Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Awards for Translational Breast Cancer Research

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Awards for Translational Breast Cancer Research are given to junior faculty to support innovative research designed to accelerate the discovery, development, and application of new agents to treat breast cancer or for preclinical research with direct therapeutic intent.

2020 Grantees

Isaac Harris, PhD

Isaac Harris, PhD

Assistant Professor
The University of Rochester Medical Center
Rochester, New York
Uncovering the roles of extracellular GSH in triple-negative breast cancer

Research
Breast cancers use antioxidants to quench oxidative stress and survive. The most aggressive subtype of breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), has a higher occurrence in younger women and has the poorest outcome. Using mouse modeling and high-throughput drug screening, the Harris laboratory is set to elucidate the extent to which circulating glutathione, the most abundant antioxidant in the body, supports TNBC survival.

Biography
Dr. Harris obtained his PhD at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, where he studied antioxidants using mouse models of breast cancer. He completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, where he developed a high-throughput drug screening platform to understand selective vulnerabilities in breast cancers upon inhibition of antioxidants. He is currently an assistant professor at the Department of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and Wilmot Cancer Institute.

Acknowledgment of Support
It is an honor to receive the 2020 Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Translational Breast Cancer Research. Our laboratory focuses on understanding the roles of antioxidants in breast cancer. The immense support from this award will drive us forward in interrogating circulating antioxidants and developing novel therapeutic strategies for TNBC.

Sheheryar Kabraji, BM BCh

Sheheryar Kabraji, BM BCh

Physician
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts
Overcoming residual disease in HER2+ breast cancer

Research
HER2+ breast cancer recurrences can occur after HER2-targeting therapies due to surviving tumor cells known as residual disease (RD). Based on previous work, Dr. Kabraji hypothesizes that RD is facilitated by quiescent cancer cells that promote an immune-exhausted microenvironment. To test this hypothesis, he and his research group are set to investigate the immune response associated with residual disease after HER2-inhibition, in patients and mouse models. In addition, they plan to determine how quiescent cancer cells promote immune evasion in the setting of RD. Finally, they aim to evaluate combined quiescent cancer cell inhibition and immune checkpoint blockade to eliminate residual disease after HER2 inhibition in HER2+ breast cancer.

Biography
Dr. Kabraji received his medical degree from Oxford University Medical School and completed internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. He completed his medical oncology fellowship in the Dana-Farber/Partners Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program and post-doctoral research at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, where he developed an assay to detect quiescent cancer cells in tissues. He is a breast medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. He studies how cancer cell quiescence promotes drug resistance in localized and metastatic breast cancer.

Acknowledgment of Support
I am deeply grateful to be a recipient of the 2020 Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Award for Translational Breast Cancer Research. This award will support my transition to becoming an independent investigator tackling an understudied mechanism of drug resistance in breast cancer: cancer cell quiescence.

2019 Grantees

Lingtao Jin, PhD

Lingtao Jin, PhD

Assistant Professor
University of Florida College of Medicine
Gainesville, Florida
AGGF1-MCL1 confers paclitaxel resistance in triple-negative breast cancer

Research
Although taxane usually leads to robust clinical response in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), patients frequently develop drug resistance. Biomarkers that identify responding patients to taxane-based chemotherapy are still lacking. Kinome-wide synthetic lethal RNAi screening showed that angiogenic factor with G patch and FHA domains 1 (AGGF1) may play a role in imparting taxane resistance. Dr. Jin is set to interrogate the hypothesis that AGGF1 can confer taxane resistance through controlling the stability of its downstream effector MCL1.

Biography
Dr. Jin received his PhD at the Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China. He completed his postdoctoral training at Emory University, focusing on cancer metabolism and protein kinase signaling. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Florida. His lab focuses on elucidation of metabolic signaling in therapy resistance.

Acknowledgment of Support
We have recently established various research platforms to systematically and rigorously study chemo-resistance. Thus, the 2019 Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Award is invaluable to my career development. It will provide critical support and funding so that I can further investigate the development of chemotherapy resistance in breast cancer.

Aleix Prat, MD, PhD

Aleix Prat, MD, PhD

Associate Professor
Institute for Biomedical Research August Pi i Sunyer
Barcelona, Spain
Tailoring systemic treatment of luminal B breast cancer

Research
There is an urgent need to improve the understanding of the biology and treatment response of luminal B breast cancer. Dr. Prat aims to analyze the genomic features of tumor and blood of patients treated in the neoadjuvant setting in a phase II clinical trial (SOLTI-1402 CORALLEEN), where approximately 100 patients with luminal B breast tumors have been randomized to six-month standard chemotherapy or endocrine therapy and ribociclib, a CDK4/6 inhibitor. He aims to better elucidate the molecular characteristics of luminal B breast cancer and identify biomarkers associated with sensitivity or resistance to chemotherapy versus endocrine therapy in combination with CDK4/6 inhibition.

Biography
Dr. Prat received his medical degree from the University of Barcelona and became a medical oncologist at Hospital Vall d´Hebron University Hospital in 2008. He then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He returned to Barcelona, where he is currently the head of the medical oncology service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and the head of the translational genomics and targeted therapeutics in solid tumors group at IDIBAPS. He is also a member of the executive boards of the Breast International Group (BIG) and SOLTI, a Spanish clinical trial cooperative group.

Acknowledgement of Support
It is my distinct honor to receive this prestigious and influential grant, which will enable me to find newer and smarter ways to treat luminal B breast cancer. This unique opportunity will also facilitate my career progression to become an independent clinical scientist and accomplish my research goals successfully.

2017 Grantee

Bryan R. Smith, PhD

Bryan R. Smith, PhD

Instructor
Stanford University
Stanford, California
Treatment enhancement via specific manipulation of tumor immunosuppression

Research
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) play a key role in the maintenance of an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment that facilitates tumor growth and treatment resistance. Dr. Smith has been building upon previous work in the nanoprecipitation of albumin-based, drug-loaded nanoparticles (NP), by adding biologic targeting agents to preferentially accumulate NP in myeloid cells. By delivering a payload that is preferentially active in MDSCs, he and his research group aim to specifically inhibit MDSC function, thereby leading to restoration of a competent anti-tumor immune response and increased treatment sensitivity.

Biography
Dr. Smith was awarded a doctorate at The Ohio State University in biomedical engineering as an NSF predoctoral fellow. He pursued postdoctoral training at Stanford University, where he is now an instructor in the Department of Radiology and the Molecular Imaging Program. His lab focuses on the development of nano-enabled immuno-imaging and immunotherapy platforms.

Acknowledgement of Support
The 2017 Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career-Development Award for Translational Breast Cancer Research will be invaluable for my career. It jump-starts my nano-immunotherapy program, making possible data to drive future immuno-oncology grants. More importantly, it fast tracks my team’s passionate interest in rapidly getting our technology to the clinic.