invited Speakers

Patient-research Advocate: Ms. Michele Rakoff

Michele, a 30-year breast cancer survivor, patient and research advocate, spent 20 years working in the clinic directly with patients and the community, developing mentoring programs to help newly diagnosed patients and consulting on the development of survivorship programs for women with metastatic disease.. She is the Executive Director for the Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund, board director for the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), NBCC Artemis Project member and Project Lead graduate and mentor. After serving as a member on the California Breast Cancer Research Program’s (CBCRP) Advisory Council, she was a CBCRP community research collaborative grant recipient. Michele has participated as a scientific and programmatic peer-reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program (DoD BCRP) and holds a seat on the California Teachers Study Scientific Task Force, as well as on the Love Army of Women Scientific Advisory Committee. She continues to collaborate with scientists on research grants. As a research advocate, Michele collaborates on a NIEHS Breast Cancer and Environment Research Program grant, several DoD BCRP, CBCRP and Komen grants, and is member of the NIH California Precision Medicine Consortium and the PCORI Wisdom Study. Michele also focuses on public policy issues as NBCC Field Coordinator in California.

Patient-research Advocate: Ms. Michele Atlan

Michele Atlan has been a breast cancer survivor since 2013. After her diagnosis, Michele became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. She graduated from the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s (NBCC) Project LEAD in 2015 and participated in the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium as a scholarship recipient from the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation. In addition, Michele regularly participates in the Advanced Project LEAD pilot program and was asked to be a Project LEAD mentor in July 2017. Currently serving as the president of the Breast Cancer Care & Research Fund (BCCRF) in Los Angeles, Michele has been enrolled as a consumer reviewer for the DoD's Breast Cancer Research Program, as well as a consumer advocate on multiple Level 3 grant applications. In 2018, Michele became a member of the board of the NBCC and attended the ASCO annual meeting on their behalf. Through the BCCRF, she is presently involved with creating a clinical research/patient advocacy program for underserved high school students.

Dr. Bryant-Friedrich was selected in 2020 to serve as the dean of the Wayne State University Graduate School and where she is also a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Previously at the University of Toledo, Bryant-Friedrich was dean of the College of Graduate Studies, vice provost for graduate affairs, and professor of medicinal and biological chemistry. She spent her early years in the academy at Oakland University and at Wayne State. Professor Bryant-Friedrich's research interests center around the study and use of naturally and synthetically modified nucleosides and nucleotides in the determination of disease etiology and drug design and development. The mantra guiding Dr. Bryant-Friedrich’s professional activities is access – opening doors to an inclusive, welcoming and supportive environment that fosters success for all who have the ability and desire to participate in the academic enterprise is her purpose. She is a fellow of the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She also is a leadership fellow of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

PLENARY Speaker: dr. Thea Tlsty

Dr. Tlsty is Professor of Pathology and Director of the Center for Translational Research in the Molecular Genetics of Cancer at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Tlsty has over 25 years of experience in studying human cells and the earliest responses to injury. She has led multi-disciplinary and international groups that address both the epithelial and stromal contributions to wound healing and malignancy. The model systems the Tlsty laboratory has developed and the applied translational insights obtained have great potential to contribute to clinical utility. Her group’s work was the first to develop biomarkers for risk stratification of ductal carcinoma in situ, a pre-malignant lesion of breast cancer. Her group’s more recent work has identified molecular aspects of stromal-epithelial stress responses and the interactions that facilitate tumor progression in breast, prostate and other cancers. These analyses have enabled the identification of cell-extrinsic consequences of epithelial stress that lead to the activation of pro-tumorigenic stromal phenotypes. One of the most profound phenotypes involves the activation of a multicellular stromal program shared by high mammographic density and desmoplastic tumor tissues, characterized by repression of CD36. While studying these interactions Dr. Tlsty’s group unexpectedly found a rare population of cells within disease-free tissue that has the potential to attain pluripotency. These cells have the ability to create functional tissues of all three germ layers which they hypothesize may be involved in metaplasia and inflammatory diseases. A single pluripotent cell can generate beating cardiomyocytes, lactating breast, bone, cartilage, vasculature, adipocytes, pancreas, and intestinal cells. They further hypothesize that these cells may be the cell-of-origin for metaplastic cancers and provide insights for the identification of novel therapeutic targets. Similarly, these cells may be responsible for a wide collection of phenotypes that are initiated by chronic stress and defective in a wide spectrum of can-cers. Current studies in the Tlsty laboratory, couched in a large multi-disciplinary, multi-investigator grant, are aimed at investigating the role of chronic inflammation in increased cancer incidence with the intent of developing preventive and therapeutic solutions.

Short Talk Session Chair: dr. hilary coller

Dr. Coller is Professor of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology and Professor of Biological Chemistry at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) David Geffen School of Medicine. She received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University. She received a PhD in Toxicology from MIT where she studied the role of environmental chemicals as mutagenic agents in human tissue. She did postdoctoral training at the Whitehead Institute in the laboratories of Dr. Eric Lander and Todd Golub, and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the laboratory of Dr. Jim Roberts. The Coller laboratory applies systems biology approaches, cell, molecular biology and biochemical approaches and mouse models to understand the molecular basis of cellular quiescence. The laboratory has discovered new molecular insights into the cell cycle arrest achieved by quiescent cells and the ability of quiescent cells to survive. Dr. Coller is an Associate Editor of Physiological Genomics and leads the Systems Biology of Cell State Regulation Theme for the journal. At UCLA, she is the Chair of the Bioinformatics-IDP Outreach Committee.

Short Talk Session Chair: dr. sonya neal

Dr. Neal is an Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Dr. Neal received her Ph.D. from U.C. Los Angeles in 2013 after working in the laboratory of Dr. Carla Koehler. She then carried out her postdoctoral studies at U.C. San Diego in the laboratory of Dr. Randolph Hampton. She was the recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Postdoctoral Diversity Enrichment Award and Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship. Dr. Neal joined the faculty in 2018. The Neal laboratory is interested in understanding protein quality control path-ways, with a particular emphasis on pathways that detect and destroy toxic misfolded proteins. An understanding of these pathways allows them to define the mechanisms that protect the organismal proteome in health and disease, and eventually devise methods to harness cellular quality control to modify the proteome in the labora-tory and the clinic. They take advantage of the laboratory’s unique set of skills in genetics, biochemistry, func-tional genomics, and cell biology to extend these lines of inquiry and to train the next generation of scientific leaders.

short Talk Session Chair: Dr. Josh Neman

Dr. Josh Neman is an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, Physiology & Neuroscience at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Neman is the Director of Cancer Biology & Genomics Doctoral Program, the Scientific Director of the USC Brain Tumor, and Member of the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Neman received his doctoral degree at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in Neurobiology. He then went on to complete his Cancer Biology Fellowship at the City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute where he was a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Fellow focusing on brain tumors. As the Director of the Laboratory of Cancer Neuroscience, Dr. Neman’s current research investigates the biology of brain metastases (cancers that spread to the brain—i.e. breast, lung, melanoma, prostate) and pediatric brain tumors. His expertise and strengths in stem cell biology and neuroscience have allowed him to develop novel molecular, cellular, and therapeutic approach to study the interaction between the brain and cancer cells (termed the tumor microenvironment) – a bidirectional interplay poorly understood. Dr. Neman’s goal is to uncover novel mechanism used by the nervous system to promote tumor growth and spread. This will ultimately result in development of improved strategies for cancer prevention and treatment of patients with these devastating diseases.

short Talk Session Chair: dr. sarah shuck

Dr. Schuck is an Assistant Professor of Assistant Pro-fessor in the Department of Diabetes & Cancer Metabolism at the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute. She received her Ph.D. from Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Indiana University School of Medicine. She then completed post-doctoral training in the laboratory of John Termini at the City of Hope. The Shuck laboratory combines biochemistry, metabolomics, molecular biology and animal models of diabetes and cancer to unravel miswired metabolic circuits that predispose patients to cancer.