DF/HCC’s CURE Program Celebrates 20 Years by Expanding Eligibility, Support for HBCU Students

September 20, 2022

(L to R, Karen Burns White, Monica Moore (Howard University 2024), and Governor Charlie Baker)

(L to R, Karen Burns White, Monica Moore (Howard University 2024), and Governor Charlie Baker)

2022 is a year that sees the DF/HCC CURE Program celebrate 20 years in operation under the leadership of Karen Burns White, Deputy Associate Director for both the DF/HCC Community Outreach and Engagement effort, and also the longstanding DF/HCC Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities. This student research training effort led by Burns White and her team since 2002 has seen over 700 students from underrepresented backgrounds matriculate through its programming into the cancer research pipeline, and boasts the inspiring outcomes that can be seen in figure 1.

Outcomes like these are what drove Burns White to grow the Program and led to the success of two R25 grants

the Young Empowered Scientists for ContinUed Research Engagement (YES for CURE) with PI James DeCaprio, MD (DFCI) - 2.5-year training initiative for high school and college students including mentored and independent portions; 

and the Summer Program to Advance Research Careers (SPARC) with PI Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD (DFCI) - 12-week, mentored summer research program for community college and UMass Boston students in cancer or cancer disparities research 

Figure 1. CURE Outcomes Overview

Figure 1. CURE Outcomes Overview

Always looking to expand and touch more lives, this year the research training program stacked support from DF/HCC’s Executive Leadership, the Center for Cancer Equity and Engagement (CCEE), the Williams Franklin Foundation, and the United Negro College Fund to identify and provide support to offer lodging, transportation, and stipends to 3 out of state college students hailing from HBCU’s – historically black colleges and universities – so they could participate in the cancer research experiences that CURE offers (related: see Shuler et al, Cell 2022, “Learning from HBCUs: How to produce Black professionals in STEM”). Additionally, through our collaboration with Williams Franklin Foundation, two additional students who attend college locally received acceptances into the CURE summer-only program.

And participate they did. Brooke Varner (Hampton University), Monica Moore (Howard University) and Wisdom Talley (Howard University) represent the first HBCU students to participate in CURE as part of this intentional approached to diversify the pipeline, blazing a trail for those who will come next.

To that end, several of the 2022 cohort wanted to send along words of encouragement for the potential students that will walk in their footsteps. Please also click here to view select pictures of the final oral and poster presentations from the 2022 final ceremonies.


Brooke Varner

CURE Placement: Li Lan, MD, PhD (Radiation Oncology, MGH)
School: 2nd year, Hampton University, Psychology/Pre-Med
Research Focus:
Developing New Breast Cancer Treatments using CRISPR to Create Knockout Cells

“Don’t get intimidated looking at those going to med school. I can do this as a black woman, and so can you.”

Monica Moore

CURE Placement: Kevin Elias, MD (Gynecologic Oncology, BWH)

School: 3rd year, Howard University, Health Sciences/Chemistry/Pre-Med

Research Focus: Evaluating the Impact of Pulmonary Diseases on the Use of microRNAs as Biomarkers for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer

“Low participation by African-Americans in MD programs could be discouraging to some, but it is not to me because I have examples in my life that look like me. I hope to be that for someone younger than me.”

Sage Petrus

CURE Placement: Kathryn L. Penney, ScD (Epidemiology, BWH)

School: 4th year, Smith College, Neuroscience/Africana Studies

Research Focus: Obesity as a Result of Environmental Exposures Influenced by The American Racial Wealth Gap Increases Risk for Prostate Cancer in African American Men

“Too often as underrepresented students we are told in either the loudest or the most subtle ways that we cannot achieve the greatness we dream of. I'm here to say that you can. So, go after that internship you think you can't get into. Apply to that program that you feel gives you imposter syndrome. Lean onto those mentors that offer you a talk or a meeting. Just do it and you'll not only see how much the reward is worth it, but you'll also see how many people were in your corner rooting for you the entire time.”

Wisdom Talley


CURE Placement: Bakhos A. Tannous, PhD (Neuro-Oncology, MGH)

School: 3rd yr, Howard University, Nursing/Sociology
Research Focus: The Role of Endocannabinoid Signaling in Gliomas

“My greatest takeaway from this experience was learning to be open to discovering the unknown and seizing every opportunity. That way, you can apply the knowledge you've gained to support your community and reach your career goals.”