CURE Program Offers Access to Cancer Research Pipeline for Underrepresented Minority Students


SEPTEMBER 28, 2016


2016 CURE Scholars and their home institutions

2016 CURE Scholars and their home institutions



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 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 9-11, 2016, the 36 students who participated in the CURE program this year presented their final projects during two afternoons of oral presentations, and an afternoon electronic poster session.  They were joined by seasoned principal investigators, graduate students and postdocs, friends, family, funders, and even one of their former high school teachers, who gathered at Dana-Farber to observe and celebrate the original scientific research they completed this summer.

During their final presentations, students proudly and confidently shared their experimental data and conclusions and expressed their profound gratitude for the CURE program, their research mentors and PIs, and others that supported them in their endeavors.

At the poster session, many students commented on the doors that they believe CURE will open for them, and the important professional and scientific lessons they learned during their participation in the program.

CURE student Hawa Barry (left) welcomed her former Revere High School math teacher, Will Schwartz (right, back), to Dana-Farber to watch her present the findings she collected in her research environment this summer.

CURE student Hawa Barry (left) welcomed her former Revere High School math teacher, Will Schwartz (right, back), to Dana-Farber to watch her present the findings she collected in her research environment this summer.

CURE research mentors also expressed their enthusiasm for the program; they emphasized the professional benefits they derived from their involvement in CURE, in particular the honing of critical management skills and mentoring experience.

Launched in 2002, the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) at Dana-Farber Harvard/Cancer Center will celebrate its 15th anniversary next year. The 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 careers in cancer research, treatment and care. Over three hundred 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 acceptance 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 investigator. The type of research conducted varies depending on the environment in which the student is placed. However, all students are engaged in cancer-related work. In addition, the program makes every effort to match students with labs that share their research interests. Outside of the lab, CURE students attend a variety of programs, including scientific seminars, professional development workshops, journal and book clubs, as well as events that expose them to scientific careers beyond academia.

Karen Burns White, Deputy Associate Director of DF/HCC’s Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities, and director of the CURE program explains that the goal of the CURE program is “to increase the number of researchers from under-represented populations.” Karen and DF/HCC’s IECD initiative places emphasis on the engagement and inclusion of minority communities, simply stated, “We are hopeful that through a lens that demonstrates perspectives from diverse cultures and backgrounds, we will realize the added value and positive impact, resulting in us continuing to be a competitive comprehensive cancer center.”

CURE Class of 2016

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title:
 Creating a Targeted Next Generation Sequencing Assay to Identify RH Antigens from DNA for Stem Cell Transplants
Principal Investigator: William Lane, MD, PhD
Mentors: Peter Tonellato, PhD (HMS); Helen Mah, MS; John Baronas

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title:  Protein-Protein Interaction Targeted Drug Intervention
Principal Investigators: Marc Vidal, PhD (DFCI); David Hill, PhD
Mentor: Soon Gang Choi, PhD



Alexander Thompson (UMass Amherst) - Placed at Boston Children's Hospital
Project Title: Regulation of the human NLRP1 inflammasome
Principal Investigator: Ben Croker, PhD (BCH)
Mentors: Akshay D'Cruz, PhD; Meghan Bliss-Moreau, PhD; Alyce Chen, PhD

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Protective and Radiosensitizing Role of Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles in Prostate Epithelial and Cancer Cells, Respectively
Principal Investigator: Wilfred Ngwa, PhD (BWH)
Mentor: Sayeda Yasmin-Karim, PhD

Placed at UMass Boston
Project Title:  Identification of TOP2B as a Novel Substrate of Lysine-Specific Demethylase 1 in Mediating Androgen Receptor Transcriptional Activity
Principal Investigator: Changmeng Cai, PhD
Mentor: Shuai Gao, PhD

Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title:  Involvement of Shp-2 Sh2 Domains in the Interaction with Pd-1 Checkpoint Inhibitor
Principal Investigator: Vassiliki Boussiotis, MD, PhD (BIDMC)
Mentor: Nicholas Patsoukis, PhD

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Assessing Readability Levels of Web-Based Patient Education Material on Hereditary Breast Cancer Syndrome
Principal Investigator and Mentor:
 Meghan Underhill, PhD, RN, AOCNS (DFCI)

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: 
Anti-Malarial Drugs Used to Suppress Tumor Growth in Pediatric High Grade Gliomas 
Principal Investigator:
 Bakhos Tannous, PhD (MGH)
Mentors:
Jian Teng, PhD; Ghazal Lashgari, MD

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Readability of Prostate Cancer Health Information Online
Principal Investigator and Mentor: 
Donna Berry, PhD, RN, FAAN (DFCI)


Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title:
Identifying SV40 Host Range Restriction Factor FAM111A Nucleolar Interacting Partners
Principal Investigator:
 James DeCaprio, MD (DFCI)
Mentor:
Roxana Tarnita 

Placed at Boston Children's Hospital
Project Title: 
Neuropilin Expression in Podocytes: The Clinical Implications for SEMA3 Anti- Cancer Therapy
Principal Investigator and Mentor:
 Diane Bielenberg, PhD (BCH)

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Anti-Tcell, Immunosuppressive ATG Drug in Acute Graft Versus Host Disease (aGVHD) Patients Post Allogeniec Homotopeitic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT)
Principal Investigator:
 Jerome Ritz, MD (DFCI)
Mentors:
Carol Reynolds, PhD; Marie Chammas; Sharmila Rai 

Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: 
Functional MRI Software Comparison for Neurosurgical Planning
Principal Investigator:
 Alexandra Golby, MD (BWH)
Mentor:
Laura Rigolo, MA



Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: 
Variation in the Use of Active Surveillance for Low-Risk Prostate Cancer Principal 
Principal Investigator: 
Quoc-Dien Trinh, MD (BWH)
Mentor:
Björn Löppenberg, MD

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Identification of Specific Pcbp1Binding Nucleotides for Protein 4.1R Exon 16 Splicing Principal 
Principal Investigator:
 Edward J. Benz, Jr, MD
Mentor:
Shu-Ching Huang, PhD 


Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical School
Project Title: 
Copy Number Variation and Oncogenesis
Principal Investigator: 
Manoj Bhasin, PhD (BIDMC)
Mentor:
Ce Gao, PhD 

Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: 
Investigating the Role of mir-21 in Pancreatic Cancer
Principal Investigator:
 Franck Slack, PhD (BIDMC)
Mentor:
Maud-Emmanuelle Gilles, PhD 

Placed at Brighsam and Women's Hospital

Project Title: Systemic Uptake of PGM and SBC 103 in the Lymphatic System
Principal Investigators: Ali Tavakkoli, MD (BWH)l Eric Sheu, MD, PhD (BWH); Stanley Ashley, MD (BWH)
Mentors: Eleanor Rudge, MD; Renuka Subramanian, DVM, PhD; Tara Deelman, MD 

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: 
The Cancer Inhibitory Effect of a New Glial Cell Population
Principal Investigator:
 Bakhos Tannous, PhD (MGH)
Mentor:
Jian Teng, PhD 


Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Discovering Biological Pathways that Discriminate between Luminal-A Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in the Breast
Principal Investigator:
Aedin Culhane, PhD (DFCI/HSPH)
Mentor:
Azfar Basunia 

Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: 
Predictors of Rehabilitation Placement after Pancreaticoduodenectomy
Principal Investigator:
 Tara Kent, MD, MS (BIDMC)
Mentors:
Manuel Castillo-Angeles, MD, MPH; Courtney Barrows, MD 

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: 
Factors Influencing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among a Low Income Population
Principal Investigator:
 K. "Vish" Viswanath, PhD (DFCI)
Mentor:
Rachel F. McCloud, ScD 


Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Assessing the Validity and Reproducibility of Cortisol and DHEA Biomarker Measurements in Toenails
Principal Investigator: Shelley Tworoger, PhD (BWH)
Mentors: Tianyi Huang, ScD; Mollie Barnard, SM 

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Biochemical Characterization of a Novel BAF Complex Subunit
Principal Investigator: Cigall Kadoch, PhD (DFCI)
Mentors: Hayley Zullow; Seth Cassel 



Placed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Project Title: Discovering whether AHNAK2, S100P, and TMPRSS4 Genes are Biomarkers and Potential Therapeutic Targets for Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma
Principal Investigator: Towia Libermann, PhD (BIDMC)
Mentors: Xuesong Gu, PhD; Wyatt Smith; Marie Bruno 

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Investigating Lung Toxicity Following Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Patients
Principal Investigator: Harald Paganetti, PhD (MGH)
Mentors: Clemes Grassberger, PhD; Tracy Underwood, PhD

Placed at Boston Children's Hospital
Project Title: The Impact of Fibroblasts on Photodynamic Therapy Response of Pancreatic Cancer 
Principal Investigator: Tayyaba Hasan, PhD (MGH)
Mentor: Ahmed Alkhateeb, PhD 

Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Midlife Vascular Factors and Cognitive Aging in African Americans
Principal Investigator: Eva Schernhammer, MD, PhD (BWH)
Mentor: Elizabeth Devore, RN, ScD 


Placed at Harvard Medical School
Project Title: SIRT3 Suppresses Glutaminolysis in Breast Cancer
Principal Investigator: Marcia Haigis, PhD (HMS)
Mentor: Karina Gonzalez 

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: A Literature Review on Cost of Cancer Care Discussions: Who Should Lead the Discussion?
Principal Investigator: Reginald Tucker-Seeley, MA, ScM, ScD (DFCI)
Mentor: Vanessa Boulanger, MSc 

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Diffusion Weighted Imaging in Prostate Cancer: Comparison of Mono-exponential and Bi- exponential Modeled Diffusion and Perfusion Coefficients
Principal Investigator: Fiona Fennessy, MBBCH, PhD (DFCI)
Mentor: Lei Qin, PhD 

Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: In vitro Validation of a Recombinant Adeno- Associated Vector Expressing Mkrn3
Principal Investigator: Ursula Kaiser, MD (BWH)
Mentors: Stephanie Roberts, MD; Rona Carroll, PhD (BWH)

Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Roux-En-Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) surgery mediates metabolic and immune changes in obese rats
Principal Investigators: Ali Tavakkoli, MD (BWH); Eric Sheu, MD, PhD (BWH); Stanley Ashley, MD (BWH)
Mentors: Eleanor Rudge, MD; Renuka Subramanian, DVM, PhD; Tara Deelman, MD 

Placed at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Project Title: Expanding the GeneSigDB Gene Signature Database to Include Signatures of Immune Response
Principal Investigator and Mentor: Aedin Culhane, PhD (DFCI/HSPH)



Placed at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Project Title: Steroidogenic Cells Protect and Restore Ovarian Function During and After Chemotherapy
Principal Investigator: Raymond Anchan, MD, PhD (BWH)
Mentors: Kevin Elias, MD; Emma McGuirk; Nicholas Ng 

Placed at Massachusetts General Hospital
Project Title: Psychosocial Predictors of Cigarette Smoking in the United States
Principal Investigator: Alexandra Shields, PhD (MGH)
Mentor: Nicholas Spence, PhD