American Association for Cancer Research

SU2C-MRA Joint Scientific Advisory Committee

The Joint Scientific Advisory Committee for the SU2C-MRA Melanoma Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant is dedicated to seeking out the most innovative and promising melanoma cancer research projects. The Committee is comprised of highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists, as well as advocates. The scientific oversight provided by the Joint Scientific Advisory Committee is critical to achieve Stand Up To Cancer's mission to translate the most promising cancer research into real advances in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention as quickly as possible. 

Joint Scientific Advisory Committee Biographies

Phillip A. Sharp, Chairperson Thomas J. Hornyak
William G. Kaelin Jr., Vice-chairperson      Beverly A. Teicher
Suzanne L. Topalian, Vice-chairperson Michael J. Weber
James P. Allison Ellen V. Sigal
Richard B. Gaynor Doug Ulman
Jeffrey E. Gershenwald  


Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Chairperson
Institute Professor
David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA

A world leader of research in molecular biology and biochemistry, Dr. Phillip A. Sharp is institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Dr. Sharp earned a B.A. degree from Union College, KY in 1966, and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1969. He did his postdoctoral training at the California Institute of Technology, where he studied the molecular biology of plasmids, and then studied gene expression in human cells at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory under James Watson. Much of Dr. Sharp's scientific work has been conducted at MIT's Center for Cancer Research, which he joined in 1974.

Dr. Sharp's research interests have centered on the molecular biology of gene expression relevant to cancer and the mechanisms of RNA splicing. His landmark achievement was the discovery of RNA splicing in 1977. The discovery that genes contain nonsense segments that are edited out by cells in the course of utilizing genetic information is important in understanding the genetic causes of cancer and other diseases. For this work he received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. His lab has now turned its attention to understanding how RNA molecules act as switches to turn genes on and off (RNA interference). These newly discovered processes have revolutionized cell biology and could potentially generate a new class of therapeutics.

Dr. Sharp has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, and has served on many advisory boards for the government, academic institutions, scientific societies, and companies. In addition to the Nobel Prize, his awards include the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award, the National Medal of Science for Biological Sciences and the inaugural Double Helix Medal from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Dr. Sharp co-founded Biogen (now Biogen Idec), Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage therapeutics company and Magen Biosciences Inc., a biotechnology company developing agents to promote the health of human skin

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William G. Kaelin Jr., M.D., Vice-chairperson
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA

Dr. William G. Kaelin Jr., is a professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. He received his medical degree from Duke University in 1982 and was a house officer in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He went on to become a medical oncology clinical fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. David Livingston, where he began his studies of tumor suppressor proteins. He became an independent investigator at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 1992 as a James S. McDonnell Scholar and became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in 1998. Dr. Kaelin is also a professor in the Department of Medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, senior physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and associate director for Basic Research at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.

Dr. Kaelin's research interests have focused on tumor suppressor genes and the normal functions of the proteins they encode. The long-term goal of his work is to lay the foundation for the development of new anticancer therapies based on the functions of specific tumor suppressor proteins. His studies of tumor suppressor genes linked to hereditary forms of cancer have uncovered molecular pathways that are important in non-hereditary cancers and have accelerated the development of new treatments for kidney cancer.

Dr. Kaelin is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and has served on numerous boards and committees, including the American Association for Cancer Research's Board of Directors and the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors. He has received many awards for his work, including the AACR-Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Prize for Cancer Research and the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer.

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Suzanne L. Topalian, M.D., Vice-chairperson
Professor of Surgery and Oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Director, Melanoma Program, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Baltimore, MD

Dr. Topalian is a physician-scientist whose research focuses on cancer immunology and immunotherapy.  She received a B.A. in English from Wellesley College and a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine, after which she completed a residency in general surgery at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Following a 21-year tenure in the Surgery Branch of the National Cancer Institute, NIH, first as a research fellow and subsequently as a Senior Investigator, Dr. Topalian joined the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine faculty in 2006 to direct the Melanoma Program in the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Topalian has published over 100 original research articles and reviews on cancer immunology. She is internationally recognized for this work, which has provided a foundation for the translational development of immunotherapies for melanoma and other cancers, including cancer vaccines, adoptive T cell transfer, and immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies.  These efforts have opened new avenues of scientific interest and clinical investigation in cancer therapeutics.

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 James P. Allison, Ph.D.
Chairman, Immunology Program
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Director of Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Center
New York, NY


James Allison is an expert in the field of antibody-mediated immune activation. He has dedicated his career to the study of how immune cells can eradicate cancer. After obtaining his Bachelor or Science and doctorate in biological sciences, at The University of Texas, Austin, he joined the University of California/Berkeley, where, as professor of immunology, he discovered among many other achievements, the mechanism of action of an inhibitory T cell molecule named CTLA-4, and the therapeutic potential of anti-CTLA4 antibodies for cancer treatment. This discovery eventually led very recently to the registration of ipilimumab, anti-CTLA4 mAb, for the treatment of melanoma. This work has established immune checkpoint blockade of CTLA-4 and other inhibitory molecules as a promising strategy for the treatment of cancer.

Currently at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Allison is the chair of the Immunology Program and holds the distinguished positions of director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy; David H. Koch chair in immunologic studies; attending immunologist in the department of medicine and is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Dr. Allison is  the scientific director of the Cancer Research Institute, a vital force in the advancement of new immune-based approaches to cancer treatment, control and prevention.

Dr. Allison is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of Cancer Research. He has served as president of the American Association of Immunologists and has been a member/chair of various NIH Advisory Committees.

Dr. Allison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including; the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology; the AAI-Dana Award in Human Immunology Research; the C. Chester Stock Award for Distinguished Achievement in Biomedical Research; Lifetime Achievement Award, American Association of Immunologists; Roche Award for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy; and the American Skin Association’s Breakthrough Achievement in Translational Cancer Research. Dr. Allison is a world-renowned speaker in the field of tumor immunology.  

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 Richard B. Gaynor, M.D.
Vice President
Cancer Research and Clinical Investigation
Eli Lilly and Company
Indianapolis, IN


Dr. Richard B. Gaynor is the vice president for cancer research and clinical investigation at Eli Lilly and Company. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Texas Tech University and a medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Gaynor went on to do his residency in internal medicine at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, and completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine where he served on the faculty for 10 years. 

Prior to joining Lilly, Dr. Gaynor was a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) in Dallas and held several important leadership positions. He was chief of the division of hematology at UTSW and director of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center there in addition to his work as the Lisa K. Simmons distinguished chair in comprehensive oncology. He served on numerous NIH advisory committees and was elected to both the American Society of Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians.

Gaynor is on the editorial board of scientific journals and has an extensive publication record totaling more than 140 scientific articles. He serves on the board of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Walther Cancer Institute and on several committees for the American Association of Cancer Research.

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 Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D.
Professor of Surgery and Cancer Biology
Department of Surgical Oncology
Division of Surgery
University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, TX


Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, M.D., FACS, is a professor of surgery in the department of surgical oncology and a professor in the department of cancer biology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in Houston, Texas. He is also the medical director of the Melanoma and Skin Center, also at MDACC.

Dr. Gershenwald received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. After completing his general surgery residency at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Gershenwald completed a fellowship in surgical oncology at MDACC before joining the faculty there.

In addition to his active surgical oncology practice that focuses on the care of patients with melanoma, Dr. Gershenwald holds numerous academic administrative appointments. Dr. Gershenwald serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC), chair of the AJCC Informatics Committee, and co-chair of the AJCC melanoma staging committee that recently revised the melanoma staging system. He is a co-director of the NIH-funded Melanoma SPORE and co-director of the Melanoma Informatics, Tissue Resource and Pathology Core, both at MDACC. Dr. Gershenwald’s research focuses on clinicopathological and molecular-based staging and prognostic assessment in melanoma and molecular mechanisms of melanoma progression. Dr. Gershenwald is a member of the Surgical Oncology Board of the American Board of Surgery and previously served as a member of the Executive Council and chair of the Training Committee of the Society of Surgical Oncology. More recently, Dr. Gershenwald has been a founding member and co-chair of the Melanoma Disease Working Group of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, MDACC lead for its melanoma TCGA tissue source site initiative, member of the Melanoma Research Foundation Breakthrough Consortium Steering Committee, and member of the Melanoma Research Alliance Medical Advisory Panel.

Dr. Gershenwald has published more than 155 articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as more than 100 editorials, abstracts, invited articles and other publications. His many honors include the Physician-Scientist Program Award from MDACC, an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant Award to examine the “Biology and Significance of Melanoma Lymphatic Metastasis,” a Melanoma Research Alliance Team Science Award to study "Clinicopathological and Molecular Staging and Prognosis in Early-Stage Melanoma," and for the past 10 years, Dr. Gershenwald has been listed in America’s Best Doctors.

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Thomas J. Hornyak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chief, Dermatology
Maryland VA Health Care System
Associate Professor of Dermatology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (appointment pending)
University of Maryland School of Medicine Baltimore, MD


Thomas J. Hornyak, M.D., Ph.D., is currently chief of dermatology for the VA Maryland Health Care System as well as associate professor of dermatology and biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. He received an A.B. in music from Princeton University and an M.D. and Ph.D. from the Medical Scientist Training Program at The University of Cornell University Medical Center followed by residency training in dermatology at New York University Medical Center. He began his studies of melanocyte development and gene regulation in melanocytes during dermatology training and during a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Biochemistry at NYU.

Dr. Hornyak began work as an independent investigator in the department of dermatology at the Henry Ford Health System, where he also initiated a pigmented lesion clinic to evaluate patients with melanoma and with numerous and unusual melanocytic nevi. He then became an investigator in the Dermatology Branch of the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH. At the NCI, he continued his studies of basic melanocyte biology, expanding to laboratory studies of melanoma. As a dermatologist in the NIH Clinical Center, he was both principal investigator and associate investigator on clinical research projects focused upon melanocytic nevi and the cutaneous features of select genetic cancer predisposition syndromes.

Dr. Hornyak moved to his current position in September 2011 where he has administrative responsibility for dermatology clinical activities within the VA Maryland system, sees patients and teaches dermatology residents in the offices of the department of dermatology at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and continues his basic research on melanocyte stem cells and epigenetic changes during melanoma development in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology. His laboratory focuses upon defining subpopulations of melanocyte progenitor cells and their contribution to the development of melanocytic neoplasms.

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Beverly A. Teicher, Ph.D.
Chief, Molecular Pharmacology Branch
National Cancer Institute
Developmental Therapeutics Program
Rockville, MD 


Dr. Beverly A. Teicher is currently chief of the Molecular Pharmacology Branch at NCI, a position that she assumed in early 2011. One focus of the Molecular Pharmacology Branch is target and drug discovery in the disease areas of sarcoma and small cell lung cancer. Dr. Teicher completed a doctorate in bioorganic chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University and postdoctoral training at Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Teicher joined Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as an assistant professor of pathology and rose to associate professor of medicine and radiation therapy, Harvard Medical School at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Joint Center for Radiation Therapy. In 1997, Dr. Teicher was appointed research advisor in Cancer Drug Discovery at Lilly Research Laboratories where she founded and chaired the Tumor Microenvironment Action Group, chaired the Cell Cycle Action Group and headed the In Vivo Tumor Models Group before joining Genzyme Corporation in 2002. Prior to arriving at NCI, Dr. Teicher was vice president of oncology research at Genzyme Corporation for nine years.

Dr. Teicher is best known for her work in solid tumor models and physiologic measurements of tumor hypoxia and oxygenation, the study of anti-angiogenic agents and the study of drug combinations with an emphasis on in vivo determination of tumor cell killing along with determination of bone marrow CFU-GM killing in the same host. Dr. Teicher has headed laboratories and teams that have contributed critical preclinical studies to several approved anticancer agents and several investigational agents currently in clinical trial.

Dr. Teicher is an active member of the international scientific community having authored or co-authored more than 400 scientific publications. She has edited eight books, is senior editor for the journal Clinical Cancer Research, executive editor of the journal Pharmacology and Therapeutics and is series editor for the Cancer Drug Discovery and Development book series of more than 65 volumes.

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Michael J. Weber, Ph.D.
University of Virginia Cancer Center
Charlottesville, VA

Dr. Michael J. Weber is the director of the University of Virginia Cancer Center, and professor of microbiology and the Weaver professor of oncology at the University of Virginia. After graduating from the Bronx High School of Science, he received his B.Sc. from Haverford College in 1963, Ph.D. from the University of California San Diego in 1968, and was a postdoctoral fellow and American Cancer Society fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He was on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign from 1971-1984, when he moved to the University of Virginia. He helped the university obtain its first NCI-designated Cancer Center and co-founded the Cancer Cell Signaling Program, which has been the foundation for many subsequent investigations on cancer cell regulation and the discovery of therapeutic targets.

Dr. Weber has been a major contributor to the discovery and analysis of the MAP Kinase pathway, which is a key driver of many malignancies, among the most prominent of which is melanoma. Dr. Weber first demonstrated the central role of “p42/Microtubule Associated Protein 2a Kinase” in the regulation of cell growth, and renamed it “Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase, (MAP Kinase).” He and his collaborators were responsible for identifying the activating phosphorylations, isolating the first full-length clone, demonstrating a MAP Kinase Kinase (MEK) activity, demonstrating that Ras could activate Raf, and that B-Raf could activate MEK, first use of a phospho-specific antibody in patient FFPE archival samples, and showing that Ras signaling could activate the androgen receptor. His research has focused over the past 10 years on understanding how signal transduction networks can best be used as a target for cancer therapy, with a focus on rational construction of combinatorial therapies.

Dr. Weber is among the top 1 percent most-cited authors in the areas of molecular biology and genetics; biology and biochemistry (Thomson Reuters). He has served on numerous NIH and foundation grant review panels and advisory boards, including the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and is a member of the original organizing committee and on the grant review committee of the Melanoma Research Alliance. Dr. Weber’s dedication to cancer research is not only professional, but personal: he is a member of a cancer family with BRCA2 mutations, and knows firsthand the importance of improving cancer outcomes by understanding basic cell and molecular biology and genetics.

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Ellen V. Sigal, Ph.D.
Chairperson and Founder
Friends of Cancer Research
Washington, DC

Dr. Ellen V. Sigal is chairperson and founder of Friends of Cancer Research ("Friends"), a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating the nation's progress toward prevention and treatment of cancer by mobilizing public support for cancer research funding and providing education on key public policy issues. Over the past 11 years, Friends has pioneered innovative public-private partnerships, organized critical policy forums, educated the public and brought together key communities to develop collaborative strategies in the field of cancer research. She received her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in Russian history.

Dr. Sigal was recently elected to the inaugural board of directors of the Reagan-Udall Foundation, a partnership designed to modernize medical product development, accelerate innovation and enhance product safety in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She serves on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors, the National Institutes of Health Foundation Board chairing its Public-Private Partnerships Committee, the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation Board of Trustees, and on the board of several national cancer centers. She served on the National Institutes of Health prestigious Director's Council of Public Representatives from 2003-2006. She was a presidential appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board from 1992-1998 chairing its Budget and Planning Committee which oversees the federal cancer budget.

Dr. Sigal was the 2008 recipient of the Margaret Foti Award for Leadership and Extraordinary Achievements in Cancer Research and has received the Association of American Cancer Institutes' Public Service Award, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Special Recognition Award, the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center National Leadership Award, and the American Association for Cancer Research National Leadership Award. She has been honored by Research!America, George Washington University Cancer Institute, International Spirit of Life Foundation, and Washingtonian magazine as a Washingtonian of the Year.

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Doug Ulman
President and CEO
LIVESTRONG (Lance Armstrong Foundation)
Austin, TX

Doug Ulman is a three-time cancer survivor and nationally recognized cancer advocate. After overcoming chondrosarcoma and malignant melanoma twice during his sophomore year in college, Doug and his family founded the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a non-profit organization to provide support, education and resources to young adults, their families and friends who are affected by cancer. He served as executive director of the Ulman Cancer Fund for four years before joining LIVESTRONG as director of survivorship in 2001.

A frequent guest and contributor on national and local media programs, Doug has been featured on CNN, ABC News, NBC Nightly News and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post among many other outlets. Doug also speaks frequently to corporations, civic organizations, schools and universities covering topics including cancer, philanthropy, grassroots movements, social change and social media.

Doug currently holds numerous civic and charitable board positions across the country and he just completed serving a four-year term as the chairman of the National Cancer Institute Director's Consumer Liaison Group. He also sits on the executive board of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, and is a founder of the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance among many other board and advisory roles.

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