AACR-Genentech Cancer Disparities Research Fellowships

The AACR-Genentech Cancer Disparities Research Fellowships represent a joint effort to encourage and support postdoctoral or clinical research fellows to conduct cancer disparities research and to establish a successful career path in this field. Funded research can be basic, clinical, translational, or epidemiological in nature.

2020 Grantees

Tyler A. Allen, PhD

Tyler A. Allen, PhD

Postdoctoral Associate
Duke Cancer Institute
Durham, North Carolina
Interrogating ancestry-related alternative splicing variation in metastasis

Research
African-American men have a higher risk for developing prostate cancer and experience a higher death rate compared to other ethnic groups. Dr. Allen hypothesizes that metastatic prostate cancer (PCa) cells use alternative RNA splicing (ARS) during the metastasis process and that differences in race-related ARS contribute to disparities in prostate cancer metastasis and mortality rates. To test this hypothesis, he is set to molecularly interrogate patient-matched primary and metastatic PCa tissue for ARS variation between the primary and secondary tumor sites. Tissues from equal numbers of patients of African or European ancestry will be analyzed to determine ancestry-related ARS differences between primary and metastatic tissue.

Biography
Dr. Allen earned his PhD in comparative biomedical sciences from the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University, where he was an NCI predoctoral fellow. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Duke Cancer Institute, where he focuses on understanding the role of alternative RNA-splicing in metastasis.

Acknowledgment of Support
It is an honor to be selected for the AACR-Genentech Cancer Disparities Research Fellowship. This fellowship supports a study with significant impact on not only health disparities, but also the molecular understanding of the metastasis process. I am thankful for the award and look forward to helping advance the field with the support of AACR and Genentech.

Rania Bassiouni, PhD

Rania Bassiouni, PhD

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Associate
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Alpha-catenin loss contributes to racial disparity in breast cancer

Research
For reasons not well understood, African-American (AA) women are disproportionately affected by triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), with higher rates of incidence and mortality than Caucasian women. In an effort to distinguish biological factors that contribute to this disparity, Dr. Bassiouni has previously found that loss of the tumor suppressor alpha-catenin is associated with poor survival of AA TNBC patients. In her funded project, she is set to utilize a racially diverse panel of patient-derived tissues to model and study alpha-catenin loss in TNBC. She aims to elucidate the molecular and cellular consequences of alpha-catenin loss that could contribute to aggressive disease and to identify therapeutic opportunities for treatment of AA TNBC.

Biography
Dr. Bassiouni received her PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of Central Florida, where she trained in cancer biology and pre-clinical therapeutic development. She is currently a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Southern California, where she focuses on elucidating molecular mechanisms underlying aggressive triple-negative breast cancer in African-American patients and defining therapeutic opportunities to reverse this disparity.

Acknowledgment of Support
I am greatly honored to be awarded the 2020 AACR-Genentech Cancer Disparities Research Fellowship. With this support, I aim to advance our understanding of cancer health disparities and to ultimately benefit patients disproportionately burdened by disease.

2019 Grantees

Serena Rodriguez, PhD, MPH

Serena Rodriguez, PhD, MPH

Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Dallas, Texas
Assessing cervical cancer screening among resettled refugee women

Research
In the United States, refugee women have significantly lower cervical cancer screening rates compared to American-born women. Dr. Rodriguez is leveraging cohort data from a large safety-net health care system to: 1) characterize cervical cancer screening, follow-up, and outcomes among refugee women, 2) describe barriers to screening and follow-up, and 3) synthesize findings to identify intervention opportunities to increase screening and follow-up among refugee patients.

Biography
Dr. Rodriguez received her PhD from the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, where she was an NCI predoctoral fellow. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where she focuses on improving cancer care delivery for vulnerable patient subpopulations.

Acknowledgment of Support
I am incredibly thankful to be awarded the AACR-Genentech Cancer Health Disparities Research Fellowship. This award supports a study I believe can make a significant impact on refugee health care and cancer health disparities. I am thankful for this opportunity to build my research portfolio as I move towards research independence.

Sumit Siddharth, PhD

Sumit Siddharth, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland
NURR1 contributes to racial disparity of triple-negative breast cancer

Research
Earlier onset, more advanced stage at diagnosis, and aggressive tumor phenotype are some of the characteristic features of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in women with African ethnicity in comparison to European-American women. In addition, mortality from TNBC is significantly higher in African American (AA) women in comparison to European American (EA) women. It is imperative to understand the molecular determinants that drive aggressive progression of AA-TNBC. Based on an in vitro multiple cell line study and meta-analysis of a TNBC cohort, Dr. Siddharth hypothesizes that elevated NURR1 expression in AA-TNBC results in “oncogene addiction” and mediates aggressive progression of AA-TNBC in comparison to EA-TNBC.

Biography
Dr. Siddharth earned his PhD in biotechnology with specialization in cancer biology from KIIT University, India. His thesis research focused on the characterization of distinct pre-metastatic quiescent-breast cancer stem cells (Q-BCSCs) in a model system of breast cancer metastasis. Currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Oncology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, he is working on deciphering the molecular determinants responsible for racial disparity of TNBC progression among AA and EA women.

Acknowledgement of Support
I am extremely honored to be awarded the AACR-Genentech Cancer Health Disparities Research Fellowship 2019. This fellowship will allow me to develop a better understanding of molecular mechanisms driving African-American triple negative breast cancer growth and devise a pathway-specific therapeutic intervention in the future.