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​​​AACR-Janssen Cancer Interception Research Fellowship

The AACR-Janssen Cancer Interception Research Fellowship represents a joint effort to encourage and support a postdoctoral or clinical research fellow to conduct basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological research in the field of cancer interception, which encompasses the areas of prevention, early detection, and early intervention, and to establish a successful career path in this field.

2018 Grantee

PhallenJillian Phallen, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland
headshot_1 line spacerColorectal cancer interception through detection of circulating tumor DNA

Scientific Statement of Research
Colorectal cancer remains one of the most common and lethal human cancers. Early detection and interception have the potential to change the high morbidity and mortality of the disease. While colonoscopy is an effective means of screening and interception, the procedure is invasive, compliance remains suboptimal, and the cost of implementation strains healthcare capacity in many countries. There is an unmet need to develop and implement a noninvasive test for colorectal cancer detection and interception. Next generation sequencing approaches for direct detection of circulating tumor DNA have been shown to be robust assays for early detection of colorectal cancer. Validation of these liquid biopsy approaches for CRC interception through direct detection of ctDNA in a prospectively collected screening cohort will move towards clinical implementation and CRC interception.

Dr. Phallen received her doctoral degree in 2017 from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Her graduate thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Victor Velculescu focused on circulating tumor DNA as a biomarker for cancer. She has continued this research as a postdoctoral research fellow in the same group with current research projects moving towards noninvasive early detection and screening diagnostics.

Acknowledgement of Support
The 2018 AACR-Janssen Cancer Interception Research Fellowship is unique in that it supports research for early detection and intervention for cancers when the disease is most treatable and potentially curable. It is an honor to lead a project focused on cancer interception, and I hope to directly affect patient care with this study.

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2017 Grantee

Northey_90x110.jpgJason J. Northey, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Valerie Weaver Laboratory
University of California, San Francisco
San Francisco, California
Mitigating the biophysical implications for breast cancer risk

Scientific Statement of Research
Mammographic density and BRCA1 mutation are strong risk factors for breast cancer. Prevention methods, such as tamoxifen treatment and prophylactic mastectomy, are poorly tolerated necessitating more tractable strategies. Recent data revealed that women with BRCA1 mutation have increased RANK expression, causing the proliferation of breast epithelial progenitors. Dr. Northey has demonstrated that the activation of mechanical signaling in the mouse mammary gland similarly causes an expansion of epithelial progenitors, and that human breast tissue with high density has a stiffer matrix and elevated RANKL. Therefore, he proposes that the density-linked risk to malignancy is fostered by matrix stiffness that enhances RANKL activity to drive epithelial progenitor expansion. He will examine the biophysical properties of tissues derived from prophylactic mastectomy and mouse models to establish associations between RANKL signaling, matrix stiffness and progenitor activity with an aim to provide preclinical evidence that breast cancer risk can be mitigated through RANKL inhibition.

Dr. Northey received his doctorate degree from McGill University, Montreal, Canada in 2013, where he studied the process of metastasis with an emphasis on oncogenic signal transduction pathways and the role of TGFß as a tu​mor promoter in advanced stages of breast cancer. He then joined the research group of Dr. Valerie Weaver at the University of California, San Francisco as a postdoctoral fellow. He currently investigates the influence of extracellular matrix stiffness and high cellular mechano-signaling on epithelial progenitor activity and breast cancer initiation with an overarching goal to develop new strategies for breast cancer prevention.

Acknowledgement of Support
The AACR-Janssen Fellowship will ensure support for this critical research, which endeavors to identify new and effective strategies for prevention in women with high risk for breast cancer. It will also further my professional development as a productive scientist with a proclivity for inquiries that directly impact patient outcomes.

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