CURE 2017 Summer Program Comes to a Close

2017 CURE Scholars and their home institution

2017 CURE Scholars and their home institution

The CURE program introduces scientifically curious high school and college students from groups currently underrepresented in the sciences to the world of cancer research. Students are placed in laboratories and research environments at the seven DF/HCC member institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Massachusetts General Hospital, as well as research environments at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

On August 8-10, 2017, the 35 students who participated in the program this year presented their final research projects during two afternoons of oral presentations and an afternoon electronic poster presentation session. Students presented the research that they have worked on with their principle investigators and mentors. They were encouraged to invite friends, family, lab members, and individuals who have supported them throughout their education. This year several former teachers, scholarship funders, and even a former middle school reading tutor were in attendance to celebrate the students’ scientific progress. 

Sang Vo, a rising sophomore at University of Mass Boston who served as an army medic for four years before returning to school, reflected on his summer experience, “CURE was definitely beneficial to me. It challenged my ability to be persistent, to be patient, and to persevere. It taught me more about the endurance needed in science - coping with the failures, and trying to understand it so that the next time we do it we’ll have better results. I’m glad that I was accepted here and excited to be on the front lines of cutting edge science.”

Celebrating its 16th anniversary, the CURE program is administered by the DF/HCC Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities (IECD). 

One of the key emphases of the IECD is to create training opportunities for underrepresented student populations that will attract and engage the best and brightest to pursue future careers in the biosciences—particularly cancer research—giving practical meaning to academic course work and to expand and extend their interest in basic, clinical and population science research.Over three hundred and fifty students have taken part in the program since its launch; many among them have gone on to receive prestigious fellowships, author scientific papers, and achieve admission to world class clinical and research programs.

During their CURE experience, students conduct hands-on, real-life scientific research under the mentorship of an experienced researcher. The type of research conducted varies depending on the environment in which the student is placed. The program makes every effort to match students with research environments that share their research interests. 

Outside of the lab, CURE students attend a variety of programs including scientific seminars, professional development workshops, and journal and book clubs. During the Beyond Academia program, an annual professional development workshop, students supplement their summer research experience with real-world information about how STEM training may be translated into a wide variety of exciting careers. Through another CURE program this summer, students were able to interact with students in France via videoconferencing for the first time in program history to conduct a journal club and discussion about cancer and the environment.

Long-time mentor Dr. James Decaprio describes his experience working with students of the CURE program, “I have found that the students selected to the CURE program have been very enthusiastic about their participation. Karen and Emily provide a lot of support to ensure that the students have an enriching experience.”

“We are thrilled to have a comprehensive program which engages young people with first-time research training experiences with the best researchers and mentors. Winning the battle against cancer means searching out the best talent of well-trained scientists from all populations. Our hope for our CURE Scholars is that this program can be the beginning of a long-term commitment to careers in cancer research” Karen Burns White explains. 

“In my two summers coordinating the CURE Program, I have been consistently awed by the commitment of our students and mentors to their research endeavors and professional development.” Dr. McMains reflects, “Our program participants aim high and achieve truly exceptional outcomes. We are blessed to have such a dedicated and supportive group of teachers and learners at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.”

The CURE Program is very grateful to the many supporters that help to make this program possible – they include the principal investigators, mentors, journal club facilitators, funders and the countless others who give of their time, talent and treasures.

CURE Class of 2017

Samuel Amaka


Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: African Exposure to Lycopene and Its Effects on Prostate Cancer 
Principal Investigator: Timothy Rebbeck, PhD
Mentors: Caroline Andrews, MSc; Brian Fortier

Dylan Barcelos

Placed at  Boston Children’s Hospital
Project Title:  Finding the Optimal Drug and Concentration to Inhibit the Fanconi Pathway in T-ALL
Principal Investigator: Alejandro Gutierrez, MD
Mentors: James Degar; Gayle Pouliot, MD/PhD

Kassandra Boada

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: The Role of CCR8 Chemokine System in Melanoma
Principal Investigator: Andrew Luster MD, PhD
Mentor: Melvyn Chow, PhD

Neika Christalin

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Analyzing Variability in NF-kB Signaling Pathway in HeLa Cells
Principal Investigator: Suzanne Gaudet, PhD
Mentors: Shibin Mathew, PhD; Amy Thurber, PhD

Luther Evans

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title:  Determining Composition of Grain Mixtures Using High Resolution Magic Angle Spinning Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy 
Principal Investigator: Dr. Leo Cheng, PhD
Mentor: Lindsey Vandergrift

Maria F. Heredia

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title:  Uncovering the Functional Significance of Splicing Gene Regulatory Networks: Building an Isoform-Resolved Network of Transcription Factor Isoform Interactions
Principal Investigator: David Hill, PhD
Mentor: Gloria Sheynkman, PhD

Wesley Hudson

Placed at Boston Children’s Hospital
Project Title: Possible Involvement of Gasdermin Family in Neutrophil Cell Death
Principal Investigator: Hongbo Luo, PhD
Mentors: Hiroto Kambara, PhD; Yan Ten

Regine Jean-Baptiste

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Men of African Descent and Cancer of the Prostate (MADCaP) Project
Principal Investigator: Timothy Rebbeck, PhD
Mentors: Caroline Andrews, MSc; Brian Fortier

Alex Kaminsky

Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: Determining the Enhanced Metastatic Phenotypes Caused by FOXP2 Knockdown in Breast Cancer
Principal Investigator: Antoine Karnoub, PhD
Mentor: Julie Konge, PhD

Emmanuel Messele

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Clinical Significance of Reduced Allelic Fractions Among Li-Fraumeni Syndrome
Principal Investigator: Judy Garber, MD, MPH
Mentors: Camila Gabriel, MSc, MS; Alexander Husband

Ashley Njiru


Placed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: Engineering Allosterically-Regulated CRISPR-Cas9 Constructs
Principal Investigator: Matthew Ramsey, PhD
Mentor: Yvon Woappi, PhD

Nofal Ouardaoui

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Evaluating and Improving the Performance of Cancer Risk Prediction Tools
Principal Investigator: Giovanni Parmigiani, PhD
Mentors: Danielle Braun, PhD; Amanda Blackford, Sc.M.; Cathy Wang

Darina Paulino

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title:  Anti-Malaria Drug as Anti-Cancer Chemotherapeutic in Pediatric Brain Tumors
Principal Investigator: Bahkos Tannous, PhD
Mentor: Jian Teng, PhD

Hanh Pham

Placed at Broad Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Comparison of the Prevalence and Types of Mutations in Prostate Cancer Among Black and While Populations 
Principal Investigator: Franklin Huang MD, PhD
Mentors: Thomas Randall, PhD;Paz Polak, PhD

Ianick Pires

Placed at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Project Title: Development of a Unique Food Composition Database to Identify Novel Biomarkers of Yogurt Intake
Principal Investigator: Eric Rimm, ScD
Mentor: Kerry Ivey, PhD

Obed Posada

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Measuring Immune Reconstruction in Anti-PD-1 Lymphoma Patients Post Autologous Stem Cell Transplant
Principal Investigator: Jerome Ritz, MD
Mentors: Carol Reynolds, PhD; Marie Chammas

Aly Toure

Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: Anti-MiR-21 Therapy Inhibits Angiogenesis in Pancreatic Tumors
Principal Investigator: Franck Slack, PhD (BIDMC)
Mentor: Maud-Emmanuelle Gilles, PhD 

Kamari Weaver

Placed at Harvard Medical School
Project Title: Identification of Important Regulatory Regions of an Enhancer Active in the Developing Retina
Principal Investigator: Connie Cepko, PhD
Mentor: Brian Rabe

Weaam Arman

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Stress and Methylation of HPA Axis Gene FKBP5 and Human Disease Outcomes: A Systematic Review
Principal Investigator: Alexandra Shields, PhD
Mentors: Nicholas Spence, PhD; Stefania Khoda

Makena Binker-Cosen

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Distinct Immune Checkpoint Profiles Associated with Molecular and Histological Subtypes in Breast Cancer
Principal Investigator: Aedin Culhane, PhD 
Mentor: Azfar Basunia; Ricardo De Matos Simoes, PhD

Joanne Charles

Placed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: The Use of fMRI in Mapping the Motor and Sensory Cortices
Principal Investigator: Alexandra Golby, MD
Mentor: Laura Rigolo, MA 

Senait Efrem

Placed at Harvard Medical School
Project Title: CRISPR-a Gene Overexpression Models in Drosophila Melanogaster
Principal Investigators: Norbert Perrimon, PhD
Mentor: Jonathan Zirin, PhD

Brittney Gedeon

Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Association of an Obesity Genetic Risk Score with Prostate Cancer Risk and Survival
Principle Investigator: Kathryn Penney, ScD
Mentors: Kathryn Penney, ScD; Maxine Chen, ScD

Carolyn Huang

Placed at Boston Children’s Hospital
Project Title: The Role of PAD4 in Necroptosis
Principal Investigator: Ben Croker, PhD
Mentor: Mary Speir, PhD

Jennifer Ihedioha

Placed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: Identifying Molecular Vulnerabilities in CALR-mutated MPN cells
Principal Investigator: Ann Mullally, MD
Mentors: Shannon Elf, PhD; Azucena Rocha

Abigail Joseph

Placed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Project Title: ABO Blood Group of Stem Cell Transplant Donors Using Next Generation Sequencing
Principal Investigator: William Lane MD, PhD
Mentor: Helen Mah, MS

Breelyn Karno

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Use of Kinase Inhibitors to Examine NF2-dependent Autocrine Signaling 
Principle Investigator: Vijaya Ramesh, PhD
Mentors: Roberta Beauchamp; Luke Witt

Mina Milad

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title:Mechanism of E2F4-Dp1 Removal from DNA in Mid G1 Stage
Principal Investigator: James DeCaprio, MD
Mentor: Amy Schade

Ellah Nzikoba

Placed at Boston Children’s Hospital
Project Title: Targeting Neuropilin 2 as an Anti-Cancer Strategy
Principal Investigator and Mentor: Diane Bielenberg, PhD

Sebastian Palacio-Ramirez

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Systematic Mutagenesis of p53
Principal Investigator: William Hahn, MD, PhD
Mentor: Andrew Giacomelli

Robert Pepen

Placed at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Review of Worldwide Cancer Survivorship Guidelines
Principal Investigator and Mentor: Larissa Nekhlyudov, M.D., M.P.H.

Philip Phan

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Investigating the Role of F-box in Glioblastoma Multiforme
Principal Investigator: Christian Badr, PhD
Mentor: Kelsey Pinkham

Destiny Porte

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: FDG-PET/CT Measurements of Glucose Metabolism in Healthy Liver
Principal Investigator: Annick Van den Abbeele, MD
Mentors: Keisha McCall, PhD; Jiani Hu, MPH; Su-Chun Cheng, ScD

Graciella Rios Ortega

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Surviving, Exon 16, and DUP Minigene Plasmid Purificiation
Principal Investigator: Edward J. Benz, MD
Mentor: Shu-Ching Huang, PhD

Sang Vo

Placed at Boston’s Children Hospital
Project Title: Cystic Fibrosis Disease Modeling of CFTR Mutation Within Immortalized Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells and IPS Clone Cells
Principle Investigator: Carla Kim, PhD
Mentor: Hongmei (Lisa) Li, PhD