil Frei Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. 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 is also the Associate Director for Education and Training for Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. 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, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of Precision Oncology and SMMART Trials at the Knight Cancer Institute of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR where he holds the Wayne and Julie Drinkward Endowed Chair in Precision Oncology. 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 with analysis of over 155,000 samples from around the world. 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, Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Surgery, and Director of the 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 understanding immunologic aspects of the microenvironment in breast cancer in order to inform therapeutic strategies. Specifically, she is evaluating the impact of standard therapies on the phenotype and function of immune cells that are present in tumors as well as in a patient’s circulating blood. 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 to determine whether leveraging the immune system could allow for de-escalation of chemotherapy in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer.
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 genetic ancestry-dependent heterogeneity in the normal breast, which has important implications in how tumors are characterized for genomic abnormalities. His recently published studies may enable to understand why hormone-responsive breast tumors are more common in women of European ancestry and triple negative breast cancers are aggressive in women of African ancestry. His recent efforts are using systems biology approaches to understand organ specific breast cancer metastasis and developing patient-derived tumor models that reflect organ-specific metastasis and therapy resistance. With Komen funding, Dr. Nakshatri studies 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. His group has recently developed a model for anti-estrogen resistant luminal B breast cancer from patient-derived tissues.
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., FACP, is the Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics and founding director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global Health at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Dr. Olopade’s research is focused on gaining a better understanding of the etiology and genomic basis of cancer progression in diverse populations. She has published extensively on genetic and non-genetic risk factors for breast cancer and is internationally renowned for her seminal work in cancer genomics and clinical expertise in breast cancer. Dr. Olopade mapped genes frequently deleted on Chromosome 9 and has characterized and dissected molecular pathways defining aggressive forms of breast cancer and inherited forms of cancer in diverse populations. A distinguished scholar and mentor, she has received numerous honors and awards including honorary degrees from six universities and a 2005 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius grant”) for “translating findings on the molecular genetics of breast cancer in African and African-American women into innovative clinical practices in the United States and abroad.” Dr. Olopade earned her medical degree from the University of Ibadan College of Medicine in Nigeria. She trained in Internal Medicine at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and in Oncology, Hematology and Cancer Genetics at the Joint Section of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Chicago. She serves as a director on several Civic and Corporate Boards.
Julie R. Palmer, Sc.D., M.P.H., is Professor of Epidemiology at the Boston University School of Public Health, Karin Grunebaum Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and Associate Director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University. Dr. Palmer is also Associate Director for Population Sciences and Co-Director of the BU-BMC Cancer Center. 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
Ben Ho Park, M.D., Ph.D., is the Donna Hall Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He is also Co-Leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Associate Director for Translational Research and Director of Precision Oncology for Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. 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 went 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 Partridge, M.D., M.P.H. is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Vice Chair of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she serves as Director of the Adult Survivorship Program and leads the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer. She is also co-Chair of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Breast Committee. As a medical oncologist and clinical 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. She established and serves as PI for the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Study (YWS), a multi-institutional cohort of young women with breast cancer which enrolled 1300 women age 40 and younger at diagnosis. Dr. Partridge and her team have characterized a range of issues of young breast cancer survivors, including the impact of treatment on fertility, adherence with hormonal therapy, psychological adaptation to the diagnosis including impact of treatment on sexual functioning, and the factors that play an important role in patient decision-making. She has collaborated with basic investigators to identify molecular differences in tumors found in young patients and identify potential biomarkers of long-term effects. Dr. Partridge’s Komen-funded research aims to elucidate and improve the unique medical and psychosocial issues facing young women with breast cancer.
Komen Scholar Since 2019
Edith A. Perez, M.D. is Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic. She serves as Director of the Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Program. Dr. Perez is an internationally recognized translational researcher and cancer specialist. Her experiences include leadership in academic and biopharmaceutical environments, focused philanthropic activities, contributions to effective patient care, and translational research and educational endeavors at the local, national, and global scale. Throughout her career, she has developed a wide range of translational clinical trials exploring the use of new therapeutic agents for the treatment and prevention of breast and other cancers, such as one of the pivotal studies that demonstrated the impact of adding trastuzumab (Herceptin®) to improve disease free and overall survival for patients with early stage HER2-positive breast cancer. This work set a new standard of care for women globally. Dr. Perez’s Komen-funded work seeks to measure expression and location of key immune function genes in breast tumors and improve our understanding of breast cancer. Dr. Perez is the recipient of the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research in 2013.
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 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 and pioneered the use of gene expression profiling as a diagnostic technology. Dr. Pusztai’s research also clarified the clinical value of preoperative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy in different breast cancer subtypes and demonstrated the prognostic and chemotherapy response predictive values of immune cells in cancer tissues. Using Komen funds, he showed that the genome and the immune microenvironment of primary and metastatic breast cancers differ, these results led to the development of new clinical trials in breast cancer.
Scientific Advisory Board 2010-2017
UT Health San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., M.P.H., an internationally recognized cancer and chronic disease health disparities researcher, is 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.
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. He was the recipient of AACR's Distinguished Lectureship in Breast Cancer Research in 2017. 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, M.A., is an 9-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, 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, starting at Komen Puget Sound Affiliate, even filling the role of Race for the Cure Co-Chair. She has recently moved to Bend, Oregon and has now gotten involved with the Komen Oregon affiliate and Oregon Health and Science University. 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 former 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.
Advocate in Science Since 2010
Laguna Niguel, CA
Sandra Spivey, M.B.A., is a 20+ year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed with stage II, triple-negative breast cancer at age 42 in 1995. This experience spurred her involvement in her local breast cancer community. After three years of extensive breast cancer treatment, she was then diagnosed with ER+ stage IV breast cancer in her bones. She went on to participate in a clinical trial and was further inspired to become an advocate for breast cancer research. Ms. Spivey is a retired Human Resource and Training executive in a Fortune 500 international company with over 20 years of experience leading and contributing to multi-functional business teams. She has also served on the board for the international Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) for five years. In 1995, Ms. Spivey began serving in various roles, including on the board, for the Y-ME Breast Cancer Organization of Orange County. She has also served as a Consumer Reviewer for the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Medical Research Program more than 12 times since 2002 and has served on the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s President’s Council from 2000-2016. Ms. Spivey currently serves as Chair for the Komen Orange County Affiliate’s first Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) conference and was selected to serve on Komen’s newly established MBC Patient Advisory Council. She is a peer helpline mentor for several organizations, providing phone support to over a hundred people living with MBC and their families. She also maintains an active social media presence, participating in groups across networks to contribute to discussions about treatments and pscyho-social needs. Ms. Spivey joined Komen’s Advocates in Science (AIS) in 2008.
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
Meryl Weinreb is a retired pharmaceutical marketing executive with extensive experience in oncology – both from an industry and personal perspective. As a 3-time breast cancer survivor, she was responsible for a number of awarding-winning patient education and support programs for breast, prostate and lung cancer therapies. Ms. Weinreb directed consumer marketing strategy and execution for AstraZeneca’s US oncology portfolio. She led innovative adherence programs and worked with company researchers to create patient-friendly prescription information and clinical protocols. As a consultant, she has worked with many other pharmaceutical companies to provide strategic help with a variety of business challenges, relating to a variety of tumor types including breast. Ms. Weinreb is very involved with her local Komen Philadelphia Affiliate, where she served for 7 years on its Executive Board and continues to serve as the Education and Public Policy Chair. Passionate about public policy, she leads public policy initiatives for Komen’s Advocacy Alliance in Pennsylvania and Delaware and currently serves on Komen’s Advocacy Advisory Taskforce. Ms. Weinreb joined Komen’s Advocates-In-Science in 2013, and she has served as a consumer reviewer for many research granting organizations and as a patient advocate on many research projects.
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 at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. A clinician and researcher, Dr. Wolff's research interests include new treatment strategies, the development and implementation of prognostic and predictive biomarkers (tissue, blood, and imaging) in clinical practice, and how to improve the survivorship experience of breast cancer patients and their caregivers. He promotes the implementation of research findings in clinical practice, survivorship, and quality of care for breast cancer patients. Dr. Wolff is the Chief Operating 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. He is also an Associate Editor of the Journal of Clinical Oncology and Chair 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.