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BCRF and Partners Award Grants to Early- and Mid-Career Researchers

By BCRF | November 15, 2022

Long-term partnerships with leading cancer organizations foster a new generation of diverse breast cancer researchers

BCRF is committed to supporting promising researchers at early and midway points in their careers, which are times when funding may be more challenging to obtain. To accomplish this, we have long partnered with Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and, more recently, we have teamed up with the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) to award grants to researchers at these stages of their careers.

BCRF leverages these partnerships to create a more diverse scientific workforce and support early-career researchers focused on breast cancer disparities. Increasing diversity and inclusion in the oncology and academic biomedical research workforce is vital to ensuring that all researchers who wish to contribute to cancer can have a chance. Below, we highlight this year’s awardees.

2022 Conquer Cancer Awardees

Conquer Cancer award recipients are exploring research topics as diverse as the researchers themselves. All Conquer Cancer awards help support investigators who are part of racial/ethnic groups that have been traditionally excluded in academic medicine and breast cancer research. BCRF supported three categories of awards through Conquer Cancer this year.

Six Young Investigator Award winners will receive one year of support as they seek to build a career in clinical cancer research and transition from fellowship programs to faculty appointments:

  • Rodney Dorand, PhD, MD of Vanderbilt University is investigating how specific mutations in cancer cells can be targeted to enhance precision medicine.
  • Maria Alice Franzoi, MD of Institut Gustave Roussy is defining ways to improve the quality of life for patients following breast cancer treatment.
  • Frederick Howard, MD of the University of Chicago is using artificial intelligence to define biomarkers of recurrence from biopsies.
  • Joannie Ivory, MSPH, MD of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill seeks to determine how treatment patterns vary by race and age for patients with hormone receptor—positive metastatic breast cancer.
  • Melinda Mushonga, MBChB, MMed of the University Health Network is conducting a prospective evaluation of severe radiation-induced skin toxicity in women with breast cancer in Zimbabwe.
  • Dionisia Quiroga, DO, PhD of the Ohio State University studies the systemic immune response to breast cancer-associated lymphedema and lymphedema correcting surgeries.

Two candidates received Advanced Clinical Research Awards, which are given to early- or mid-career clinical investigators who are conducting original breast cancer research that’s not currently funded:

  • Rachel Jimenez, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital is conducting a randomized clinical trial to study the impact of emerging radiation techniques on cardiac injury women undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
  • Samilia Obeng-Gyasi, MD, MPH of the Ohio State University is examining several factors associated with genetic ancestry and how these factors may influence if an individual completes treatment.

The BCRF/Conquer Cancer five-year Research Professorship in Breast Cancer Disparities was awarded to Mylin A. Torres, MD of Emory University School of Medicine. This award provides support for an investigator’s research project while encouraging them to mentor the next generation of researchers. Dr. Torres will lead research to explore if genetic variations associated with race influence a person’s risk for treatment-related side effects and if they could be significant drivers of disparities in early-stage breast cancer.

2022 AACR Awardees

BCRF’s Career Development Awards in partnership with AACR seek to foster successful career paths for investigators from diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in breast cancer research and who are newly appointed to faculty positions. This year, BCRF supported two awards:

  • Kim Blenman, PhD of the Yale School of Medicine is identifying immune biomarkers that may be used to predict treatment-related side effects/adverse events.
  • Dennis Jones, PhD of Boston University School of Medicine is seeking to improve outcomes for patients with advanced metastatic breast cancer.
2022 ASTRO Awardees

Through our partnership with ASTRO, we are supporting two, one-year seed grants for early-career residents and fellows who are addressing disparities and barriers to breast cancer care. By opening the application process to trainees, we seek to position them for more robust mentorship, set solid foundations for their scientific careers, and decrease attrition rates. Both recipients are residents in their institutions’ radiation oncology departments:

  • Rohini Bhatia, MD of Johns Hopkins University is examining rates of hypo-fractionated radiation use in Botswana to define clinical and infrastructure needs, better equip resource-limited clinics, and expand access to this therapy.
  • Juhi Purswani, MD of New York University School of Medicine is testing a new method for identifying radiation-induced skin toxicity in patients of color.

Together, these partnership grants not only enable BCRF to support the next generation of breast cancer researchers, but they help diversify the research field—ultimately bolstering balanced and equitable breast cancer care in the U.S. and globally.