​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Personalized Caree​​​r Conve​rsations 2019 

Sunday, March 31, 2019
5 - 7 p.m. ET
AACR Annual Meeting 2019
Atlanta, Georgia

Reigstration is now closed. 

Pre-registration is required and exclusive to AACR Associate Members. 

Organized as a collaborative effort between the Associate Member Council (AMC), Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council, Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council, and the AACR Science Education and Career Advancement Committee, we are pleased to offer this opportunity exclusively as an AACR Associate member benefit to allow early-career researchers with the chance for “personal face time” with esteemed cancer researchers to discuss science and obtain career advice. Each participant will have the opportunity to meet individually with two (2) senior investigators during the session plus have access to multiple other researchers for small group interactions and networking throughout.


The AACR Annual Meeting has always offered a variety of unique opportunities for individuals to meet other cancer research experts, but it can be intimidating for early-career scientists to walk up to a senior scientist at a conference and try to start a conversation. Aimed toward Associate  Member graduate students, medical students and residents, and clinical and postdoctoral fellows, this unique session allows participants to pre-register for the opportunity to individually speak with two (2) preferred senior scientists for 15-minutes each at the Annual Meeting.

Slots are available to meet with scientists who can speak to:
  • Transitioning from a career in academia to industry
  • Experimental therapeutics and clinical drug development
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics
  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology
  • Pediatrics
  • Careers within academia, the federal government, industry, and/or nonprofits
  • International academics and industry
  • Patent applications
  • And much more!

Space is limited and filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Due the unique structure and format of this program, all participants must supply a copy of their CV and confirm that they will be  available to participate once paired with their senior scientist(s). Once confirmed, any individual who does not show up for their meeting may be disqualified from participating in future similar opportunities and applications.


To register, login to myAACR and select “Applications/Awards” across the top menu bar. Once logged in, click “Personalized Career Conversations Registration” to select the senior scientists with whom you would like to meet. Please note that all pairings will be made on a first-come, first-served basis, based on your submission time, and each Associate Member participant will have the opportunity to meet with two (2) senior investigators during the session.

Participating Senior Scientists

Please refer to the list of senior scientists below who are participating at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Participating Senior Scientists from 2019 in Alphabetical Order

Vice President, Translation Sciences
AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP
Waltham, Massachusetts

Dr. Barrett is vice president of translational science in oncology at AstraZeneca. He is responsible for development and execution of  biomarker strategies and translational sciences efforts to support compound development from research through early and full development in oncology. From 2005-2011, he was global head of oncology biomarkers and imaging at Novartis.

Dr. Barrett was the founding director of the NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR), the NCI intramural center for translation medicine. He was also scientific director at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences where he focused on integrating new approaches to toxicogenomics, molecular toxicology, and the Environmental Genome Project. 

Dr. Barrett’s  research  focused on the discovery of the critical genetic and epigenetic changes in the cancer cell, in particular the discovery of genes involved in breast cancer (BRCA1). 

Trained as a chemist at the College of William and Mary, he received his PhD in biophysical chemistry from Johns Hopkins University. He has published over 600 research articles. He is a member of the Johns Hopkins University Society of Scholars, the Ramazini Foundation, an honorary member of the Japanese Cancer Association, and a recipient of multiple NIH awards and keynote lectures.

"Be creative, challenge yourself, be kind and help others some of whom will help you. Enjoy what you do!"

Keywords: Oncology research, translational research, drug development

René Bernards, DPhil
Professor of Molecular Carcinogenesis
Netherlands Cancer Institute
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Dr. Bernards is a professor of molecular carcinogenesis at the Netherlands Cancer Institute. His laboratory uses functional genomic approaches to find vulnerabilities of cancers that can be exploited therapeutically. His laboratory identified the combination of a BRAF inhibitor and an EGFR inhibitor as effective for the treatment of BRAF mutant colon cancer. He also developed the first clinically used gene expression test for early breast cancer prognosis: MammaPrint. Amongst his honors are the Pezcoller Foundation award, the Ernst Bertner Award for Cancer Research from the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the ESMO Lifetime Achievement Award. He is also a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and of the AACR Academy.

 "Of the many qualities that you need to have to be successful as an independent investigator, I would say that being collaborative is the most important, more so than being smart or motivated."

Keywords: cancer genetics; translational science, CRISPR

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A. William Blackstock, MD
Professor and Chair, Department of Radiology
Wake Forest University 
Winston Salem, North Carolina 

Dr. Blackstock is professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Wake Forest University (WFU) School of Medicine and Director of the Clinical Research Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He received his undergraduate degree from WFU and his medical degree from the East Caroline University Brody School of Medicine. He completed a residency in radiation oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a three-year NCI-funded fellowship in translational radiation oncology. He has been chair at WFU for the past eight years.

Dr. Blackstock remains active in translational clinical research, having served as vice-chair of the GI Committee in the Alliance/CALGB cooperative group and co-vice chair of the Radiation Oncology committee. In addition to serving on the NCI Clinical Oncology study section (2003-2006), he served on the NCI Pancreatic Task Force, Gastrointestinal Steering committee and co-chair of the Thoracic Malignancy Steering Committee (2013-2016). He recently completed service on the NCI Board of Scientific Counsel Intramural Program.

Dr. Blackstock has been the lead investigator of several NCI-funded grants including principal investigator of an NCI-funded T32 fellowship focused on translational radiation oncology. He currently serves on the external advisory board for several NCI/NIH funded training programs. He has served as faculty for the Methods in Clinical Research workshops in Vail and in the Netherlands. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has/is currently serving on the editorial board for several journals.

"Like most things in life, it's about creating opportunities and having the wisdom (or a mentor with the wisdom), to identify those opportunities that will keep life interesting."

Keywords: translational, radiation modifiers, health disparities

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Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, FAFPHM
Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery, Associate Director, Prevention and Control, Alvin J Siteman Cancer Center, Chief, Division of Public Health Sciences
Washington University School of Medicine; Alvin J Siteman Cancer Center
Saint Louis, Missouri

Dr. Colditz is an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention. As an epidemiologist and public health expert, he has a longstanding interest in the preventable causes of chronic disease, particularly among women. He focuses his research on early life and adolescent lifestyle, growth, and breast cancer risk. He is also interested in approaches to speed translation of research findings into prevention strategies that work. Dr. Colditz developed the award-winning Your Disease Risk website which communicates tailored prevention messages to the public. He has over 1100 peer-reviewed publications, six books and six reports for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. His h-index is over 220.

In October 2006, Dr. Colditz was elected to membership of the National Academy of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. In 2011, he was awarded the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor for cancer control research. In 2012 he received the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. He also received awards in 2014 for cancer prevention research from ASCO and from AACR. During 2016 he served on the Implementation Science Work Group of the Blue-Ribbon Panel to advise the National Cancer Moonshot. He received the 2018 Daniel P. Schuster Award for Distinguished Work in Clinical and Translational Science, Washington University School of Medicine. He was also elected as a fellow for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2019, Dr. Colditz was appointed to the NIH Council of Councils. 

Keywords: disparities, implementation science, prevention, and academic prevention and control

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Gerardo Colon-Otero, MD
Vice Dean, Mayo Clinic School of Medicine
Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Jacksonville
Jacksonville, Florida

A native from Puerto Rico, Dr. Colon-Otero received his MD from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine. He did his internal medicine and hematology training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and medical oncology training at the University of Virginia. He has been on the staff of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, for the last 32 years and is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. His research focus includes clinical trials in gynecologic oncology and cancer care disparities. He is a member of the AACR MICR Council. He is currently serving as the vice-dean of the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and the dean of the Florida campus.

“Pursue your dreams, with the help of others you can make it.”

Keywords: clinical trials, cancer disparities  

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Channing J. Der, PhD
Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Dr. Der is currently Sarah Graham Kenan distinguished professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his PhD from the University of California, Irvine and he then completed his postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His research has centered on the study of the RAS oncogene and cancer. His has been funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, Lustgarten Foundation, and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. He has authored over 330 publications and is the holder of six patents. He has mentored over 50 post-/30 pre-doctoral fellows. He is a member of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors and the NCI RAS Working Group, and the scientific advisory boards of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Mirati Therapeutics. He has served on numerous editorial boards and as a consultant for numerous pharmaceutical/biotech companies. He is current board member and past president of the Cancer Biology and Training Consortium. His honors include being the recipient of an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award, the Hyman L. Battle Distinguished Cancer Research Award, the University of California, Irvine Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Mentorship Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the Einstein BIH Visiting Fellow Award.

"Stay fresh, reinvent yourself, follow where the science takes you."

Keywords: RAS oncogenes, signal tranduction, anticancer drug discovery

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Caroline Dive, PhD
Professor of Cancer Pharmacology, Senior Group Leader, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group and Deputy Director, CRUK Manchester Institute
University of Manchester
Manchester, United Kingdom

Dr. Dive, CBE, is internationally renowned for advancing circulating biomarker research, with a strong focus on circulating tumor cells (CTCs), particularly in lung cancer. She initially trained as a pharmacist at the University of London. She then studied for her PhD in Cambridge before taking a new blood lectureship at Aston University in Birmingham. Dr. Dive then obtained a Lister Institute fellowship and moved to the University of Manchester where she set a group to study drug induced apoptosis. She became a full professor in 2002 and moved to the CRUK Manchester Institute in 2003. 

Currently, Dr. Dive leads the Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology group (~120 staff) at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, coordinating activities of scientists, bioinformaticians and clinicians. She has validated and implemented pharmacodynamic, prognostic and predictive biomarkers in clinical trials, working in tandem with clinical researchers and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust Cancer Treatment Centre. Her team has integrated reproducible protocols for the molecular profiling of CTCs into clinical trials, enhanced sample analysis for multi-site trials, and developed methods for circulating free DNA and CTC analysis from the same blood sample. She developed unique xenotransplantation models using CTCs enriched from small cell lung cancer patients’ blood samples, providing a fully tractable system for therapy testing and understanding drug resistance mechanisms, a landmark development in the field.

“My first degree in pharmacy gave me a breadth of biomedical knowledge and I spent a professional training year in a general hospital.  My academic career is unusual in as much as I became an independent PI immediately after my three-year PhD without a period as a postdoctoral fellow. This meant that I had to rapidly learn how to write grants and line managed staff! My research career has spanned basic cell biology/pharmacology, with a focus on drug induced apoptosis before I moved to a cancer specific hospital site and set up what has become a very large group (>100 staff) working on biomarkers for personalized medicine for cancer patients with emphasis on liquid biopsies. My advice to early career investigators is enjoy what you do first and foremost, make a road map of what you wish for your career but don't be afraid to deviate from it, and sometimes outside of your comfort zone if/when exciting, unexpected opportunities arise. Learn early on that people are heterogeneous and different approaches are needed to get the best out of staff that you manage.”

Keywords: biomarkers, lung cancer, team science, clinical trials

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Jessie M. English, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer 
Tilos Therapeutics
Lexington, Massachusetts

Dr. English is chief scientific officer of Tilos Therapeutics. Prior to joining Tilos Therapeutics in 2018, Jessie served as VP and head of discovery, Immuno-Oncology Translational Innovation Platform at EMD Serono/Merck KGaA. Her previous positions include head of research at the Belfer Center for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, VP of Kinase Biology at ArQule, oncology site lead for external discovery at Merck, and head of Pfizer's Kinase Center of Emphasis. She began her career in industry at Schering-Plough in oncology discovery. Dr. English earned her PhD in neurobiology from UNC and trained as a post-doc at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Try to enjoy the science along the way. It is a small world-be a good colleague. Persistence and resilience are key."

Keywords: oncology, drug discovery, and translational science

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Manel Esteller, BDS
Director, Cancer Epigenetics Group
Joseph Carreras Research Institute (IJC)
Barcelona, Spain

Dr. Esteller graduated in medicine from the Universitat de Barcelona, where he also obtained his PhD in molecular genetics. Dr. Esteller was a postdoctoral fellow and a research associate at Johns Hopkins where he studied DNA methylation and human cancer. His work was decisive in establishing promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes as a common hallmark of cancer. From 2001 to 2008 Manel Esteller was the leader of the CNIO Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory. Dr Esteller is the director of the Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC) in Barcelona; chairman of genetics in the School of Medicine of the University of Barcelona; and an ICREA research professor. He has been elected as director of the Joseph Carreras Research Institute (IJC). His current research is devoted to the establishment of the epigenome maps in health and disease, and the development of new epigenetic drugs. Author of numerous and highly cited peer-reviewed manuscripts in biomedical sciences, he is also a member of numerous international scientific societies, editorial boards and reviewer for many journals and funding agencies. He has received prestigious recognitions for his scientific achievements among them the World Health Summit Award, the Swiss Bridge Cancer Award and the EACR Cancer Researcher Award Lecture.

"Please keep your drive, excitement, and hard work of your young training years in your further scientific career; with these forces you will be able to overcome any obstacle and hassle in your professional development."
Keyword: epigenetics, epigenomics, DNA methylation, histone modifications

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Judy E. Garber, MD, MPH
Susan F. Smith Professor, Chief, Division of Cancer Genetics and Prevention
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts
Dr. Garber is a medical oncologist and clinical cancer geneticist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Dr. Garber and her group conduct clinical and translational research in inherited cancer susceptibility, cancer prevention and treatment of individuals with increased cancer risks. Much of their work focuses on breast cancer genetics but they have expertise in Li Fraumeni Syndrome and across the spectrum of germline cancer genetics.

"Find something that intrigues you, persevere, collaborate and be willing to try something new. If it works, it will keep you excited about your career."

Keywords: germline cancer genetics, clinical trials, mentorship

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Joanna L. Groden, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Research
University of Illinois
Chicago, Illinois

Dr. Groden currently serves as the vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics in the UIC College of Medicine.  Dr. Groden previously served as professor and vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Cancer Biology and Genetics at The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine. She also served in various administrative roles in the OSU College of Medicine, such as associate dean for basic science research, associate dean for graduate education; and as vice dean for research. She also served as the co-director of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, director of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Pelotonia Fellowship Program and the education program leader for the OSU CTSA-supported Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. 

Dr. Groden’s research emphasis is on human cancer genetics and investigates the role of the BLM helicase in the control of genomic stability and telomere maintenance. Ongoing research also focuses on inherited predisposition to intestinal cancer through studies of WNT signaling and mouse models of intestinal cancer. With numerous publications and patents, Dr. Groden has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association.

"I believe one's career path starts with a love of something. Passion is what drives many of us to study further, to get engaged in a particular field. Training is a key part of how you develop [as a scientist]. Continuing to learn, because you love something, is a very important step in career development.

Ultimately our workforce, including trainees, faculty and leaders should reflect the diversity of the U.S. population and the world. I believe strongly that diversity gives us a greater range of ideas."

Keywords: mouse models of cancer, DNA repair, and colorectal cancer

John D. Groopman, PhD
Edyth H. Schoenrich Professor of Preventive Medicine Departments of Environmental Health and Engineering, Epidemiology and Oncology
John Hopkins University School of Public Health
Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Groopman received his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was also a post-doctoral fellow at MIT. He received further training as a staff fellow at the National Cancer Institute in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis. Dr. Groopman's main research interests involve the development and application of molecular biomarkers of exposure, dose and effect from environmental carcinogens. This work has led to the identification of a very strong chemical-viral interaction between aflatoxin and the human hepatitis B virus in the induction of liver cancer. These biomarkers have also been used in many collaborative molecular epidemiology studies of liver cancer risk and recently employed to assess the efficacy of a number of chemopreventive agents in trials in high-risk aflatoxin-hepatitis B virus exposed populations. This work has led to the collaborative chemoprevention trials in China. Collectively, the research in our laboratory, resulting in over 300 peer-reviewed publications and chapters, focuses on the translation of mechanistic research to public health based prevention strategies. Dr. Groopman also served as a member of the National Advisory Council for the NIEHS and numerous other committees at the national and international level.

"My entire career has been driven by team science with international collaborations focused on the etiology and translation of our basic science to the prevention of liver cancer."

Keywords: molecular epidemiology, cancer prevention, chemoprevention

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James L. Gulley, MD, PhD
Director, Medical Oncology Service
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Bethesda, Maryland

Dr. Gulley is an internationally recognized expert in immunotherapy for cancer. He graduated from Loma Linda University in California with a PhD in microbiology in 1994 and an MD in 1995. As part of this eight-year MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program, he completed a dissertation on tumor immunology. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Emory University in 1998, followed by a medical oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Dr. Gulley serves within the Center for Cancer Research of the National Cancer Institute as chief of the Genitourinary Malignancies Branch (GMB), the director of the Medical Oncology Service, and also head of the Immunotherapy Section within the GMB. He has been instrumental in the clinical development a number of therapeutic cancer vaccines. In addition, he serves as the coordinating principle investigator of several international trials of immunotherapies, one of which led to FDA approval of an immunotherapy called Avelumab.

Dr. Gulley has received numerous awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest award bestowed by the US government on outstanding scientists early in their careers. Dr. Gulley serves on many national and NIH boards and committees. He has been an investigator on more than 120 clinical trials, authored more than 250 scientific papers or chapters, serves on a number of editorial boards of scientific journals and has made hundreds of presentations at national/international meetings.

“Keeping the ‘why’ always in focus will expedite your goals. There is no satisfaction like seeing your ‘baby’ helping patients and getting FDA approved for doing.”
Keywords: immunotherapy, genitourinary malignancies, prostate cancer

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Lee J. Helman, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine, Head, Basic and Translational Research
Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California

Dr. Helman received his MD from the University of Maryland School of Medicine magna cum laude and was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Barnes Hospital, Washington University. Dr. Helman completed training in medical oncology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He did his postdoctoral training in the Molecular Genetics Section, Pediatric Branch, NCI, and then became head of the Molecular Oncology Section, Pediatric Oncology Branch, NCI. He served as chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch from 1997-2007 and as scientific director for clinical research in the Center for Cancer Research, NCI, from 2007 to 2016. He joined Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and the University of Southern California (USC) in 2017 as professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and director of Basic and Translational Research within the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at CHLA and is a member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. He serves as a vice chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee of Stand Up To Cancer, a scientific partner to the AACR. Dr. Helman's laboratory work focuses on the biology and treatment of pediatric sarcomas including rhabdomyosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, osteosarcoma, and pediatric GIST tumors. Major areas of research include the pathophysiologic consequences of IGF signaling, identification of the molecular/biochemical determinants of the biology of sarcomas, and the application of functional genomics to identify new treatment targets.

“Be willing to take risks and have confidence in your unique strengths.”
Keywords: pediatric sarcomas, precision medicine, leadership

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Susan Band Horwitz, PhD
Distinguished Professor, Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research, Associate Director for Therapeutics, Albert Einstein Cancer Center, Co-Chair, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Bronx, New York

Dr. Horwitz has had a continuing interest in natural products as a source of new drugs for the treatment of cancer. Her contributions span several decades of research and encompass agents which have served as prototypes for some of our most important drugs that are currently in clinical use. She made major contributions to our understanding of the mechanisms of action of camptothecin, the epipodophyllotoxins and bleomycin. However, Dr. Horwitz’s most seminal research contribution has been in the development of Taxol®, a drug isolated from the yew plant, Taxus brevifolia.

Dr. Horwitz and her co-workers demonstrated that Taxol®’s antimimotic effects were due to a novel interaction between the drug and microtubules that resulted in stabilized polymers. Dr. Horwitz’s pioneering investigations and perceptive analysis identified Taxol® as a prototype for a new class of antitumor drugs. Although no one was interested in Taxol® when she began her studies, today it is an important antitumor drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of ovarian, breast and lung carcinomas. Dr. Horwitz's research played an important role in encouraging the development of Taxol® by the National Cancer Institute. The drug has since been given to over a million patients.

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Tyler Jacks, PhD
Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, David H. Koch Professor of Biology, Daniel K. Ludwig Scholar, Co-director, Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, and Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT
Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Dr. Jacks is the director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, the David H. Koch professor of biology and an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Over the course of his career at MIT, Dr. Jacks has pioneered the use of gene targeting technology to study cancer-associated genes and to construct models of many human cancer types, including cancers of the lung, brain and ovary. His laboratory has made seminal contributions to the understanding of the effects of mutations of several common cancer-associated genes. This research has led to novel insights into tumor development, normal development and other cellular processes, as well as new strategies for cancer detection and treatment. Dr. Jacks has published more than 300 scientific papers.

Dr. Jacks has served on the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute, is the immediate past chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board, and served as co-chair of Vice President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel. He is an advisor to several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, and is a director of Amgen and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Among many honors, Dr. Jacks is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Fellows of the American Association of Cancer Research Academy. In 2015, he received the Killian Award, the highest honor MIT bestow upon a member of its faculty.

"I always challenge my trainees to ask big questions and to try to incorporate new technologies in pursuit of their answers."

Keywords: mouse models of cancer, cancer genetics, tumor immunology

Ming Lei, PhD
Director, Division for Research Capacity Building
National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institute of Health 
Bethesda, Maryland

Dr. Lei is the director of the Division for Research Capacity Building at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). He oversees the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) and other research capacity-building programs with an annual funding budget of over $430 million. Prior to join the NIGMS in 2018, he was the deputy director of Center for Cancer Training, and the chief of Cancer Training Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where he oversaw NCI’s Fellowships, Career Development Awards and Institutional Training and Education grant programs. Prior to that, he was a program leader at the National Science Foundation, managing its research grant portfolio in Molecular Biology, Genetics and Genomics.

Dr. Lei earned a PhD from Cornell University. He pursued an academic career prior to his governmental service, he was an NIH-R01 principal investigator studying the regulation of DNA replication, and a professor teaching genetics and microbiology.

"If it is easy, everybody else would be doing it."
Keywords: genetics, mentoring, capacity-building

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Christopher I. Li, MD, PhD
Head of the Translation Research Program
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Washington

Dr. Li completed his MD at the University of California, San Francisco and his PhD in epidemiology at the University of Washington. He is the head of the Translational Research Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and is a research full professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Washington. His research projects span breast and colorectal cancer early detection/screening, etiology, and survivorship. He has expertise in cancer epidemiology and experience in the design, leadership, and completion of studies of cancer.

 Dr. Li currently leads the following research projects: 1. A large population-based study of different molecular subtypes of breast cancer aimed at elucidating their risk factors and discovering and validating novel subtype-specific tumor-based markers useful for predicting risk of disease recurrence; 2. A nested case-control study of women with DCIS who did and did not go on to develop a second breast cancer aimed at developing novel epidemiologic, clinical, and molecular approaches for guiding clinical decision making for DCIS patients; 3. Discovering and validating novel blood-based markers useful for the early detection of breast and colorectal cancer; 4. Characterizing risk factors for second primary breast, lung, colorectal, and endometrial cancers among breast cancer survivors; and 5. A prospective cohort of newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients focused on the identification of novel biomarkers for predicting risk of recurrence. In addition, he co-leads the Seattle-Puget Sound Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) cancer registry and the Coordinating Center for the NCI Population-based Research to Optimize the Screening Process (PROSPR) network consortium.

 “Being open to new ideas and new collaborations has been critical to my research program throughout my career.”
Keywords: epidemiology, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, disparities

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Richard M. Marais
Director and Professor of Molecular Oncology
Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute 
Manchester, United Kingdom

Dr. Marais is director of the CRUK Manchester Institute and professor of molecular biology at The University of Manchester, U.K. His studies on BRAF and cell signaling have significantly advanced our understanding of melanoma biology and aetiology. He has translated his basic research discoveries into clinical implementation, improving patient outcomes, elucidating mechanisms of drug resistance and developing new drugs against BRAF and other cancer targets. His research informs innovative clinical trial designs with signal seeking biomarkers to monitor therapy responses and optimize patient treatment. His research also highlights the importance of combining sunscreen with other sun avoidance strategies to reduce population melanoma risk. With colleagues, he received the 2012 AACR Team Science Award for cancer drug discoveries. He received the 2017 Translational and Clinical Research Award from The ARC Foundation Léopold Griffuel Awards, and the 2017 Outstanding Research Award from The Society of Melanoma Research. In 2018 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. 

Dr. Marais continues to study the basic biology of melanoma and other cancers in order to deliver better treatment strategies for patients and he is dedicated to providing exceptional training for the next generation of multi-disciplinary cancer researchers.

"Support and mentorship has been invaluable throughout my career. It is important to surround yourself with those that celebrate your successes, instead of feel threatened by them. It is also critical to have external mentors and friends, who are within your field, but not within your institute."

Keywords: melanoma, cell biology, translational research, clinical trials

Lorelei Mucci, ScD, MPH
Associate Professor, Epidemiology
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Mucci is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Program for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Her research uses integrative molecular epidemiology approaches to study cancer risk and progression. She is the co-director for the annual AACR Integrative Molecular Epidemiology Workshop.

Her career has taken unexpected paths which have opened amazing new opportunities - being open to "serendipity" and risk taking in exploring these unknown paths can be rewarding.

Keywords: biomarkers, molecular epidemiology, prostate cancer

Morag Park, PhD
Director, Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Research Centre 
McGill University
Montréal, Quebec, Canada 

Dr. Morag Park is a professor in the departments of oncology and biochemistry and joined McGill in 1989. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, James McGill professor and holds the Diane and Sal Guerrera chair in cancer genetics at McGill University. Dr. Park received bachelors of science with first class honors from the University of Glasgow, a PhD in viral carcinogenesis at the Medical Research Council Virology Institute in Scotland and completed postdoctoral training at the National Institutes for Cancer Research in Washington D.C. 

She joined McGill University in 1988. She was the director of the Molecular Oncology Group at the McGill University Hospital Centre (2006-8), scientific director of the Institute of Cancer Research for the CIHR (2008-13), co-chair of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance (2008-2010) and is now director of the Goodman Cancer Research Centre (2013-present). Dr. Park is a research leader in the field of receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and mechanisms of oncogenic activation of RTKs in human cancers. She has recently developed leadership in the breast cancer microenvironment. She is the elected chair of the Tumor Microenvironment Network of the American Association for Cancer Research (2015-2017). She is a recipient of a Canadian Cancer Research Alliance Award (2015) for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research, and also a recipient of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences Arthur Wynne Gold Medal Prize (2016) for having made major contributions to biochemistry, molecular and cell biology in Canada, Most recently she is a recipient of the Canadian Cancer Society's 2017 Robert L. Noble Prize. She has more than 200 publications.

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Robert Radinsky, PhD
Vice President, Oncology Scientific Innovation
Janssen Research and Development, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Radinsky represents the Oncology Therapeutic Area in Johnson & Johnson Innovation. In this role, he is responsible for identifying and fostering innovation that supports the Oncology Therapeutic Area strategies. Prior to this role, he led Discovery Research, Oncology Therapeutic Area, for Janssen Research & Development.

Dr. Radinsky has had a very successful oncology research career in both academics and industry. Prior to joining Janssen, he was executive director, Oncology Research at Amgen Inc., where he led groups at multiple research sites including Thousand Oaks, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was responsible, in part, for research and/or pharmacology for numerous active targeted therapeutic anticancer programs (protein, small molecule and nanotechnology modalities), culminating with multiple candidates in clinical trials and an approved drug for the treatment of colorectal carcinoma.

Before joining the industry 15 years ago, Dr. Radinsky was on the faculty at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, first serving as an American Cancer Society postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Cell Biology, and eventually becoming a tenured associate professor in the Department of Cancer Biology. He continued as an adjunct professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center after joining the industry. Dr. Radinsky has published more than 135 peer-reviewed articles, holds multiple patents, and is a present/past member of numerous societies.

Dr. Radinsky earned his doctorate in molecular biology and microbiology from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and Bachelor of Science degree in cell and developmental biology from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

“Never give up. Believe in yourself. Utilize trusted mentors/network along your career journey.”
Keywords: Innovation, Networking, Preclinical, Clinical, Tumor Biology, Metastasis

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Timothy R. Rebbeck, PhD
Vincent L Gregory Jr. Professor of Cancer Prevention
Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Rebbeck is the professor of cancer epidemiology, at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. His research focuses on the genetic and molecular epidemiology of cancer. Dr. Rebbeck has directed multiple molecular epidemiologic studies and international consortia to identify and characterize genes that are candidates for involvement in cancer etiology, and to describe the relationship of allelic variation with biochemical or physiological traits, cancer occurrences, and cancer outcomes. His research also focuses on the roles of these factors on prostate cancer disparities and prostate cancer in Africa. Dr. Rebbeck’s research uses a multidisciplinary approach that combines methods from epidemiology, statistics, molecular biology, and classical genetics.

It's not enough to just work hard. It's not enough to do a great job. To be successful, you need to learn how to really communicate and connect with others. Connecting is the ability to  identify  with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them. - John Maxwell

Keywords: epidemiology, cancer prevention, cancer disparities

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Louis M. Staudt
Co-chief of the Lymphoid Malignancies Branch, NIH Distinguished Investigator, and Director of the Center for Cancer Genomics
NCI-Center for Cancer Research 
Bethesda, Maryland 

Dr. Staudt received his BA from Harvard College in 1976, graduating cum laude in biochemistry. He received his MD and PhD degrees in 1982 from the University of Pennsylvania. His PhD thesis revealed somatic hypermutation as a mechanism of rapid antibody diversification during normal immune responses. Following internal medicine training, he joined David Baltimore's laboratory at the Whitehead Institute where he cloned and characterized the first tissue specific transcription factor, Oct-2. In 1988, he established his laboratory at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which now focuses on the molecular basis for human lymphoid malignancies and the development of targeted therapies for these cancers. Dr. Staudt is currently co-chief of the Lymphoid Malignancies Branch in the NCI. In addition, he serves as director of the NCI Center for Cancer Genomics, which oversees several large-scale managed programs studying the genomic aberrations in cancer. In 2011, Dr. Staudt was given the honorary title of NIH distinguished investigator. He has received numerous awards for his research, including the 2009 Dameshek Prize from the American Society of Hematology for outstanding contribution in hematology and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

Elizabeth Travis, PhD
Associate Vice President, FASTRO
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Dr. Travis is the associate vice president, Women and Minority Faculty Inclusion, and Mattie Allen Fair professor in cancer research in the departments of Experimental Radiation Oncology and Pulmonary Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. As associate vice president for women faculty, Dr. Travis is a consummate advocate for women and minority faculty and committed to furthering their academic careers by ensuring that they are appointed to high profile committees and leadership positions and are nominated for awards, by leading institutional policy change to address obstacles that interfere with their success, and by providing career guidance to countless women and minority faculty. She publishes and speaks extensively on sponsorship as a path to leadership for women and minority faculty. Dr. Travis’s scientific research interest is in the complications of cancer treatments, primarily in the lung, which has made significant contributions to our understanding of the effects of radiation on normal tissues.

She is a fellow of the American Society of Radiation Oncology, recipient of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Group on Women in Medicine and Science Leadership Development Award for an individual (2009) and for an institution (2012), and recipient of the 2014 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award by The American Association for Women Radiologists.
Dr. Travis serves as a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and is past chair of the Steering Committee of the Group on Women in Medicine and Science of the AAMC. Dr. Travis serves as a member of the board of directors of the Association for Women in Science.
Dr. Travis serves on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council. In 2012, she was inducted into the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame in 2012, elected a member of the board of directors of the Chamber in 2013, and served as chair of the board in 2017.

Dr. Travis is a principal investigator on two NIH grants: a U54 partnership grant with Puerto Rico, “Partnership for Excellence in Cancer Research,” and a recently completed R01 grant “Gatekeepers and Gender Schemas,” which seeks to understand the role that gender plays in choosing faculty for tenure track positions. Her submitted NIH R25 grant is  focused on establishing a mentored cancer research and training program for high school and undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds in the Houston area with the goal of enhancing the pool of individuals from such backgrounds interested in pursuing a career in biomedical research.

“They can say yes or they can say no, but if you don’t ask you won’t get anything.”

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Andreas Trumpp, PhD
Managing Director and Head of Division Stem Cells and Cancer
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and HI-STEM gGmbH
Heidelberg, Germany

Dr. Trumpp is heading the Division of “Stem Cells and Cancer” at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany and is Managing Director of the “Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine” (HI-STEM gGmbH). After obtaining his PhD at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories (EMBL) in Heidelberg, in 1994 he moved to the University of California at San Francisco to work on the oncogene MYC with Prof. J. Michael Bishop. After starting his independent laboratory at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in Epalinges/Lausanne in 2000, he became Professor at the EPFL in Lausanne in 2005. Since 2008 his lab is located in Heidelberg.

Dr. Trumpp is internationally renowned for his contribution to the molecular and cellular basis of normal and malignant stem cell self-renewal as well as the role of MYC in stem cells and cancer. His work established the concept of dormancy in hematopoietic and pluripotent stem cells and his team recently identified a novel pathway in leukemic stem cells linking metabolic traits to epigenetic alterations in AML stem cells. The group has also isolated and characterized circulating metastasis stem cells in the blood of breast cancer patients and identified a novel mechanism that mediates resistance of pancreatic tumors to clinically used drugs. He has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers among them numerous senior authorships in Nature, Cell, Science, Cell Stem Cell, Nature Cell Biology and Nature Medicine (H-index: 57).

"Choose your project and mentor wisely! This will be pivotal for your future career. A summary on my approach regarding mentoring was recently published in Cell Stem Cell: Mentoring the Next Generation: Andreas Trumpp."

Keywords: leukemic and cancer stem Cells, resistance mechanism in cancer, breast cancer, circulating tumor cells (CTCs), single cell technologies

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Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil
Director, Abramson Cancer Center at Penn
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dr. Vonderheide is director of the Abramson Cancer Center and the John H. Glick, MD, Abramson Cancer Center’s Director professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an international leader in pancreatic cancer immunobiology. He leads the NCI P30 CCSG grant as well as an NCI P01, a SU2C-Lustgarten Team on Pancreatic Cancer Immunotherapy, and a Parker Institute randomized study of immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer. Vonderheide’s laboratory combines efforts in both basic research and clinical trials to advance the understanding of tumor immunology and to develop novel immunotherapies for cancer. His basic research includes deciphering the immunobiology of novel genetically engineered mouse models of cancer, including the regulation of immune surveillance and the tumor microenvironment by CD40. He is a well-known for his mentorship of junior investigators; and he serves as deputy editor of AACR’s Cancer Immunology Research. His translational work tests novel approaches such as vaccines, antibodies, and adoptive T cells for the treatment of patients with pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and melanoma. He has studied ‘universal’ tumor antigens such as hTERT and immune modulatory pathways involving CD40, GM-CSF, CXCR2, PD-1, CTLA-4, and CD25. His work has been published in senior author manuscripts in Nature, Science, and the New England Journal of Medicine.
“True ideas are rare. They are fragile and need support and mentorship.”
Keywords: Cancer immunology and immunotherapy

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Danny R. Welch, PhD
Professor of Cancer Biology
University of Kansas Cancer Center
Kansas City, Kansas

Dr. Welch is a cancer biologist whose laboratory has is best recognized for contributions to understanding the genetic basis of metastasis, having discovered eight metastasis suppressor genes. His laboratory is studying how the metastasis suppressors function and is designing therapies to take advantage of their mechanisms of action. He is author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and more than 20 book chapters. He has trained 12 graduate students and 23 postdoctoral fellows, all of whom have obtained research positions in cancer research in academia, industry and government.

After receiving a BS in Biology from the University of California-Irvine and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas-Houston, Welch worked in the pharmaceutical industry studying cancer biology and virology before joining Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. While in Hershey, Dr. Welch served as a member of the ACS Pennsylvania Division Board of Directors and founding director of the National Foundation for Cancer Research Center for Metastasis Research. In 2002, his laboratory moved to the University of Alabama - Birmingham as the Leonard H Robinson Professor of Pathology and as a senior member in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Center for Metabolic Bone Disease, Gene Therapy Center, Skin Diseases Research Center, Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering and the Biomedical Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Center. In 2011, he founded the  Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, was named Hall Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Molecular Medicine, Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar and Associate Director for Basic Sciences & Education at the NCI-designated University of Kansas Cancer Center. He also developed the graduate programs in cancer biology at the University of Kansas and is Faculty Advisor for the KUMC Postdoctoral Association. He is a Komen Scholar and Past-President of the Metastasis Research Society and the Cancer Biology Training Consortium. He has served on numerous grant review panels for the NIH, DOD, ACS, Komen, European Union as well as other international agencies in addition to his service in numerous roles for AACR and as Deputy Editor of Cancer Research.

“The keys to success is a combination of working hard, working smart and persistence.”

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Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD
Chief, Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service; Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York

Dr. Wolchok is chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service and holds The Lloyd J. Old chair in clinical investigation at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). He is also head of the Swim Across America - Ludwig Collaborative Laboratory; associate director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy (LCCI); SU2C–ACS Lung Cancer Dream Team co-leader and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at MSK. Dr. Wolchok is a clinician-scientist exploring innovative immunotherapeutic strategies in laboratory models, and a principal investigator in numerous pivotal clinical trials. He specializes in the treatment of melanoma. The focus of his translational research laboratory is to investigate innovative means to modulate the immune response to cancer as well as to better understand the mechanistic basis for sensitivity and resistance to currently available immunotherapies.

"It is very important to follow the science and remain persistent, even in the face of criticism and frustration. The science will drive us toward better treatments."

Keywords: CTLA-4, PD-1, melanoma, immunotherapy, biomarkers

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Amina Zoubeidi, PhD
Associate Professor, Vice Chair of Research, Department of Urologic Sciences
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Dr. Zoubeidi is an associate professor and a vice chair of research at the Department of Urologic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia. She is a Michael Smith scholar and was a Terry Fox young investigator and Prostate Cancer Foundation USA young investigator. She received substantial funding from national and international funding agencies as a principal investigator or co-investigator that together total over $14 million in the nine years as a faculty. She was awarded three research teaching awards and two distinguished achievement awards for excellence in basic science from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Zoubeidi mentored six graduate students and 10 post docs that were awarded national and international scholarships and currently holding positions in academia and industry. Her research program aims to uncover how cell plasticity including cancer stem cells and neuroendocrine are mechanisms of hormone therapy resistance in prostate cancer and how this is driven epigenetically and why the transcription factor BRN2 is a major regulator/driver and a promising target for treatment induced neuroendocrine prostate cancer.

“Get the right mentors, use your time wisely, interact with wide range of researchers and be open mind, lead rather than follow, and do good science.”
Keyword: Prostate cancer, target identification, validation and drug discovery, epigenetic, cellular plasticity

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