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Friends of the AACR Foundation Early Career Investigator Award

Philadelphia’s elite cause-driven gala, Party with a Purpose, selected the American Association for Cancer Research as its beneficiary beginning in 2016. Through this partnership, the newly established Friends of the American Association for Cancer Research Scientific Achievement Award will be presented annually to a deserving scientist who has made major contributions to the field of cancer research. The recipient of this award is then given the opportunity to select an early-career investigator to receive the Friends of the AACR Early Career Investigator Award, a $50,000 grant to support an innovative cancer research project.

2018 Friends of the AACR Foundation Early Career Investigator Award

Veronica Rodriguez-Bravo, PhD

Assistant Professor
Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Scientific Statement of Research
Dr. Rodriguez-Bravo studies nuclear hubs controlling genome functions, such as transcription and genome integrity maintenance, and their role in prostate cancer pathogenesis. Her group recently discovered relevant changes in Nuclear Pore (NPC) composition evolutionary landscape during prostate cancer disease progression and that specific nucleoporins (Nups) drive lethal PC enhancing nuclear transport of essential transcription factors driving aggressiveness. Current goals include the study of cooperative nuclear signaling networks modulated by different Nups that control genome homeostasis and contribute to prostate cancer aggressiveness modulating different functions, from direct gene expression to cell cycle checkpoints. To achieve that, she will take a multidisciplinary approach applying genetic, single-cell high-resolution microscopy, biochemical, transcriptomic and computational analysis in prostate cancer experimental cell models, patient samples and preclinical patient-derived models. The goal is to integrate her data to define molecular insights driving disease progression and identify novel targetable mechanisms for prostate cancer.

Biography
Dr. Rodriguez-Bravo is an assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) of Thomas Jefferson University. She obtained her PhD in pathology and cell biology from the University of Barcelona, where she received the Extraordinary Doctorate Award for her studies on dissecting the distinct DNA replication checkpoint mechanisms of tumor cells. During her postdoctoral training at the Experimental Oncology Department of the University Medical Center of Utrecht and at the Molecular and Cell Biology Programs of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she specialized in the study of cell cycle checkpoint responses, chromosome segregation during mitosis and the role of nuclear pores in genome integrity maintenance. Her postdoctoral work allowed her to apply genome-editing techniques to dissect the function of mitotic and nuclear pore proteins in chromosomal stability and resulted in recognition with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Postdoctoral Research Award. She joined SKCC to lead a research group focused on the study of the intricate mechanisms controlling genome function and stability and their contribution to prostate cancer pathogenesis.

Acknowledgement of Support
The Friends of the AACR Early Career Investigator Award will be instrumental to advance pioneering research investigating novel mechanisms driving prostate cancer aggressiveness and progression to a lethal state. This is an unmet clinical need and therefore we aim that our work will lead to novel therapeutic options for prostate cancer patients.

2017 Friends of the AACR Foundation Young Scientist Award

Gina Mantia-Smaldone, MD

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgical Oncology
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Scientific Statement of Research
This 2017 Friends of the AACR Foundation Young Scientist Award will help to support an investigator-initiated trial aimed at examining clinical and immune responses to a novel agent in women with recurrent ovarian cancers.

Biography
Gina Mantia-Smaldone, MD, graduated from SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine, where she was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, and completed an OB/Gyn residency at the Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in ovarian cancer immunology at the Magee-Womens Research Institute of the University of Pittsburgh, followed by a gynecologic oncology fellowship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an assistant professor at the Fox Chase Cancer Center where her research focuses on the immunogenicity of ovarian cancers, including endometriosis-associated ovarian cancers as well as BRCA1 mutated ovarian cancers.

Acknowledgement of Support
Despite the best advances in chemotherapy and surgical management, we are still in critical need of research to prevent and treat ovarian cancer. With funding from this award, I hope to identify novel targets for therapy which will improve the prognosis and quality of life for ovarian cancer patients.