HBF is honored and humbled by the enormous reception of our 2022 HBF Inspiration Award. With applications across the US and Europe, our Board and Advisors found so many of the applicants' research concepts extremely promising for the future of early detection and curative therapies. Our only wish is that we could support more winners!
We are proud to present our third annual award to the doctors and researchers noted below.
Anupriya Singhal is a medical oncology fellow in the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Her research interest is in understanding how pancreatic cancer evades response to therapy, with the hope that basic insights into mechanisms of cellular adaptation will open new therapeutic avenues. For her current project, she is studying how treatment resistance evolves in response to KRAS inhibitors, a novel drug class that is expected to have a major impact on the therapeutic paradigm in pancreatic cancer. Her HBF project uses novel genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer to study how specific subpopulations of pancreatic cancer cells evolve over time using lineage tracing and high-resolution genomic approaches. These studies aim to identify vulnerabilities of drug-resistant cell populations and exploit these for benefit to patients. Anupriya is mentored by Dr. Tuomas Tammela, a lab head at Sloan Kettering Institute, and Dr. Eileen O'Reilly and Dr. Kenneth Yu on the Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Service at MSKCC.
Anupriya holds a bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Master's Degree in Computer Science from Harvard University. After undergraduate training, she joined the Tri-Institutional M.D. Ph.D. Program, where she received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College and Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University. She completed her training in Internal Medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital before joining the medical oncology fellowship program at MSKCC. Outside of the lab, she enjoys trekking around NYC with her husband and two daughters.
"Adham Bear received a combined MD and PhD degree from Baylor College of Medicine in 2013 before completing a residency training program in Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He performed his clinical fellowship training in Hematology and Oncology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he is now an Instructor of Medicine.
Dr. Bear’s research interests focus within the field of cancer immunotherapy, specifically tumor antigen discovery, cancer vaccination, adoptive T cell therapy, and T cell engineering/gene-editing. Dr. Bear has experience working in multi-disciplinary settings consisting of scientists and physicians to translate laboratory discoveries to the clinic. As a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, he conducts clinical and translational research projects to develop oncogene-targeted immune therapies for cancer patients.
Dr. Bear’s current research interest explores the immunologic targeting of somatic mutations within the RAS proto-oncogene family to develop TCR therapies for cancer patients."
Daniel Nussbaum is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Duke University, where he serves as a hepatobiliary surgical oncologist and pancreatic cancer researcher within the Department of Surgery. He completed his surgical training at Duke University, including a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer biology, followed by a clinical fellowship in complex general surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. His clinical practice is almost entirely devoted to patients with pancreatic, liver, and biliary malignancies. His translational research interests are largely focused on devising strategies to detect and target occult hepatic metastases in patients with pancreas cancer, and he has developed one of the first model systems to study occult metastatic disease in human patients. The backbone of this model is an IRB-approved protocol to acquire surgical biopsies of “normal” patient livers prior to the development of gross hepatic metastasis (in addition to blood, primary tumor, and regional lymph node samples). Then, through a set of single-cell sequencing and spatial biology techniques, these samples can be probed with exquisite precision to explore the microenvironmental determinants of disease progression. The long-term goal of this research effort is to develop novel strategies directly targeting occult metastatic disease—which currently represents the major cause of recurrence and mortality for patients with radiographically localized tumors—in order to offer truly curative treatment options for these patients.
Dr. Weighill is a postdoctoral research associate in the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They earned a BS in Mathematical Sciences as well as a MS in Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and their PhD in Energy Science and Engineering from The Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their work as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. John Quackenbush in the Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as well as the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, focused on developing methods to construct gene regulatory networks (GRNs) modeling the regulatory relationships between transcription factors (TFs) and genes and applying them to model these relationships in tumors. They developed the EGRET (Estimating the Genetic Regulatory Effect on TFs) method which constructs genotype-specific gene regulatory networks for individuals, capturing the disrupting effect that their genetic variants have on gene regulation. Currently, Dr. Weighill is working with Dr. Jen Jen Yeh at UNC Chapel Hill on understanding differences in gene regulation in subtypes of pancreatic cancer. By utilizing machine learning and multi-omic network-based analysis, they are working to decipher the complex gene regulation behind molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer.
Thanks to all those who donated to the Foundation and made these awards possible. Special thanks to the generosity of Betty and John Levin, Jack and Jo Lyons, Dr. Lyris Schonholz and the family and friends of Joan and John Menna.
Dr. Sheila Alcantara Llaguno is a Senior Research Scientist at the Brain Tumor Center and the Cancer Biology and Genetics Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. Her primary research interest is in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of initiation and progression of primary central nervous system malignancies. Dr. Alcantara is particularly interested in the population of self-renewing cancer cells that behave like stem cells in brain tumors. To investigate these stem-like cancer cells, Dr. Alcantara developed a novel genetic mouse model that induces highly aggressive medulloblastoma with leptomeningeal metastasis. Her HBF project aims to study the role of cancer stem cells and metastatic stem cells in medulloblastoma, which have been implicated as important drivers of tumor growth, metastatic spread and resistance to therapies. These studies will open avenues for identifying new treatment strategies for these high-risk cancers in children. Dr. Alcantara finished her bachelor’s degree (molecular biology and biotechnology), medical degree and internship at the University of the Philippines in Manila where she graduated with honors. She then earned her PhD from UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where she did her postdoctoral fellowship and continued at Sloan Kettering, under the mentorship of Dr. Luis Parada. Dr. Alcantara received the Young Investigator Award from the Children’s Tumor Foundation and has published seminal papers on the cell of origin and molecular subtyping of glioblastoma. She currently resides in shoreline Connecticut with her husband Marc, a cryo-EM scientist, and their goose-loving, incorrigible terrier, Chewie Einstein.
Xian Wang is a research fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children at Toronto. He received a B.S. degree in Engineering from Tianjin University in 2015, and his Ph.D. degree at the University of Toronto in the collaborative Ph.D. program in Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering in 2020.
Microrobotics have the advantage of accessing small and hard-to-reach spaces inside the patients. While extensive research has shown their application for drug delivery, whether microrobotics can be directly used for disease treatment is much less explored. Xian’s research projects focus on developing novel tumor treatment approaches based on the mechanical stimulation generated by the magnetic mico/nano robotic agents.
Xian has been awarded Ontario Graduate Fellowship, the Lap-Chee Tsui Fellowship, and the Dunn with Cancer Research Fellowship from Brain Tumor Foundation of Canada. He has served as peer reviewer for IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, Microscopy Research and Technology, Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics, IEEE ICRA, and the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS).
Dr. Tringale is currently a radiation oncology resident physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Before starting her residency, she completed her internship in Internal Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Brown University for college, where she received her degree in biomedical engineering with a focus on neuroscience. Before attending medical school, she continued her undergraduate thesis work in brain computer interface clinical trials with the BrainGate group at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Throughout medical school at the University of California San Diego, she was involved in a variety of research endeavors, including clinical trials focused on quantifying the neurotoxicity of radiation treatment for primary brain tumors. The thesis for her master’s degree in clinical research investigated the use of advanced diffusion imaging techniques as biomarkers for neurocognitive performance in patients undergoing brain radiotherapy. Now as a radiation oncology resident, she has continued these efforts by developing a prospective clinical trial to investigate functional MRI biomarkers of neurocognitive decline in pediatric patients after proton beam radiation treatment for brain tumors. She has a strong interest in studying the long-term toxicity of cancer treatment, including quality of life and neurocognition, in survivors throughout her career as a radiation oncologist and clinical trialist.
William L. Hwang is a radiation oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Instructor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School, and Andrew L. Warshaw, MD Institute for Pancreatic Cancer Research Fellow. As a physician-scientist, William specializes in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers and his research program is focused on investigating the interactions among pancreatic cancer cells and their microenvironment at high resolution using single-cell omics and multiplexed imaging techniques. William is particularly interested in the synergy between cancer cells and nerves, pathways by which therapies reprogram the tumor microenvironment and foster the development of resistance, and the mechanisms underlying tumorigenesis to foster early detection and preventative strategies.William holds bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Physics from Duke University, where he was an Angier B. Duke Scholar. He received a master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He earned his MD (summa cum laude) at Harvard Medical School as a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow and PhD in Biophysics at Harvard University. William completed his internship in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital where he received the Resident Teaching Award in Medicine, and residency training in the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program.
Jason R. Pitarresi received his Ph.D. in 2016 from Ohio State University in the lab of Michael C. Ostrowski where he studied the ability of “normal” fibroblast cells to influence pancreatic cancer progression. Jason continued his cancer biology training by joining the labs of Anil K. Rustgi MD and Ben Z. Stanger MD/PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, where he currently resides. His current work, supported by the Hopper Belmont Foundation, is looking for novel drivers of pancreatic cancer metastasis, with an ultimate goal of finding new therapeutic options to stop this deadly disease. Outside of the lab, Jason has a wife, Diana, and two sons, Jakob and Samuel, that motivate him everyday.
Check out Jason's published research in Cancer Discovery.
Dr. Raghavan is a physician-scientist in the Department of Medical Oncology and the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on understanding how tumor cell states and the tumor microenvironment regulate therapeutic sensitivity and resistance in pancreatic cancer. To this end, Dr. Raghavan uses novel technologies such as single-cell sequencing and genomic and pharmacologic perturbation to interrogate clinical specimens and patient-derived tissue models with the goal of identifying new therapeutic vulnerabilities in pancreatic cancer. He is also involved in translational efforts to examine whether drug sensitivity testing in patient-derived tumor organoid models can predict clinical responses. Dr. Raghavan received his bachelor’s degree (chemical engineering) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his M.D. and Ph.D. (biomedical engineering) from Johns Hopkins University, and is performing his post-doctoral research under the mentorship of Drs. William Hahn and Brian Wolpin at DFCI and the Broad Institute. In addition to his research efforts, Dr. Raghavan is a practicing medical oncologist and sees patients at DFCI and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In the longer term, Dr. Raghavan hopes to continue integrating his clinical and research efforts to develop new therapeutic options for patients with pancreatic cancer.
Jacquelyn Zimmerman, M.D., Ph.D. is a Medical Oncology Fellow in the Division of Gastrointestinal Cancers at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer at Johns Hopkins. She graduated summa cum laude with a BS in biological sciences and a concentration in secondary education from Louisiana State University in 2007. She then went on to receive her medical degree and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama School of Medicine in 2014 as part of their Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). She completed her internship and residency in the Johns Hopkins Osler Residency Program where she also served as chief resident in 2018-2019. She remained at Johns Hopkins for medical oncology fellowship where she has benefited from the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Jaffee with additional mentorship from Dr. Richard Burkhart and Dr. Elana Fertig.She has a primary interest in pre-clinical and translational models of gastrointestinal malignancies and is specifically interested in patient-derived models of pancreatic cancer. She is using these models to answer mechanistic questions about tumor-stromal interactions in pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer remains a challenging cancer to treat, in part due to the dense stromal tumor microenvironment that comprises a significant portion of the tumor. Cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are an integral part of the tumor microenvironment. We hypothesize that these cells play a dynamic role in tumorigenesis and progression. Further, we hypothesize that these cells impact and are impacted by surrounding tumor epithelial cells. The project proposed in her Inspiration Award application will test this hypothesis using a co-culture model of patient-derived organoids and CAFs.