I graduated from medical school at Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, in 1998 and had clinical training as a urologist. While I became a board-certified urologist and carried out some clinical studies on urological diseases, my interest in molecular mechanisms of urogenital cancers grew, which led me to a Ph.D. research program at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, where I studied molecular mechanisms for castration-resistant progression of prostate cancer. Since most of my laboratory work in my Ph.D. training was based on experiments in culture and clinical samples, I strongly felt a need for experience in experimental systems in vivo using animal models. This prompted me to start my postdoctoral training in Dr. Abate-Shen’s laboratory at Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University, New York, NY. In my current project, I use genetically engineered mouse models of invasive bladder cancer to investigate mechanisms for development and progression of the disease. My goal is to understand pathogenesis of urogenital malignancies through a comprehensive approach and to eventually contribute to the improvement in the management of disease and patient care through bridging basic, translational and clinical research for the disease.
Genentech, South San Francisco, CA
I am fortunate to have worked with many talented scientists and excellent mentors who have encouraged me to pursue my interests in various disciplines. Having explored multiple research topics and careers, I now realize that I have always been drawn to work in preventing disease and improving human health. As an undergraduate majoring in biochemistry at the University of Delaware, I interned at Merck and worked on the clinical trials for the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. As a Ph.D. student in cell and molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, I focused on vaccine strategies to induce T-cell responses against HIV-1. After earning an M.P.H. at the Harvard School of Public Health, I transitioned to the field of molecular epidemiology and cancer prevention research. During my postdoctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, I combined my various interests and led cancer research projects that examined micronutrient and dietary risk factors, immunity genes and immune function, and molecular biomarkers for early detection. I am currently an epidemiologist at Genentech, where I work to ensure the safety of medications used by cancer patients.
Having trained as a basic bench scientist in immunology during graduate school and as a population scientist in cancer epidemiology during my postdoctoral fellowship, I bridge some of the disciplines represented by the AACR Associate Members. I serve on the Associate Member Council not only to better understand and contribute to the AACR mission, but also to advise on issues related to early-career scientists working in various employment sectors. The training and professional development of early-career investigators are more important now than ever before, and I am honored to serve the cancer research community on a national level to help address and promote the growing needs of associate members.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Internal Medicine
University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
As a postdoctoral fellow, in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Rhim, my research is centered in translational pancreatic cancer research. I will be using a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) as a model for cancer development, progression and drug development. As an associate member at the early-stages of my career in cancer research, I represent the interests of postdoctoral fellows transitioning into early-career scientists. While an active participant of the events organized by the AMC, I found them extremely valuable for a young scientist to stay competitive and learn about the resources available to them. Joining the AMC council is an important step in my professional journey and I am also honored to work with outstanding investigators, faculty and staff that comprise AACR.
Graduate Student, Medical Biophysics
University of Toronto & The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
My research interests encompass the use of genetics to understand the life story of cancer. From tumor development to patient prognosis, genetics plays a key role in tumor heterogeneity, progression and response to treatment, among other issues we currently face in managing this prevalent disease. My passion is to harness a tumor’s unique genetic information to guide diagnosis, personalize therapeutic approaches, and predict patient response, and thus improve not only patient survival, but also patient quality of life.
As part of my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children, I investigate the genomic alterations driving the development of a rare but deadly brain tumor most commonly affecting young children, choroid plexus carcinoma (CPC). Thanks to a multi-institutional effort, our group has been able to collect one of the largest cohorts of CPCs in the world. This has facilitated the study of these tumors using an integrative high-throughput approach, which has led to the identification of recurrent mutations, chromosomal aberrations and changes in gene expression that will guide the development of targeted therapies, the identification of better diagnostic and predictive markers, and the understanding of mechanisms driving CPC tumorigenesis.
I became an AACR associate member in 2011 when I first attended the annual meeting. I was honored with the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research Scholar Award in 2011 and 2012, which opened my eyes to great opportunities available for early-career scientists at the AACR. Since attending the annual meetings, I have gained such valuable knowledge and perspective by interacting with fellow scientists, learning from the innumerable oral and poster presentations, and meeting leading researchers and mentors. As part of the AMC, I look forward to represent associate members and work diligently to enrich their professional development.
Medical Student (MSTP)
The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Cancer has always fascinated me. The process that a normal cell transforms into an uncontrolled cancer is enigmatic. In particular, I am intrigued by how viruses are capable of infecting and transforming a normal cell into cancer. My current primary research interest deals with better understanding how cytomegalovirus (CMV) interacts with cancer. Traditionally, CMV is not considered to be an oncogenic virus, but recent work has suggested a potential oncomodulatory role for the virus in a multitude of cancer types. I study the interaction of the virus with glioblastoma multiforme, a lethal brain cancer, and rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer originating from muscle. Using an animal model of glioblastoma I have shown that infection with CMV results in a more aggressive cancer that kills that animal faster. My research demonstrates that CMV is capable of activating several key cancer pathways that promote development and growth of glioblastoma. I am currently investigating ways to target CMV in brain cancer as a potential therapeutic as well as discovering novel pathways activated by CMV in brain cancer. My work with brain cancer led to a serendipitous discovery of how CMV promotes rhabdomyosarcoma. I discovered that p53+/- mice infected at birth, but not at a later age, with CMV developed rhabdomyosarcomas at a high rate at a young age. Investigation of human tumors showed that 100 percent contain CMV suggesting that the virus has a role in the tumors. I am currently studying how CMV interacts with p53. Additionally, I am determining if CMV is capable of transforming normal muscle cells.
As a trainee, I am acutely aware of the challenges and struggles that my peers face. It is challenging in the current scientific environment to transition from early career scientist to the next level. I have been fortunate to have many invaluable mentors and a strong support network to help me succeed in my scientific endeavors. I wish to pass on the support and insight that I have been fortunate to have received to other early career scientists. In other capacities, I have been an advocate for young scientists, both at my university and nationally, throughout my young career. I am excited to put my unique experiences and skills to work for the AACR Associate Member Council in order to foster an environment to nurture the development of all early career scientists. I have always been impressed with how the AACR focuses on developing scientists and am excited to be a part of the tradition. It is with pleasure and honor that I serve on the Associate Member Council to ensure that the next generation of scientists have the resources to succeed in cancer research.
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Pathology
University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
I am a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham working in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Sanderson. Our primary goal is to understand what promotes the aggressive behavior of myeloma and to use this knowledge to develop better therapies. My project is focused on the role of syndecan-1, a heparan sulfate proteolgycan, which can be shed from the cell surface of myeloma cells. This tumor-derived shed syndecan-1 can bind and interact with other tumor cells or host cells to promote an aggressive tumor behavior. I aim to determine how shed syndecan-1 alters cells and whether this will provide new therapeutic targets to block myeloma progression.
As a graduate student in the early stages of my career, I understand the difficulties we face as we navigate through various career and research paths. This can provide both excitement and anxiety. The programs designed by the AMC provide Associate Members in all stages of their careers the tools to be successful and find their path. Previous programs developed by the AMC have provided me real-world skills and helped me to discover my own interests as a cancer researcher. As a council member, I hope to provide the same experiences to other Associate Members.
The dire funding situation has also helped me realize that researchers can serve as great science advocates. I hope to design additional programs aimed at helping researchers develop effective communication skills to connect the public, and elected officials with the exciting research being performed with government funds.
Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Medical Oncology
UMC Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
I believe resistance to therapy is a major obstacle to effective anticancer treatment and my research focuses on ways to circumvent this. I recently completed my Ph.D. project on the role of microRNAs in the regulation of the DNA damage response, cancer development and therapy resistance. In my current position, I aim to investigate the role of host responses to chemotherapy.
Early-career scientists face many challenges beyond doing research, such as writing papers, obtaining funding, teaching and managing a research group. Most of these skills you don’t learn at university. I believe the Associate Member Council can make a difference for young cancer researchers all over the world in providing training and enhancing career opportunities.
During my studies I have served in several Ph.D. student representative bodies, and participated in the organization of career events. I am eager to use my experience to help the AMC to accomplish its important mission.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics
Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY
I am currently an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. Focusing on genitourinary malignancies, my research merges basic, translational, clinical and population science with the overall goal of improving bladder and prostate cancer patient care. My group’s goal is to decipher the genetic landscape of invasive bladder cancer in order to enhance biological knowledge of the malignancy, and to point to novel strategies for improved patient care. In my current position, I also focus on cancer health disparities in prostate cancer. Specifically, I am interested in the role of DNA methylation and vitamin D deficiency in aggressiveness of prostate cancer among African-American men.
In 2009, I completed my Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology at SUNY Buffalo. My dissertation focused on the epigenetics of ovarian cancer. Following the completion of my PhD I served as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow on the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine at National Academies of Sciences in Washington, D.C. During my fellowship, I contributed to the studies Qualification of Biomarkers and Surrogate Endpoints in Chronic Disease and Cancer Clinical Trials and the NCI Cooperative Groups. The exposure to science and health policy at the Institute of Medicine made me aware of the importance of science policy and advocacy in the funding of cancer research.