The Contributors

Joyce A. O’Shaughnessy, M.D.

Medical Oncologist, Texas Oncology-Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center

Dr. O’Shaughnessy specializes in medical oncology with board certification in both internal medicine and medical oncology.

She is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine with subspecialty certification in medical oncology.

Dr. O’Shaughnessy focuses on breast cancer prevention and treatment. She is co-chair of breast cancer research and chair of breast cancer prevention research at Baylor-Sammons Cancer Center and for The US Oncology Network, and is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for the US Oncology Research Network.

Hope S. Rugo, M.D.

Medical Oncologist & Hematologist, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Rugo is a medical oncologist and hematologist specializing in breast cancer research and treatment.

A clinical professor of medicine, she joined the UCSF Breast Care Center in 1999 after a decade of experience at UCSF in malignant hematology and bone marrow transplantation for a variety of diseases, including breast cancer. She entered the field of breast cancer in order to incorporate novel therapies based on an understanding of the biology of cancer with excellent quality of care into the treatment of women with breast cancer.

Dr. Rugo is the director of the Breast Oncology Clinical Trials Program and also the principal investigator of multiple clinical trials focusing on combining novel targeted therapeutics with standard treatment to improve the treatment of both early and late-stage breast cancer. In addition, she is working on studies to evaluate cognitive function in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer as well as novel ways to reduce toxicity from therapy. She has established collaborations with a number of other large academic medical centers for the purpose of expanding the novel therapies that are available for UCSF patients, including herbal agents that appear to have an antitumor effect in the laboratory.

An active member of the national cooperative group CALGB, Dr. Rugo is also a founding member of the Breast Cancer Research Consortium and serves as an investigator in the UCSF Breast SPORE (the Bay Area Specialized Program of Research Excellence in Breast Cancer). In addition to teaching medical students and physicians, she regularly lectures locally, nationally and internationally on subjects relating to the treatment of breast cancer. At UCSF, she runs the Breast Forum, an open bimonthly evening educational session for breast cancer patients, families and friends from throughout the Bay Area.

Andrew J. Dannenberg, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

Dr. Dannenberg’s research is focused on the connection between chronic inflammation and cancer.

My laboratory focuses on the link between inflammation and cancer. The long-term goal of this research is to develop evidence-based strategies to decrease inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Contributions have included: demonstrated that cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was over expressed in a variety of premalignant lesions and cancers; elucidated the mechanisms by which oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, carcinogens and tumor promoters regulate COX-2 gene expression; determined the signaling mechanism by which COX-derived prostaglandin E2 induced aromatase, the rate-limiting enzyme responsible for estrogen biosynthesis. This latter work led to an observational study in which the use of aspirin, an inhibitor of prostaglandin biosynthesis, was associated with a reduced risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. In more recent work, mouse models were used to demonstrate the connection between obesity, inflammation and increased aromatase expression in the mammary gland. We have now successfully translated these findings to women. Importantly, breast adipose inflammation is also associated with a worse clinical course in breast cancer patients. Collectively, our findings suggest that adipose inflammation helps to explain why excess adiposity is both a risk factor for hormone receptor-positive postmenopausal breast cancer and a poor prognostic factor among breast cancer survivors. Although chronic inflammation is known to increase the risk of many epithelial malignancies, our studies are the first to suggest a link between adipose inflammation and cancer. In our most recent work, we have focused on the etiology of breast cancer in normal BMI postmenopausal women. Remarkably, excess body fat was associated with a doubling in the risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer along with systemic changes that reflect both inflammation and altered metabolism. Thus, unrecognized excess body fat helps to explain why many normal sized postmenopausal women develop breast cancer each year. Non-invasive biomarkers that reflect occult breast inflammation are being developed. In addition to our work on the link between excess body fat, metabo-inflammation and cancer, my laboratory has had a longstanding interest in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease including its link to colorectal cancer. Our studies have ranged in focus from studies of eicosanoids to stem cells to the microbiota. Currently, we are investigating the role of diet-gene-microbiota interactions in both the pathogenesis of colitis and colitis associated colorectal cancer. Ongoing work aims to disrupt this process to reduce the risk of colitis associated colorectal cancer.

Kathryn H. Schmitz, Ph.D., MPH

Associate Director of Population Sciences, Penn State University

Dr. Schmitz is the author of more than 180 articles in scientific literature (scopus h-index = 44) on the topics of cancer, behavioral research, rehabilitation, exercise science, obesity prevention and other areas of medicine and public health.

She has been the director of an NCI-funded TREC center over the past five years, including participation in the national steering committee of the TREC initiative. During her year as the chair of the TREC steering committee, she led the PIs of all TREC centers through a discernment process to develop the vision, mission and objectives statements that guided the initiative to the end of funding and has contributed significantly as a thought leader to this national NIH multi-site research initiative.

In addition the TREC initiative, she has deep experience in multi-site data collection and exercise intervention studies from her work on the HERITAGE family exercise study under the direction of her doctoral advisor, Dr. Art Leon, as well as her leadership role of the measurement logistics working group of the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls. Both of these studies carried out measurements and interventions across multiple universities across the United States, including sharing data with a coordinating center in a timely fashion and centralized decision making. Dr. Schmitz has been familiar with the development of standardized procedures and data tracking since the beginning of her doctoral training in 1994. She has deep experience with the development of common exercise and measurement protocols across multiple sites along with training and quality assurance procedures to ensure that all protocols are adhered to with high fidelity and data are collected in the most rigorous manner.

The TREC Center that Dr. Schmitz leads includes a collaboration with a cancer biologist (Lewis Chodosh) who has been conducting an animal model study that is designed to parallel her ongoing human clinical trial (the WISER Survivor Trial). Therefore, she is a uniquely transdisciplinary scientist: Her own studies are in humans, but she is comfortable collaborating with scientists who conduct animal studies. She has successfully recruited and retained large cohorts of adults in exercise intervention trials, with high proportions of minority participants in most of these trials. These aerobic and resistance exercise trials have included the SHE study (N=164, two-year study), PAL trial (N=295, one-year study), WISER (N=319, four-month study), WISER Sister (N=139, five-month study), and WISER Survivor (N=351, one-year study) and numerous smaller trials.

Lee Jones, Ph.D.

Lee Jones, Ph.D.

Exercise Scientist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Jones focuses on the efficacy and mechanisms of exercise training on cardiovascular toxicities and tumor initiation and progression.

The Lee Jones Lab conducts clinical trials to study the efficacy of structured exercise training interventions on cardiovascular outcomes in individuals before and during treatment, as well as following the completion of therapy, across a broad range of cancer diagnoses.

The second major focus of the program is investigating whether exercise training is an effective treatment for cancer. Researchers adopt traditional laboratory approaches to elucidate the effects and underlying mechanisms of exercise training on cancer progression as well as to determine whether exercise alters the response to conventional and novel cancer therapeutics. This information allows lab members to design more-effective clinical trials that test a precise “dose” of exercise in selected patient populations most likely to benefit from exercise training.

Neil M. Iyengar, M.D.

Medical Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Iyengar is a medical oncologist and clinical investigator with a practice dedicated exclusively to the care of patients with breast cancer.

As a member of a multidisciplinary team of specialists, he treats patients with an individualized and multifaceted approach based on cutting-edge technology and the most up-to-date research. His practice is focused on providing patients with state-of-the-art care plans using advanced technologies and innovative strategies to treat breast cancer while also providing support for general well-being, such as nutrition and exercise. Ultimately, he is dedicated to providing clear communication and understandable information regarding standard therapies as well as new and exciting research options so that patients are empowered to make informed decisions about their care.

Dr. Iyengar’s research investigates the links between metabolic health and cancer. He works with a highly productive team composed of clinical and laboratory scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Weill Cornell Medical College and the Rockefeller University, where he holds a joint research position. His team has established inflammation in the breast to be a key contributor to obesity-related breast cancers. As obesity rates are on the rise in the United States and worldwide, there has been an increase in obesity-related cancers. Dr. Iyengar’s team has shown that inflammation in the fatty tissue of the breast and at other anatomic sites occurs in most obese and overweight individuals and even in some individuals who are normal weight. Therefore a key component of his research program is the development of clinical trials — including diets, exercise and medications — that aim to prevent obesity-related cancers as well as improve outcomes in patients with fatty-tissue inflammation.

Daniela Quail, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Centre, McGill University

Dr. Quail’s research program is focused on the role of the tumor microenvironment during cancer progression.

She is particularly interested in how chronic inflammatory conditions affect the microenvironmental landscape of different organs to alter tissue homeostasis and cancer outcomes. Her team is focused on two central themes:

1) Metastasis is the primary aspect of cancer progression that is associated with patient mortality. Metastatic progression can be modulated by inflammatory changes in the systemic environment, which can remodel the tissue landscape of distant organs to affect seeding efficiency. One major driver of chronic, systemic inflammation is obesity, which affects ~1/3 of adults in Canada/USA. As a growing epidemic, obesity now rivals smoking as the leading preventable risk factor for cancer. Dr. Quail’s research team is investigating how chronic inflammation resulting from obesity affects the microenvironmental landscape of common secondary organs (e.g. lung, liver, brain and bone) and how this ultimately impacts breast cancer metastasis.

2) Unlike most organs, the brain is protected from inflammation by the presence of the blood-brain barrier (i.e. immune privilege). However, in a brain tumor, the integrity of the blood-brain barrier is compromised by the tortuous nature of the vasculature. This results in a large influx of immune cells that are normally absent in the brain microenvironment, which can promote the progression of cancer. Dr. Quail’s research team is investigating how infiltrating immune cells shape the tumor microenvironment and contribute to progression of different types of brain tumors, including gliomas and metastases from different primary sources (e.g. melanoma and lung cancer).

Peter Cornelius, Ph.D.

Senior Director, Translational Research at SynDevRx

Dr. Cornelius earned his B.A. in biology from Skidmore College and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from East Carolina University School of Medicine, where he studied the regulation of lipid and glucose metabolism by inflammatory cytokines.

Following postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he studied the development and function of adipose cells, he joined the Department of Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases at Pfizer. During his career at Pfizer (1995-2011), he initiated numerous projects and led successful teams that identified clinical candidates targeting diverse pathways impacting dyslipidemia, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Prior to joining SynDevRx in 2015, Dr. Cornelius held senior positions at two startup biotech companies, SystaMedic and Wellomics, where he made significant contributions to each company’s pipeline. Throughout his career, he has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals and presented frequently at both national and international conferences.

James M. Shanahan

Co-Founder, Vice President of Business Development and Director at SynDevRx

Jim has nearly two decades of business development experience starting and running biotech and technology companies.

In 2007, Jim co-founded SynDevRx, Inc, a clinical stage biotech company developing polymer-drug conjugates for cancer and metabolic diseases where he currently serves as the VP Business Development.  He is a mentor with the MassConnect program through MassBio.  In 2012, Jim helped the French data analytics company Ariana Pharma – a premium provider of advanced, clinical and biomarker data analytics technology – launch its US offices. In 1998 Jim co-founded JAM Technologies, a high-tech company where he served as vice president of corporate development (1998-2006) and on the board of directors (1998-2003). Jim focuses on fundraising, value proposition development, executing licensing transactions and forming strategic co-development partnerships. Since 2014, he has served as a consultant and advisor to multiple biotech, high-tech and medical device companies.

Jim is a founding member of the French-American Biotech Springboard, a professional association working under the auspices of the French-American Chamber of Commerce helping entrepreneurs in the biotech industry relocating to the US. He is also an active coach and mentor to numerous startups in the Boston area. Jim has four issued patents, studied engineering and French at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and attended L’Universite Catholique de l’Ouest (Angers, France).

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