AACR Fellowships to Further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cancer Research
The AACR Fellowships to Further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cancer Research has been established to support the development of highly talented cancer researchers from under-represented groups (as per NIH guidelines). Eligibility is limited to members of racial or ethnic groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in the cancer related sciences.
Desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT) is an aggressive sarcoma with a long-term survival rate under 30%. Despite intensive treatment with chemotherapy, whole-abdomen radiation, and surgery, the majority of patient’s relapse. Immunotherapy (IT) and radioimmunotherapy (RIT) have the potential to cure metastatic disease. Dr. Espinosa-Cotton is set to test bispecific antibody (BsAb)-based IT and RIT directed against proven targets B7-H3 and HER2, and the novel target CD24. In Aim 1, T cell-engaging BsAbs (T-BsAbs) against these targets will be tested in an in vivo model of intraperitoneal DSRCT. In Aim 2, Dr. Espinosa-Cotton is planning to use her laboratory’s recently described self-assembling, disassembling (SADA) platform for pre-targeted RIT. In Aim 3, single nuclei RNA-seq and multiplexed ion beam imaging (MIBI) will be used to characterize the tumor microenvironment of DSRCT.
Dr. Espinosa-Cotton earned a PhD in Free Radical and Radiation Biology from the University of Iowa in 2018 where she conducted research on interleukin-1 signaling in head and neck cancer. Following completion of her PhD work, she accepted a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She currently works as a Research Associate, developing bispecific antibody-based immunotherapy and radioimmunotherapy for desmoplastic small round cell tumor.
Acknowledgement of Support
This fellowship will allow me to continue my research for an additional 2 years, during which I hope to bring one of my antibodies to human trials. This additional time will also allow me to publish several in progress manuscripts, significantly improving my prospects on the academic job market.
Gastric cancer (GC) represents a leading cause of incidence and mortality in Latinos. Latinos are ~2-fold more likely to be diagnosed and die of GC, when compared to Non-Latino Whites. This research project aims to identify variants associated with GC risk in patients of Latino ancestry. Whole-exome sequencing of 500 patients diagnosed with early-onset GC and/or who had family history of cancer was performed to identify novel and previously reported mutations in GC. A selection of variants with predicted impact on the phenotype will be tested in gastric preneoplasia biopsies using duplex sequencing, a highly sensitive method to detect rare mutations with ultra-depth sequencing. Variants with likely functional consequences for tumor initiation and/or progression will be selected to generate isogenic gastric organoids to investigate their effect on proliferation, differentiation, and gene expression. This study aims to generate a body of knowledge useful for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of GC.
Ana Estrada-Florez is a post-doctoral researcher in the Carvajal-Carmona Lab at the UC Davis Genome Center. She received a MSc in Biology from the University of Tolima in 2012 and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from University of Caldas in 2019. During her MS and PhD, her research used epidemiology approaches, exome sequencing, and genome-wide association studies to dissect the role of environmental and genetic factors in thyroid cancer risk. Her current research is focused on the genetics of gastric cancer, the second most common cause of cancer death worldwide, with highest incidence in Asia and Latin America.
Acknowledgement of Support
As a Latina born and educated in Colombia, I am honored with this outstanding fellowship to continue working in this relevant field. My goal is to contribute toward closing the gap of research in minority populations, to improve the health and wellbeing of my ethnic group, and the community in general.