We are honored and humbled by the reception of our 2020 HBF Inspiration Award. With applications across the US and Europe, our Board and Advisors found the research promising for the future of Pancreatic Cancer. The 2020 Inspiration Award focused on the areas of early detection and novel treatment research and was open to senior post-doctoral or clinical fellows (MD, PhD, MD/PhD) as well as primary investigators in the first three years of their initial faculty appointment.
We are proud to present the inaugural award to the doctors and researchers noted below.
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.
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.