​Announcing the 2019-2022 Associate Member Council (AMC)

The Associate Member Council (AMC) is pleased to announce that four Associate members were inducted onto the council during the recent 2019 AACR Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. These individuals will each serve a three-year term during which they will represent and address the needs and concerns of graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows. The AACR and the AMC are proud to welcome the following new council representatives:

Francesco Caiazza, PhD
University of California San Francisco

My current research is focused on developing diagnostic tools and pro-drug therapeutic approaches to address unmet needs in the area of oncology. Leveraging advanced methods for the molecular characterization of patient samples, I am interested in addressing specific questions related to intrinsic and acquired resistance to therapy, alternative biomarkers for treatment and monitoring, and early diagnosis. My ultimate goal is to perform translational research that will benefit patients, and to contribute to the understanding of biological mechanisms of tumorigenesis.

I received my MSc in biology from the University of Rome, and a PhD in molecular medicine from Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. My early work during graduate school and the first postdoctoral training has focused on the molecular mechanisms of cancer initiation and progression, and on the validation of prognostic and predictive biomarkers and therapeutic targets in a pre-clinical setting. I then worked with the immunology team of Elizabeth Ryan (University College Dublin) as the Merck-Serono Newman Fellow in translational oncology, studying the effect of the tumor microenvironment in mediating resistance to therapy. More recently, with the Science Foundation Ireland Industry Fellowship and the current postdoctoral training at UCSF, my research focus has broadened to include the development of diagnostic tools and therapeutic strategies in the area of immune-oncology, as well as allowing me to closely interact with an early-stage startup company (Alaunus Biosciences). I was fortunate to develop my career in a multidisciplinary environment, collaborating with biologists, clinicians and biochemists from different backgrounds, and working in both academic and startup/entrepreneurial settings. My long-term aspirations are to continue developing my career towards more translational and clinical directions, to continue to work in multidisciplinary environments, and to build bridges between publicly-funded research, private and entrepreneurial stakeholders, with the ultimate goal to advance patient care.

Bianca N. Islam, MD, PhD, MSc
Augusta University

I graduated from the MD-PhD program at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University (AU). I am currently in the Harrington Physician-Scientist Internal Medicine Residency Program at Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. After internal medicine residency, I will be pursuing a fellowship in gastroenterology.

My research interests are focused on developing treatment and prevention modalities for inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. My research focus is on understanding intestinal homeostasis and how chronically inflamed intestinal microenvironments promote colon carcinogenesis. I obtained my PhD from the Biochemistry and Cancer biology program at AU and my doctoral research studied the role of Viagra for the prevention of colon cancer. This study was featured on the July 2017 cover for the AACR Journal Cancer Prevention Research and was recognized at the 2019 AACR annual meeting as one of the most cited articles of the year.

I have been an Associate member of AACR since 2010 as an undergraduate student and I was also fortunate to receive an AACR MICR trainee award in 2015. I am so thrilled to be serving on the Associate Member Council and recognize how important my role is as a representative for our over 17,000 Associate member graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows. My lifelong goal is to educate her patients, peers, and the public about science and medicine. I envision my future career as a faculty member in academia having multiple roles in clinical and research arenas, as well as in education and advocacy.

Golnaz Morad, DDS
Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School

My research interests focus on understanding the interplay between tumor cells and pre-metastatic microenvironments to elucidate the early mechanisms underlying metastasis formation. Currently, I am a PhD candidate at Harvard University and am working on my dissertation research in the laboratory of Dr. Marsha Moses, Vascular Biology Program, Boston Children’s Hospital. My studies focus on elucidating the role of breast cancer-derived extracellular vesicles in the early steps of brain metastasis. I have identified the mechanisms with which breast cancer-derived extracellular vesicles breach the blood brain barrier and the functional consequences of this transport with respect to brain metastasis. We are working to translate these findings into novel theranostic approaches for early monitoring and treatment of breast cancer patients with brain metastasis. My ultimate career goal is to become an independent academic researcher, and I intend to continue my research on the initial aspects of metastasis development, with a final goal to translate our findings into more effective diagnostics and therapeutics for cancer patients.

I became an Associate member of the AACR in 2015 and attended the AACR Annual Meeting for the first time in 2017. The AACR programs aimed toward early-career scientists have really helped me define my career goals and have provided me with the guidance and support necessary to achieve these goals. I am greatly honored to serve as a member of the AACR Associate Member Council (AMC) and am looking forward to organizing programs and developing new initiatives to provide support to early-career scientists.

Caroline N. Smith, BS
University of Kentucky

I have always had a passion for learning paired with a love for swimming. These two interests were forever connected in 2010 after the passing of my lifelong swim coach, Tim Cahill, from pancreatic cancer. After seeing one of the most influential people in my life battle cancer, and the little clinicians could do to help him, I knew that I belonged in the research lab, searching for new ways to improve both patient outcomes and their quality of life.
To meet this goal,  I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology with a minor in biochemistry at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where I was a four-year member and team-captain of the Women’s NCAA Division II Swimming team. I also began developing my research skills along with serving in the cancer outreach community. My undergraduate thesis focused on examining the effects of natural compounds in combating kidney disease, and I was selected for the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the University of Kentucky, where I studied how chronic arsenic exposure can promote lung cancer progression. These two research experiences cemented my love of science and helped pave the road to graduate school at the University of Kentucky. Apart from research at the bench, I am passionate about raising money for cancer research organizations. As an undergraduate, I was heavily involved in Colleges Against Cancer, where I served as chair for our campus-wide Relay for Life fundraising events for the American Cancer Society. I now work with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and am raising research funds and pediatric cancer awareness through their Million Mile program.
I am currently in my second year of the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry PhD program at the University of Kentucky, in the laboratory of Dr. Jessica Blackburn. We are interested in identifying drivers of pediatric cancer progression and relapse so that we can find novel drug targets for these diseases. My current projects focus on using CRISPR screens to systematically identify oncogenic phosphatases across several types of pediatric cancers and developing nanobody-based therapeutics to specifically target these phosphatases. My main goal is to identify druggable targets that may lead to the design of new therapeutics that have minimal off-target effects, so that children with cancer have a better quality of life both short and long term.

I became an AACR Associate Member and attended my first Annual Meeting in 2018, where I was introduced to the AACR Associate Member Council (AMC) and all that it could offer to early-career researchers. I am truly honored and delighted to have been elected to the council at this early stage in my own career. Graduate school is an exciting and sometimes confusing time in our careers, and I hope to represent the unique perspective of graduate students in the AACR, as well as to develop new resources that will help early-career researchers better understand the potential career paths that are available to us. Additionally, as a student from an underrepresented university at the NIH, I hope to provide guidance to students like myself, who aren’t always exposed to the plethora of opportunities in cancer research that could help us better ourselves and our science. The AMC is the perfect way for me to get started in both influencing and helping the next generation of cancer researchers as we work towards our goal of improving patients’ lives.

Please see below for further details about the application process and expected duties of the AMC.

Application Process

The applications for the 2020-2023 service term will open approximately in summer 2019.

Each applicant will need to complete the online Application for Candidacy, which includes the submission of one's most recent CV (an NIH biographical sketch will not be accepted) and a letter of recommendation from his/her primary mentor* (*please note, a supplemental letter of endorsement will additionally be required/accepted only if the primary mentor is not currently an AACR Active Member in good standing). All application and supplemental materials must be submitted via the online application form in PDF format.

Once the application period ends, members of the current council will conduct a thorough and intensive review of all eligible applications. Four new members of the council will be announced to begin their service term at the next AACR Annual Meeting. All applicants are notified of the status of their application, regardless of the decision.

Term of Office

Each member serves a three-year term of office that commences at the AACR Annual Meeting. Those elected in the 2019-2022 cycle will begin their service at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, and conclude their service at the AACR Annual Meeting 2022.

Duties of the AMC

Each year, four Associate Members are selected to serve three-year terms on the Associate Member Council (AMC). The AMC represents over 14,000 AACR graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows (35 percent of the overall AACR membership) and provides a voice for early-career researchers to the AACR, serving in an advisory capacity. The AMC additionally helps develop initiatives and services to address the needs of early-career investigators in cancer research, provides a venue for collegial discussion about the challenges of a career in cancer research, helps provide recommendations on how to sustain this important workforce, and works with the AACR to recruit/retain/engage early-career researchers in the membership. People have joined the council to broaden their insights and network in the cancer research field, increase their likelihood and potential for future collaborations, learn more about the AACR, represent the membership, and help organize events to promote career development for early-career investigators.

To fulfill their service responsibilities, members of the AMC:

  • Represent the interests and needs of early-career scientists to the AACR;
  • Collaborate as needed with other entities within the AACR;
  • Develop initiatives and services for early-career scientists, including programming, activities and events both at the AACR Annual Meeting and year-round;
  • Facilitate communication among early-career scientists through peer-to-peer networking, mentorship, and collaboration with senior AACR members; 
  • Actively encourage and assist in the recruitment, retention and engagement of Associate members within AACR; and,
  • Assist in the promotion of the AACR and its programs, among other projects.

In recognition of the extraordinary time commitments of early-career researchers, obligations related to AMC service are kept as manageable as possible. Throughout each year of service, council members participate in planning meetings, conference calls, receptions, and other events as official representatives of the AMC and the AACR. AMC members are expected to participate in monthly conference calls, attend all Annual Meetings during their term, attend an annual face-to-face planning meeting mid-year in Philadelphia, and periodically contribute to written materials. Typically, during the second or third year of service, AMC members are requested to chair various planning subcommittees.

Overall, potential applicants should be aware that serving on the AMC requires year-round contributions and regular participation in activities. Again, on average, the AACR strives to keep the workload and time commitment for each AMC member fairly manageable.

Notes from previous AMC Members about serving on the council:

  •  "It exceeded my expectations. The people were so amazing to work with that they felt like friends..."
  • "Being part of the AMC was a great experience, and it was nice to contribute to programs for early-career scientists."
  • "I had a great time serving on the AMC, and thoroughly enjoyed contributing to its activities. It was a unique experience...I have learned a lot from interacting with the AACR staff and other AMC members."
  • "For me, there were really two primary reasons for being on the AMC. One was gaining leadership experience and connections in order to be able to make a bigger impact in cancer research down the line; the more important one to me, however, was helping other early-career scientists find their way in light of the changing landscape of cancer research."

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