Our Scientific Advisory Board
The Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) provides strategic guidance and direction for our research and scientific programs. It plays a key role in guiding and prioritizing Komen’s global research investment and serves as the executive committee of the Komen Scholars. The SAB is led by the chief scientific advisors and is comprised of leaders in breast cancer research, clinical practice and advocacy who have made significant contributions to advancing the field and are committed to furthering Komen’s mission.
“Cancer will likely be cured at the water cooler, not the laboratory, when one researcher approaches another and asks ‘What are you working on?’ I have been involved with breast cancer research for over three decades now, and the most important lesson I have learned is that being a breast cancer researcher involves being a link in a chain, or perhaps, one thread in a very large weave. My own research has benefited from this ‘Great Weave.’ I have had the good fortune, throughout my career, to benefit from the collaboration of large numbers of people who care passionately about the breast cancer problem. My research has relied on a veritable army of physicians, nurses, data managers, statisticians, and most importantly of all, patients.”
George W. Sledge, M.D., is Professor of Medicine for the Division of Oncology at Stanford University.
An internationally-recognized clinical trialist and pioneer in the development of novel therapies for breast cancer, Dr. Sledge directed the first large, nationwide trial that studied the efficacy of paclitaxel as a therapy for advanced breast cancer. He has led many nationwide clinical trials involving new therapies for breast cancer. His research focuses on molecular and tumor biology, growth factors and targeted therapy. His Komen-funded research focuses on new technologies that capture tumor cells circulating in the blood stream, which may provide doctors with better tools to understand and treat metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Sledge is also one of the experts involved with Komen’s big data initiative. He was awarded the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in 2006 for his outstanding research.
Read more about Dr. Sledge in Voices of Impact.
“I appreciate the chance to give back to Komen, as well as the opportunity to brainstorm, collaborate, and affect change with other passionate investigators that share a keen interest in investing in discovery research and making advances that will prevent breast cancer and have clinical impact for patients with the disease.”
Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., is the Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Molecular Oncology, and Professor of Biochemistry, Cancer Biology and Otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Dr. Pietenpol’s early research focused on the signaling of p53 family in breast cancer; p53 is a tumor suppressor gene (controls cell death) and is one of the most commonly mutated genes in cancer. More recently, Dr. Pietenpol has combined her research expertise in molecular genetics with bioinformatics and statistics to advance our knowledge of the key driving signaling molecules in triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Dr. Pietenpol’s Komen funding supports research that identified molecular subtypes of TNBC and is now determining the molecular underpinnings of these distinct subtypes. The results from her laboratory-based work are being translated to several clinical trials investigating targeted therapies for TNBC patients, with the goal of helping oncologists determine the most appropriate and precise treatment for breast cancer patients.
“I have long been an advocate of the importance of integrating basic and clinical research. This approach has facilitated the development of completely novel approaches to cancer therapy built on biological principles.”
Alan Ashworth, Ph.D., F.R.S., is President of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco, a role he began in January 2015. He was previously Chief Executive of the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, United Kingdom. A translational biologist and laboratory researcher, Dr. Ashworth’s research focuses on understanding breast cancer genetics and applying what he learns to change the way patients are treated. He was a key part of the team that identified the BRCA2 breast cancer susceptibility gene in 1995, which is linked to an increased risk of some types of cancer. Ten years later, Dr. Ashworth found a way to kill off BRCA1- and 2-related tumor cells by treating them with Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) activity inhibitors, which amplify the damage caused by the broken DNA repair machinery in those cells. This therapeutic approach is now standard of care for BRCA-related breast and ovarian cancer. Dr. Ashworth’s Komen-funded research builds on his previous work and aims to identify genes and proteins that can be targeted with drugs to cause death of breast tumor cells in particular individuals with the goal of identifying new and better therapy options for breast cancer patients.
“We are entering an amazing time in breast cancer research, where our understanding of biology is directly informing patient care. Komen’s support has been, and continues to be key to the research responsible for this transformation.”
Lisa A. Carey, M.D., is the Richardson and Marilyn Jacobs Preyer Distinguished Professor in Breast Cancer, Alliance Breast Committee Co-Chair and Deputy Director of Clinical Science at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Carey’s research focuses on the identification of different subtypes of breast cancer, evaluation of new agents in early and metastatic breast cancer, and examination of tumor characteristics that predict response to therapy and outcome. A clinical trialist, translational researcher, and expert in molecular subtypes of breast cancer, among other accomplishments, Dr. Carey was the lead author of the JAMA paper that first identified the predisposition of African-American women to have triple-negative breast cancer, designed and led the first clinical trial of a targeted agent in triple-negative breast cancer, and a phase III trial in HER2-positive breast cancer that illustrated that biologic features of the cancer and the microenvironment were as, if not more, important to treatment response than drugs. She has led multiple clinical trials testing novel drugs or regimens, or testing the clinical usefulness of biomarkers to guide treatment. Dr. Carey’s Komen-funded research builds upon her leadership of the phase IIIneoadjuvant trial CALGB 40601, which examined dual versus single HER2- targeting as well as tumor and microenvironmental contributions to pathologic complete response (pCR). Her Komen research aims to develop, through collaboration with study chairs and scientific leaders of other neoadjuvant trials in HER2-positive disease, DNA- and RNA-based biomarkers to guide escalation and de-escalation approaches to achieve pCR and improve relapse-free survival.
“No other organization has impacted breast cancer advocacy and research more than Susan G. Komen. World renowned researchers and volunteers support Komen because Komen cares about the future and honors the past. Komen is the pink ribbon that binds us together.”
Sandra Finestone, Psy.D., is a 30-year breast cancer survivor and research advocate, who has been a volunteer for Susan G. Komen for over 25 years. Dr. Finestone is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is passionate about educating breast cancer patients about their disease and the importance of breast cancer research. Dr. Finestone opened the Hope Wellness Center to meet the needs of breast cancer survivors. As Executive Director, she facilitates support groups, meets individually with patients and their families and has created a peer support system where breast cancer mentors help newly diagnosed women with their journey. Sandy helped start the Orange County Komen Affiliate and has been president three times, as well as the Race chair. She is a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Ambassador and past-President of the Inland Empire Komen Affiliate. In 2009, she went to Jordan to facilitate a meeting that taught healthcare providers about support groups for women with breast cancer, and later that year, trained women in Kuwait and Egypt about support groups. A Project Lead graduate, Dr. Finestone is an experienced grant reviewer for multiple organizations, including Komen. A member of the Advocates in Science Steering Committee, she currently serves as the patient advocate representative on Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board.
“Every advance in breast cancer outcomes has come from research, be it fundamental, translational, or clinical. My passion and goal is to accelerate these advances to help men and women who have breast cancer and to ultimately provide a cure.”
Dr. Adrian Lee is the Pittsburgh Foundation Chair and Director of the Institute for Precision Medicine (IPM), a joint effort by UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, to move biomedical research into personalized well-being and clinical care. He is also Professor of Pharmacology & Chemical Biology and Human Genetics at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Dr. Lee received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in England, and came to San Antonio, Texas, for his postdoctoral studies. He was subsequently recruited to Baylor College of Medicine and then to the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. The goal of Dr. Lee’s research laboratory is to translate basic cell and molecular research findings into the understanding and treatment of breast cancer. In 2018 Dr. Lee was awarded the Terri L Chapman award from Susan G. Komen, the PNC Elsie Hillman Distinguished Scholar Award, and the University of Pittsburgh Biomedical Graduate Scholar Association (BGSA) Distinguished Mentor Award. Dr. Lee’s Komen-funded research is focused on developing a publicly available resource of patient-derived organoid 3D model cultures of primary and metastatic breast cancers by characterizing and validating these model cultures which are derived from tumor cells of different ancestries, subtypes and stages to generate a living biobank to serve as preclinical models for the research community.
“I am extremely grateful for having received grant support from Susan G. Komen that was instrumental in advancing my breast cancer research partnership between the United States and Africa – a wonderful intersection between the interests of global advocacy and improving breast health care in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Lisa A. Newman, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, FASCO is a surgical oncologist. She is the Chief of the Division of Breast Surgery and Director of the Interdisciplinary Breast Disease Program for the Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Hospital Network. Previously, she worked at the Henry Ford Health System, where she served as director of the breast program. She is also the Founding Medical Director for the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes, also relocated at Weill Cornell Medicine. Her primary research has focused on ethnicity-related variation in breast cancer risk and outcome. She oversees an international breast cancer research and training program involving a network of physicians and facilities in Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, Haiti, Barbados, and Canada. This program has focused on studying triple negative breast cancer in women with African ancestry. Her Komen Scholar grant will study triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) subtypes in diverse populations. Dr. Newman’s leadership is creating a new research field of anthropologic oncology, which can define root causes of breast tumor progression based upon the study of population migration patterns and reproductive history.
“The frustration I felt many times during my medical training for not being able to do enough for patients was one of the main driving forces that directed me into cancer research and continues to be my main motivation”.
Kornelia Polyak, M.D., Ph.D., is a Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, in the Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, MA. She is Principal Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and is Associate Member at The Broad Institute. Dr. Polyak’s laboratory is dedicated to improving the clinical management of breast cancer patients through understanding the drivers of breast tumor initiation and progression. She has been at the forefront of studies analyzing the expression of genes from normal and ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) at the single-cell level and applying mathematical and ecological models to better understanding breast tumor evolution. Her work has shed light on tumor evolution in women carrying BRCA1/2 mutation as well as deciphered the large diversity of cells within a tumor (tumor heterogeneity). Dr. Polyak never loses track of her goal of eradicating suffering from breast cancer and pushes her findings to the clinic, including clinical trials to test the efficacy of Janus kinase (JAK) and bromodomain and extraterminal proteins (BET) inhibitors for the treatment of breast cancer. Dr. Polyak’s Komen-funded research is focused on understanding mechanisms by which hereditary and lifestyle factors influence breast cancer risk by understanding the impact of germline polymorphisms in TGFBR2 and identifying the subset of mammary epithelial cells most sensitive to these genetic changes that lead to breast cancer.
Past SAB Members
Carlos L. Arteaga, M.D.
UT Southwestern Medical Center
SAB member 2012-2022
Melissa Bondy, Ph.D.
Stanford Cancer Institute
SAB member 2007-2010
Komen Scholar 2010-2017
Myles Brown, M.D.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
SAB member 2010-2020
Powel Brown, M.D., Ph.D.
The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
SAB member 2007-2017
Karen Gelmon, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.
British Columbia Cancer Agency
Komen Scholar 2010-2012
Scientific Advisory Board 2012-2018
Cheryl Jernigan, C.P.A., F.A.C.H.E.
Komen Advocate in Science
Kansas City, MO
Komen Scholar 2010-2012
SAB Member 2012-2018
H. Kim Lyerly, M.D.
Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center
Scientific Advisory Board 2007-2010
Komen Scholar 2010-2013
Amelie Ramirez, Dr.P.H.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
San Antonio, TX
SAB member 2007-2017 (now a Komen Scholar)
Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
SAB member 2007-2010
Komen Scholar 2010-2013
Christina Tannous, Ph.D.
Komen Advocate in Science
Fountain Valley, CA
Scientific Advisory Board 2008-2012
Komen Scholar 2012-2013
Eric P. Winer, M.D.
Yale Cancer Center
New Haven, CT
Chief Scientific Advisor 2007-2018
SAB Past Chair Member 2018-2019