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Dr. Camila dos Santos on Impact of Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Award

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Career Development Awards for Translational Breast Cancer Research represent a joint effort to promote and support innovative research designed to accelerate the discovery, development, and application of new agents to treat breast cancer and/or for pre-clinical research with direct therapeutic intent.

An Assistant Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Camila dos Santos, PhD, received one of the two career development awards given in 2018. She set out to mechanistically investigate how pregnancy-induced changes block cancer progression and alter the gland immune environment. A key tool in her investigations was a mouse model of pregnancy-induced protection that she had developed in her laboratory. Now, an Associate Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Dr. dos Santos shared how her career development award made an impact on her research and career.

What has inspired you to focus your research on mechanisms that prevent breast cancer?

Decades of amazing research have improved our understanding of breast cancer risk and treatment. However, a substantial fraction of women that develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease nor known genetic alterations that would indicate high risk. In addition, disease relapse after breast cancer treatment targets over 30% of breast cancer survivors. Thus, expanding our understanding regarding the initial stages of cancer development will for sure allow for the development of strategies to prevent breast cancer and improve disease-free survival across all stages of breast cancer progression.    

What do you consider the most important scientific advance(s) made, at least in part, because of your AACR-supported grant?

With the support of the AACR-BCRF Young Investigator Award my lab was able to develop and characterize new models of breast cancer development to dissect the interaction between epithelial cells and breast immune microenvironment during normal breast development, and how such interaction may be leveraged for breast cancer prevention.

How has this grant allowed you to pursue research that would not have been otherwise possible?

As a young investigator, the AACR-BCRF provided the funds for the pursuit of high-risk questions that would not be otherwise funded by other award mechanisms.

Please briefly describe the effect, if any, of being an AACR-supported grant recipient may have had on your career. For example, additional funding, increased collaboration opportunities, etc.

In additional to critical funding, the AACR-BCRF award provided me with an incredible network of scientists, which increased collaboration opportunities, including additional federal funded awards.

Since 1993, the AACR grants program has contributed to the development of new and improved approaches to cancer treatment and cure. What is your vision for the future of breast cancer research?

I believe that the new insights coming from immunotherapies, 3-D organoid models and single cell strategies will improve our ability to target breast cancer of all grades, to develop personalized strategies to block disease development, and to define biomarkers to better predict disease relapse.