My interest in cancer research stems from caring for my grandfather who passed away due to terminal prostate cancer. With his passing, I became interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that govern the development of cancer and drug resistance. For my PhD training through the Oregon Health & Science University’s Medical Scientist Training Program, I chose to work with Brian J. Druker, MD. He is a world-recognized expert in cancer cell signaling and mechanisms of drug resistance to targeted agents. I am also co-mentored by Cristina E. Tognon, PhD, and Elie Traer, MD, PhD, who are well-versed in mechanisms of drug resistance and the tumor microenvironment.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is the deadliest hematological malignancy, with a large percentage of patients relapsing. Growing evidence suggests that mesenchymal stromal cells found within the bone marrow microenvironment protect AML cells and, thereby drive drug resistance and relapse. However, it is unknown if all stromal cells contribute to this process or if certain stromal subpopulations expand and predominate in the marrow microenvironment to support the survival of leukemia cells. As such, the overarching goal of my research is to define the pathological stromal landscape that drives AML drug resistance and seek new therapeutic targets to improve patient outcomes.
My ultimate career goal consists of developing a productive cancer research laboratory while maintaining a tightly integrated clinical practice at an academic medical center. I intend to pursue research focused on understanding the contribution of the tumor microenvironment in mediating drug resistance with the eventual goal of harnessing this knowledge to improve the lives of patients with cancer. I have greatly benefited from the annual AACR conferences and look forward to working with the AMC to further enhance the experience of young investigators in cancer research.