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Advancing Your Career in Cancer Research

Wednesday, May 19, 11:45 am-1:45 pm ET

Organized by AACR Science Education and Career Advancement Committee, Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council, Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council, and Associate Member Council (AMC), we are pleased to offer this highly interactive Professional Advancement session in which experienced AACR members will share their views on different career opportunities in cancer research with interested early-career scientists. Participants will have the opportunity to meet with AACR members who have extensive experience and insight into the various career opportunities available to the next generation of researchers. The ability to have personal discussions with experts will enhance the knowledge base of young scientists and will provide them with potential opportunities for the next steps in their careers.


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Please contact us at [email protected] with any questions.

Pre-Registration is required and exclusively to AACR Virtual Annual Meeting 2021 registrants.


Session Co-Chairs:

Kathleen W. Scotto, PhD, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Steven M. Dubinett, MD, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Los Angeles, California

Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 

The session will focus on informal breakout discussions between the mentors and the participants. There will be 15 distinguished cancer research mentors from either academia, industry, or government. The mentors will accommodate approximately nine attendees at varying career levels/stages. The participants are invited to informally speak with a round-table mentor for approximately a half-hour. After the first half-hour, attendees will be provided the opportunity to change tables/mentors and continue networking. The mentors will generally network, answer questions related to professional development in the basic, clinical, translational, and population cancer research fields and provide advice regarding the future of cancer research. 

2021 Participating Senior Scientists

Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD

Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD

Professor, Oncology and Pharmacology

Mayo Clinic

Rochester, Minnesota

Alex A. Adjei is a Consultant in Oncology, Professor of Oncology and Pharmacology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. He is the Director of the Early Cancer Therapeutics and lung cancer programs and is co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Mayo Cancer Center. Dr. Adjei has served on a number of NCI committees. From 2007 to 2013, he was Chair of the NIH Study Section NCRR Clinical Research Review Committee, reviewing CTSAs. From 2010 – 2014, he was a Member of the Clinical Oncology Study Section, and from 2013-2017, he was a member of NCI IRG Subcommittee A, reviewing Cancer Centers. He is currently co-chair of the Thoracic Malignancies Steering Committee. He has served on various committees of professional societies. He was the President of the Minorities in Cancer Research Council of AACR and a member of the Board of Directors of IASLC and is currently Faculty Coordinator for Developmental Therapeutics and member of the Gender Medicine Task Force of ESMO. Dr. Adjei is serving on the Committee on Diagnosing and Treating Adult Cancers of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology and JTO Clinical and Research Report. Dr. Adjei’s research is focused on experimental therapeutics and clinical drug development. He received the first American Society of Clinical Oncology Drug Development Research Professorship 2012-2017, in recognition of his mentorship and his work in cancer drug development. He also received the inaugural IASLC Adi F. Gazdar Merit Award for Distinguished Service in Lung Cancer, in 2020.

Work hard, give your best and don’t be afraid to fail.

Keywords: drug development, regulatory science, early phase clinical trials, pharmacogenomics, health disparities

David D. Chang, MD, PhD

President and CEO

Allogene Therapeutics, Inc.

South San Francisco, California

A scientist at heart, David is inspired by the idea that the best science is yet to come. He has worked with scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals building new biotechnology companies at the forefront of modern medicine. Previously, as EVP, Research 7 Development and Chief Medical Officer at Kite, David helped pioneer the development of the first CAR T therapy to receive FDA approval for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Now, as the President, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Allogene, he is working to revolutionize how cancer is treated by developing allogeneic CAR T (AlloCAR T™) therapies, the next-generation of CAR T therapies.

Lisa M. Last Coussens, PhD

Lisa M. Last Coussens, PhD

Chairwoman, Department of Cell, Developmental, and Cancer Biology; Associate Director for Basic Research, Knight Cancer Institute

Oregon Health & Science University

Portland, Oregon

Dr. Coussens is Chairwoman of the Department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology, and Associate Director for Basic Research in the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Sciences University, and holds the Hildegard Lamfrom Endowed Chair in Basic Science. Dr. Coussens’ research focuses on disecting the roles of normal immune cells in regulating various facets of solid tumor development, identifying leukocyte activities that are co-opted by early tumors to support ongoing cancer development, and in understanding the role leukocytes play in regulating responses to cytotoxic, targeted and immune-based therapies. Utilizing mouse models of mesothelioma, cutaneous, head and neck, pancreas and mammary carcinoma, her research identified critical immune-regulated pathways for therapeutic targeting that are being clinically translated in combination with chemotherapy in women with metastatic triple negative breast cancer, pancreas cancer, and head & neck squamous cancer. In recognition of her research contributions for revealing underlying mechanisms of cancer development, Dr. Coussens’ has been acknowledged with multiple awards in recognition of her scientific contributions including the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Gertrude B. Elion Award (2001), the AACR-Women in Cancer Research Charlotte Friend Memorial Lectureship (2012), the 13th Rosalind E. Franklin Award from the National Cancer Institute (2015), a Doctor in Medicine (honoris causa) from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina (2018), the 12th AACR-Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship (2018), a Career Award from the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (2018), the 2018 Susan G. Komen Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science, and recently elected as Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS; 2018) and Fellow of the AACR Academy (2019).

Seek out senior mentor for both short term advise, as well as long-term career trouble shooting.

Keywords: tumor immunology, sold tumor mouse models, preclinical studies, inflammation

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MD

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MD

Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

New York, New York

Lisa M. DeAngelis, MD, is Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). She oversees all clinical services, research, medical education, and multi-center collaborations for MSK, including the 500-bed Memorial Hospital, 13 outpatient facilities in New York City, and seven regional care sites across New York and New Jersey.

Dr. DeAngelis is an internationally recognized expert in brain cancer and the neurological complications of cancer treatment, including cognitive impairment and stroke. During her thirty-year tenure at MSK, she served as chair of the Department of Neurology from 1997 to 2018, and co-founded MSK’s Brain Tumor Center, where experts from across MSK work to bring new discoveries from the lab to patients as quickly as possible. Dr. DeAngelis’ own research has focused on primary brain tumors and she has led several clinical trials that investigate new tumor therapies. She also helped develop the current regimen to treat primary central nervous system lymphoma.

She is the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 130 book chapters and has written or edited eight books. Dr. DeAngelis is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Neurological Association (ANA) and former Vice Chair of the Board. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), which in 2019 awarded her the organization’s highest honor, the Wartenberg Lecture.

Stay focused and prioritize your research. Don’t let clinical responsibilities overwhelm you.

Keywords: clinical trials, Neuro-oncology, brain tumors

Caroline Dive, PhD

Caroline Dive, PhD

Interim Director CRUK Manchester Institute

CRUK Manchester Institute

Alderley Park, Cheshire, United Kingdom

Upon completing her PhD studies in Cambridge, Professor Caroline Dive established a research group at Aston University’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Birmingham studying mechanisms of drug induced tumour cell death, before moving to The University of Manchester to continue this research. Caroline was awarded a Lister Institute of Preventative Medicine Research Fellowship before joining the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute (CRUK MI) in 2003. Currently, she is Interim Director of the Institute and Director of the CRUK MI Cancer Biomarker Centre, a multidisciplinary centre with expertise in pre-clinical pharmacology and molecular biology, biomarker discovery, and developing and validating liquid biopsy assays for clinical trial utility and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) compliant molecular assays for clinical decision making, as well as bioinformatics and digitalising of clinical trials.

Caroline has attracted several prizes and awards throughout her career, most notably; Pasteur-Weizmann/Servier International Prize (2012), AstraZeneca Prize for Women in Pharmacology (2016), International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Heine H. Hansen Lectureship Award (2019), inaugural Johann Anton Merck Award (2020), IASLC Mary J. Matthews Translational Distinguished Service Award (2021). In 2017, Caroline was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to cancer research. She is an elected Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society (2012), the Academy of Medical Sciences (2015) and EMBO (2020). Caroline is the current President of the European Association for Cancer Research (2020 – 2022).

My career path has been a mix of determined grasping of unexpected opportunities and careful planning. A top tip is to look for the next important scientific development and get in there early (for me it was apoptosis and later on liquid biopsies). Develop a ‘rhino skin’ to become resilient, learn to multi-task as soon as possible, work life blending is key, read widely and most of all enjoy you your science.

Keywords: biomarkers in clinical trials, liquid biopsies, team science, small cell lung cancer

Steve Dubinett, MD

Steve Dubinett, MD

Professor of Medicine, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research

University of California, Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Steve Dubinett first became interested in lung cancer immunology research while a pulmonary research fellow in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital. There he took part in the first clinical trial using tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes to treat patients with cancer. While some of the patients with renal cancer and melanoma had very dramatic anti-tumor responses, the patients with lung cancer did not respond to the therapy. After moving to UCLA in 1988, he began his research program focusing on understanding why lung cancer patients were not responding to immunotherapy. He has studied the role of immunity and inflammation in the pathogenesis of lung cancer, leading to the translation of laboratory studies to clinical trials. This has led to research related to immunity and inflammation in the early pathogenesis of lung cancer, currently funded by Stand Up to Cancer-LUNGevity-ALA Dream Team in Lung Cancer Interception, the NCI Human Tumor Atlas Network, NCI Early Detection Research Network, NCI Molecular Characterization Laboratory Program, the VA Lung Precision Oncology Program, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. His laboratory is assessing in situ vaccination with CCL21 gene-modified autologous dendritic cells in combination with pembrolizumab for the treatment of advanced non-small cell lung cancer.

Curiosity, persistence and collaboration are my pillars in cancer research. “Here, on the edge of what we know, in contact with the ocean of the unknown, shines the mystery and the beauty of the world. And it is breathtaking.” – Carlo Rovelli

Keywords: tumor immunology, lung cancer, premalignancy

David M. Hyman, MD

David M. Hyman, MD

Chief Medical Officer, Loxo Oncology at Lilly and Lilly Oncology

Loxo Oncology at Lilly

Stamford, Connecticut

David Hyman is a medical oncologist. Dr. Hyman spent the initial part of his career as a practicing academic oncologist with a research focus in target therapy, cancer genomics, and drug development. Dr. Hyman served as Chief of the Early Drug Development service at Memorial Sloan Kettering. He is credited with playing a pivotal role in the creation of ‘basket studies’ and was involved in the approval of several drugs. In January 2020, Dr. Hyman transition to industry where he now serves as Chief Medical Officer for Oncology at Loxo Oncology at Lilly and Lilly Oncology where he helps to lead oncology research and development.

In my career, I’ve always pursued what interested me, what I felt passionate about, and what I truly believed would work. I’ve prioritized the quality of the people I work with over the exact subject matter (disease type, treatment modality, etc).

Keywords: drug development, clinical trials, precision medicine

Jonathan D. Licht, MD

Jonathan D. Licht, MD

Director, University of Florida Health Cancer Center

The University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Jonathan D. Licht, MD, is the Director of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center Dr. Licht’s laboratory studies the role of abnormal function of epigenetic regulators such as histone methyltransferases and demethylases in malignancies such as multiple myeloma and acute lymphoblastic leukemia and recently described a new class of mutations in histones in cancer.

NCI funded for 30 years, Dr. Licht is also Principal Investigator of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Specialized Center of Research. He is an Associate Editor of Oncogene and serves on the editorial boards of Cancer Discovery, Blood Cancer Discovery, Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research. Dr. Licht is chair of the Taskforce for Hematological Malignancies of AACR, and is co-chair of the Medical/Scientific Board of the LLS. Dr. Licht has published over 200 articles, reviews and book chapters and has mentored over 40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and nearly 30 faculty members.

One of the most satisfying parts of research is the ability to learn something no one else known before and to teach others how to uncover such secrets. Mix rigor with creativity, think strategically; learn when to press on and when to abandon false leads. Collaborate and grow by sharing ideas with others.

Keywords: epigenetics, cancer biology, hematological malignancies, mentoring

David Malkin, MD

David Malkin, MD

Senior Scientist/ Oncologist Division of Hematology/Oncology

The Hospital for Sick Children; University of Toronto

Toronto, Canada

Dr. Malkin is Professor of Pediatrics and Medical Biophysics in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. He holds the CIBC Children’s Foundation Chair in Child Health Research, is a Senior Staff Oncologist in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, Director of the Cancer Genetics program, and a Senior Scientist in the Genetics and Genome Biology Program at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Dr. Malkin co-leads the SickKids Precision Child Health initiative. He is co-Director of the SickKids Cancer Sequencing (KiCS) program which integrates and translates next generation sequencing into clinical care of children with cancer, and Director of the pan-Canadian multi-institutional PRecision Oncology For Young peopLE (PROFYLE) initiative which is establishing a pipeline to incorporate next generation sequencing into novel clinical trials (‘precision oncology’) for children and young adults with hard-to-treat cancers across Canada. Dr. Malkin’s research program interests focus on genetic and genomic mechanisms of childhood cancer susceptibility which he has explored particularly in the context of TP53 and Li-Fraumeni syndrome. Recently, his work has addressed the application of genomics to develop rational clinical surveillance and treatment approaches for children and adults at genetic ‘high risk’ for cancer.

My career was guided by serendipitous ‘forks in the road’, unanticipated opportunities along the way, and extraordinary mentorship and role models. Learning how to pivot my research interests keeps the work and my academic life exciting and fulfilling.

Keywords: pediatric oncology; cancer predisposition; precision oncology