Shaping the Landscape of Brain Metastases Research (Speaker Bios)

Speaker Bios

 

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    Manmeet Ahluwalia, MD, MBA
    Chief Scientific Officer , Miami Cancer Institute

    Manmeet Ahluwalia, M.D., M.B.A., is the chief of medical oncology, deputy director and chief scientific officer at Miami Cancer Institute. One of the leading neuro-oncologists in the world, Dr. Ahluwalia’s primary areas of research and patient care are primary tumors and brain metastases. His additional interests include drug development for complex cancers.

    He joined Miami Cancer Institute in January 2021 from the Cleveland Clinic, where he was the Dean and Diane Miller Family Endowed Chair in Neuro-Oncology and the Head of Operations in the Rose Ella Burkhardt Brain Tumor and Neuro-Oncology Center. He also served as a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Ahluwalia holds a Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve and the Cleveland Clinic.

    Dr. Ahluwalia helped develop a world-class clinical trials program and drug development for brain tumors at the Cleveland Clinic. These trials involved immunotherapy and precision medicine-based approaches to target genetic alterations that drive disease. His cutting-edge research has resulted in over 250 publications in prestigious journals that include the JAMA, JAMA Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Clinical Cancer Research, Cancer Discovery, Nature Reviews Neurology, Neuro-Oncology, Nature Reviews and Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology.

    Dr Ahluwalia serves on several leaderships positions in national societies that include American Society of Clinical Oncology where is serves as the member of the evidence-based committee, Taxonomy and cancer conquer committee, He serves as the Chair of the Guidelines Committee for Society for NeuroOncology and as the Chair of the Brain Tumor Working Group at SWOG.

    In his free time, Dr. Ahluwalia enjoys spending time with his children, traveling, playing and watching tennis with his family.

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    Ayal Aizer, M.D., M.H.S.
    Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Dana-Farber Cancer Institute / Harvard Medical School

    Dr. Aizer is an Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School who serves as the Director of Central Nervous System Radiation Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. He completed medical school at Yale School of Medicine in 2009 before pursuing radiation oncology residency at the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, which he completed in 2014. Dr. Aizer specializes in the management of brain metastases and his research efforts seek to improve outcomes in this population. He leads several prospective clinical trials involving patients with brain metastases and has published both retrospective and large data-based studies centered on the management of patients with this condition.

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    Ranjit Bindra, MD/PhD
    Professor, Yale Medical School

    Dr. Ranjit Bindra is a physician-scientist at the Yale School of Medicine, the Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Therapeutic Radiology, and the Scientific Director of the Yale Brain Tumor Center. Clinically, he treats adult and pediatric primary CNS cancers, as well as brain metastases using radiosurgery.

    In the laboratory, his group recently led a team of four major laboratories at Yale, which reported the stunning discovery that IDH1/2-mutant tumors harbor a profound DNA repair defect that renders them exquisitely sensitive to PARP inhibitors. This work was published in Science Translational Medicine, Nature Genetics, and most recently in Nature, and it has received international attention with major clinical implications. Dr. Bindra is now translating this work directly into patients, in multiple phase I/II clinical trials. More recently, Dr. Bindra developed a novel approach to exploit DNA repair defects via DNA modification using small molecules, which was published in Science.

    As an active biotech entrepreneur, he has founded five companies based on work from his laboratory, including Cybrexa Therapeutics, which is now in Phase I clinical trials. More recently, he founded Alphina Therapeutics, an early-stage biotech focused on targeting NAD metabolism in cancer, and Modifi Bio, based on his most recent discovery from his lab above.

    Dr. Bindra received his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1998, and both his MD and PhD from the Yale School of Medicine in 2007. He completed his medical internship, radiation oncology residency, and post-doctoral research studies at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in 2012.

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    Priscilla K Brastianos, MD
    Director, Central Nervous System Metastases Center, Massachusetts General Hospital

    Dr. Priscilla Brastianos is the Director of the Central Nervous System Metastasis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School. Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, she received her BSc in biochemistry and chemistry from the University of British Columbia, where she graduated as her class valedictorian. She completed her medical school training at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and her internal medicine residency training at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Following her training at Johns Hopkins, she pursued her fellowship training at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital. As a physician-scientist, Dr. Brastianos received a number of prestigious awards for her scholarship and research.
    Dr. Brastianos’ research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms that drive brain metastases. Her pioneering work has led to national multicenter cooperative group trials that she is leading. Her clinical trials, translated from her in her laboratory, are already making an impact on patient lives. She leads a multidisciplinary central nervous system metastasis clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her hope is that the findings from genomic studies will provide an understanding of the molecular pathways that drive brain metastasis, which will allow the development of more rational therapeutic approaches for this common and devastating complication of cancer.

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    Laura C Crandon, MBA
    Founder and President, Touch4Life

    Out of her own journey with breast cancer, Laura Crandon turned pain into purpose. She recognized the disparities in breast cancer detection, treatment and survivorship that exists for Black and Brown women in the United States. Inspired by her mother and father who were path breakers in NIH mathematics and statistics, and Negro League Baseball, respectively, she pioneered to drive change. Laura leads Touch4Life, the only Breast Health IQ platform to educate, equip and empower women of color to take an active role in breast health. Laura counsels, teaches and inspires women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and works with physicians and nurses to provide culturally relevant educational materials. She advocates for health equity and inclusion in clinical research, genomic and genetic testing, and patient empowerment. An ABLE fellow sponsored by the African Diaspora Network, Laura has been trained to sustain a successful non-profit organization.

    Professionally, Laura Crandon has served as a healthcare executive at UnitedHealthcare and CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield for 15 years. Laura earned an MBA from Duke University and a BS in Computer Science from University of Maryland College Park.
    Laura served as a member of the Duke University Fuqua School of Business Healthcare Alumni Advisory Board, a certified financial officer for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Iota Lambda Omega Chapter, Secretary of the Pearl Foundation Board of Directors, Chair of the Health and Human Services Facet of The Columbia (MD) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an INROADS alumna, the immediate past president of the Black Leadership Union Parents Advisory Council at River Hill High School, and former Vice Chairman of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary Board of Trustees. Having traveled to 5 continents, she enjoys marriage ministry with her husband, spending time with her sons, outdoor adventures, and Monopoly.

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    Michael A Davies, M.D., Ph.D.
    Professor, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

    Dr. Davies is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and he is the Anne and John Mendelsohn Chair for Cancer Research. Dr. Davies is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and he is the President-Elect of the Society for Melanoma Research. He has been the principal investigator of both individual and team science peer-reviewed grants from several organizations, and he has authored or co-authored >200 original research manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Davies is a physician-scientist whose research utilizes integrated approaches to study the regulation and clinical significance of oncogenic signaling networks in cancer, particularly in the therapeutic resistance and molecular pathogenesis of brain metastases.

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    John de Groot, MD
    Professor and Neuro-Oncology Division Chief, University of California, San Francisco

    I am a neuro-oncologist having clinical and translational research experience in the fields of glioma angiogenesis, molecularly targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. A broad clinical and laboratory experience has given me a unique perspective on the translation of novel therapies into the clinic for the treatment of patients with primary brain tumors. I have been the PI or collaborator of multiple clinical trials. I have led or am leading multiple biomarker-driven clinical trials including neo-adjuvant studies of various immunotherapeutic agents. I am currently the PI or co-investigator on multiple funded NCI-, foundation, and industry-sponsored funded grants. In December 2012, I was appointed the Director of Clinical Research for the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Preclinical collaborations with multiple pharmaceutical companies assisting with the development of drugs for glioblastoma patients have resulted in investigator-initiated clinical trials and influenced larger company-sponsored trials. These endeavors have been the basis for a National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) grant (PI: de Groot) and CPRIT grant (PI: de Groot). To date, I have published over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts. I have been a peer reviewer for 23 scientific journals, both national and international, and am on four editorial review boards. I serve as a grant reviewer for multiple international foundations, government agencies, and ad hoc reviewer for the NIH. After serving as interim-chair of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson, I am currently Professor and Chief of the Division of Neuro-Oncology at University of California, San Francisco.

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    Benjamin M Ellingson, Ph.D., M.S.
    Professor and Director of MRI Research, University of California Los Angeles

    Dr. Ellingson is the Director of MRI Research and a Professor of Radiology, Psychiatry, Bioengineering, and Neurosurgery within the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Ellingson is also the Director of the UCLA Brain Tumor Imaging Laboratory (BTIL) and Co-Director of the UCLA Center for Computer Vision and Imaging Biomarkers (CVIB), where his research focuses on the development, testing, validation, and implementation of advanced MR and PET imaging biomarkers for early diagnosis, biological characterization, and therapeutic response assessment in neuro-oncology, neurotrauma, neurodegenerative disorders, and psychiatric diseases. Dr. Ellingson has co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed original research articles relating to neuroimaging and has significant experience in the integration, quantitation, and interpretation of imaging in multicenter clinical trials. Dr. Ellingson is on several academic and patient advisory steering committees and holds many advisory roles in with industry partners relating to advanced imaging techniques, radiographic response assessment and image interpretation in brain tumor clinical trials. Dr. Ellingson possesses a broad background in biomedical engineering, quantum physics, mathematics, molecular imaging, bioelectronics, and medical instrumentation.

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    Silvia C Formenti, M.D.
    Professor and Chair, Weill Cornell Medicine

    Dr. Silvia Formenti is Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Medicine, Associate Director of Translational Research at the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Radiation Oncologist-in-Chief at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She is also the Sandra and Edward Meyer Professor of Cancer Research at Weill Cornell Medicine.

    Dr. Formenti received her medical degree in Italy from the University of Milan. She is board certified in medical oncology, radiology and radiation oncology. A recognized leader in radiation oncology and breast cancer research, Dr. Formenti’s groundbreaking work has transformed the paradigm in radiation biology, demonstrating the efficacy of combining radiotherapy with immunotherapy to control cancer cell growth in solid tumors. In combination with immune checkpoint blockade, focal radiotherapy can be used to recruit patients’ immune systems to reject their individual tumor, resulting in a form of personalized immunotherapy, specific for each individual patient. She has translated preclinical work into clinical trials in metastatic solid tumors like breast and lung cancer, and in brain metastases. She is leading eighteen investigator-initiated clinical trials of immunotherapy and radiotherapy. As a prolific researcher, Dr. Formenti has authored over 300 publications, has been awarded many peer-reviewed federal and foundation grants. She currently leads 3 Department of Defense breast cancer research grants (totaling more than 10 million dollars in direct costs), an NIH/NCI U54 (close to 5 million in direct costs) and a Breast Cancer Research Foundation grant. She was honored to receive the ASTRO Gold Medal in 2019 and SITC Team Science Award in 2021.

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    Melanie Hayden Gephart, M.D., M.A.S.
    Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University

    As a board-certified brain tumor neurosurgeon, my laboratory is well-positioned to accelerate translational neuro-oncology research, combining genetics and tumor biology with unique insight into the pressing clinical questions facing patients with malignant brain tumors. My laboratory (www.GephartLab.com) uses novel genetic sequencing methods and modeling to understand how cancer grows in the brain, inadvertently supported by native brain cells. We focus on translational targets identified from and validated with primary human tissue and cerebrospinal fluid whenever possible, as this most reliably recapitulates the human disease. These findings have led to novel diagnostic tools and clinical trials for patients with malignant brain tumors. I direct the Stanford Brain Tumor Center and established the Stanford Brain Metastases Consortium (https://stan.md/BrainMets), multidisciplinary groups of physicians and scientists collaborating to improve outcomes for patients with malignant brain tumors. @HaydenGephartMD

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    Eva Hernando, PhD
    Professor, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

    Eva Hernando obtained her PhD in Molecular Biology from Universidad Autónoma (Madrid, Spain). She conducted her post-doctoral studies at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cold Spring Harbor laboratories in New York. She joined the Department of Pathology at NYU School of Medicine in 2006 where she is currently a tenured professor and assistant dean for research integration. Her laboratory studies the molecular basis of melanoma metastasis, using patient samples and clinically relevant murine models. Her group has identified non-coding RNA that functionally contribute to various aspects of melanoma progression and therapeutic resistance, including miRNA (e.g., Cancer Cell 2011; JNCI, 2015) and circular RNA (Cancer Cell, 2020). In addition, they have reported epigenetic and post-transcriptional programs driving melanoma metastasis (e.g., Nat Cell Biol 2015; Mol Cell 2017; Science Adv 2022; Cancer Cell 2017) in melanoma metastasis. Recently, they have reported Amyloid-beta as a novel mediator of melanoma brain metastasis (Kleffman et al., Cancer Discov., 2022).
    Dr. Hernando is a co-leader on the NYULH Melanoma SPORE and the contact PI of the recently NCI funded NYULH Metastasis Research Network Center. She has served as a permanent member of the Cancer molecular pathogenesis (CAMP) NIH study section, and is currently a member of the programmatic review panel of the DOD Melanoma Research Program, the Melanoma Research Foundation and the Melanoma Research Alliance.

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    Christine Hodgdon, M.S.
    Co-Founder, Guiding Researchers & Advocates to Scientific Partnerships (GRASP)

    Christine Hodgdon was a conservation biologist before her metastatic breast cancer (MBC) diagnosis in April 2015. Her advocacy career began when she launched TheStormRiders.org, an educational resource for MBC patients that includes a searchable clinical trial database. She later co-founded GRASP - Guiding Researchers & Advocates to Scientific Partnerships which empowers patients, clinicians, and researchers to exchange ideas and learn from each other. She spearheads the MBC Alliance-sponsored Breast Cancer Brain Metastasis (BCBM) Initiative: Marina Kaplan Project with the goal to address the unmet research needs of breast cancer patients living with central nervous system (CNS) metastasis and was a founding committee member of MBCBrainMets.org, a resource hub for breast cancer patients living with brain metastasis. She also collaborates with leadership at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center to innovate the INSPIRE (Influencing Science through Patient-Informed Research & Education) Advocacy Program. Her advocacy work is inspired and driven by the loss of many friends to MBC.

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    Jacob Kaufman, M.D., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor, Ohio State University James Comprehensive Cancer Center

    I am committed to a career focused on basic and translational research to improve the treatment of lung cancer. Specifically, I have applied integrated multi-omics analyses and various experimental approaches to characterize gene expression profiles, signaling pathways, and drug sensitivity patterns exhibited by lung adenocarcinomas that have lost the LKB1 tumor suppressor. This gene, a serine-threonine kinase also known as STK11, is lost in approximately 30% of lung adenocarcinomas and has recently been shown to confer clinical resistance to immunotherapy. My current work applies high throughput functional genomics approaches to model systems of LKB1 loss with the goal to 1) identify novel clinical targets for LKB1 deficient lung cancer, and 2) discover mechanisms of resistance to immune checkpoint inhibition in this subset of tumors.

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    Michelle Kim, MD
    Associate Professor, University of Michigan

    As a clinician scientist with a focus on central nervous system tumors, Dr. Kim’s research focuses on improving outcomes among patients with brain tumors through the conduct of clinical trials implementing imaging biomarker-guided precision radiotherapy and novel drug-radiotherapy combinations. Through her role as Co-Chair of the Response Assessment in Neuro-Oncology Radiotherapy Working Group, Co-Chair of the NIH/NCI Brain Metastases Interest Group, and active participation in the National Clinical Trials Network adult brain tumor committees, Dr. Kim aims to bridge multi-institutional efforts nationally and internationally in the development, support and conduct of brain tumor clinical trials research.

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    Niki Kozak,
    Patient, cancersnewnormal.com

    Niki is a stage IV metastatic melanoma thriver and radio host. Having survived 37 brain lesions, two craniotomies, and 10 rounds through gamma knife, she has a keen interest in research and treatment advances for brain metastases patients. She has provided patient input to the American Radium Society brain committee, spoken in ABTA webinars and at American Cancer Society events, and is active with assisting patient learning and advocacy for themselves. When not online or on air, you'll find her on her bike, or in running shoes training for an upcoming marathon.

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    Eudocia Q. Lee, MD, MPH
    Director of Clinical Research, Center for Neuro-Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    Eudocia Quant Lee, MD, MPH, is a neuro-oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She is the Director of Clinical Research in the Center for Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber and Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital/Dana-Farber/Brigham neuro-oncology fellowship program.

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    Charles Limoli, Ph.D.
    Professor, University of California, Irvine

    Dr. Limoli is a Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of California Irvine (UCI). He holds a BS degree in chemistry from MIT and a PhD in biomedical sciences from UCSD. Over the years he has served on and chaired numerous peer-review committees and has been the recipient of multiple extramural grants from agencies such as the NINDS, NCI, NASA, ACS and DTRA. He is an internationally recognized expert in radiation biology with over 170 publications and has recently taken his research program into the realm of FLASH-radiotherapy (FLASH-RT). The term “FLASH” irradiation refers to ultrahigh dose rate (≥ 100 Gy/s) radiation delivery which results in remarkable normal tissue sparing while maintaining isoefficient tumor control. The idea that dose-rate modulation can be used for improving the therapeutic index of cancer treatments has generated considerable excitement in the field along with multiple theories providing a variety of mechanistic explanations. Dr. Limoli is the PI of several NCI funded grants on FLASH-RT aimed at improving adult and pediatric brain tumor treatments. Dr. Limoli will provide his insights regarding a path forward for translating this exciting technology to the clinic.

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    Nancy Lin, MD
    Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    Nancy Lin, MD is the Associate Chief for the Division of Breast Oncology, Director of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Program, and Director of the Program for Patients with Breast Cancer Brain Metastases at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research is focused upon developing novel therapies for patients with metastatic breast cancer and in understanding mechanisms of therapeutic resistance. She has led multiple trials of novel systemic approaches for metastatic breast cancer, including patients with breast cancer brain metastases.

    Dr. Lin received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and medical degree from Harvard Medical School. She subsequently completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and fellowships in hematology and medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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    Michelle Monje, MD, PhD
    Professor, Department of Neurology Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stanford University, Stanford University

    Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. She received her M.D. and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford and completed her residency training in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School Partners program, and then returned to Stanford for a clinical fellowship in pediatric neuro-oncology and postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and cancer biology. Dr. Monje is recognized as an international leader in the pathophysiology of glioma, especially diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)/H3K27M-mutated diffuse midline gliomas and a pioneer in the emerging field of Cancer Neuroscience. Her clinical focus is on childhood glial malignancies and cognitive impairment after childhood cancer therapy. Her laboratory studies neuron-glial interactions in health and disease, with a particular focus on mechanisms and consequences of neuron-glial interactions in health, glial dysfunction in cancer therapy-related cognitive impairment and neuron-glial interactions in malignant glioma. Together with these basic studies, her research program has advanced preclinical studies of novel therapeutics for pediatric high-grade gliomas and cancer therapy-related cognitive impairment in order to translate new therapies to the clinic. She has led several of her discoveries from basic molecular work to clinical trials for children and young adults with brain tumors.

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    Michael Pacold, M.D., Ph.D.
    Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

    Michael Pacold is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at NYU Langone Health. He received dual Bachelors’ of Science degrees in Chemistry and Biology from Indiana University, a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Cambridge, and an MD from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency in radiation oncology in the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program. His postdoc was at the Whitehead Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is interested in targeting the metabolic dependences of cancers as they adapt to other environments and in developing improved mass spectrometric methods for metabolomics.

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    Katherine Peters, M.D Ph.D
    Associate Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University

    Dr. Katy Peters, MD, Ph.D. FAAN is an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center (PRTBTC) at Duke. Her academic medical career started at Stanford University School of Medicine, receiving an MD and Ph.D. in Cancer Biology. After completing a neurology residency at Johns Hopkins University and a fellowship in cognitive neurosciences, Katy joined the PRTBTC as a neuro-oncology fellow. In 2009, she became a faculty member at PRTBTC. With a fantastic team of nursing and advanced practice providers, she actively sees and cares for patients with primary brain tumors. She is the principal investigator for trials about newly diagnosed brain tumors and recurrent brain tumors. While she runs clinical trials to treat primary brain tumors, her other interest is in clinical trials focusing on improving brain tumor patients' quality of life and cognition. In 2019, the PRTBTC designated her as the Director of Supportive Care, thus furthering the PRTBTC and her committee to better the quality of life for brain tumor patients. She is active in teaching medical school students, residents, fellows, and advanced practice providers and is the Program Director of the PRTBRC neuro-oncology fellowship. She is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the United Council of Neurologic Subspecialties for neuro-oncology. Currently, she serves as the President-Elect of the Clinical Neurological Society of America and Vice-Chair of the Neuro-Oncology section for the American Academy of Neurology.

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    DeeDee K. Smart, M.D., Ph.D.
    Investigator, NCI

    The Smart lab aims to define molecular pathways that lead to neurodegeneration and functional neuropsychological changes in response to CNS treatment with ionizing radiation as well as determine the molecular mechanisms that regulate the radiation response and radioresistance of brain metastases in order to improve current available therapies so that curative treatment is possible.

    Clinically, Dr. Smart oversees clinical trials to identify biomarkers related to radiation induced neuropsychological changes and normal tissue injury, long-term surveillance of patients who receive radiotherapy for breast cancer, and radiotherapy of malignant and non-malignant brain tumors.

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    Kirk G. Tanner, Ph.D.
    Senior Vice President Brain Tumor Investment Fund and CSO, National Brain Tumor Society

    Kirk Tanner is the Chief Scientific Officer at the National Brain Tumor Society. Kirk is an oncology research leader with two decades of experience in discovery and development projects and programs resulting in multiple clinical candidate therapies and investigational new drugs. Formerly, he was the Research Oncology Disease Area Expert and Senior Director at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. As CSO, Kirk leads the National Brain Tumor Society’s research program that aims to catalyze treatment development through philanthropic investment in medical research, engaging scientists, clinicians, patients, and care partners in research programs. Kirk serves as the Chair of the Glioblastoma Drug Development Summit, the only devoted meeting for large pharma, biotech, and pioneering academics working to unite all stakeholders under a mutual and ambitious objective of accelerating the practical discovery, translation, and clinical development of safe, effective and deliverable therapies to treat glioblastoma. Kirk received his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, and did post-doctoral training at Oregon Health Sciences University.

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    Manuel Valiente, Ph.D.
    Group leader, Spanish National Cancer Research Centre

    Manuel Valiente investigates the biology of brain metastasis in order to challenge this unmet clinical need.
    Specifically, his laboratory studies novel brain metastasis mediators, characterizes the metastasis-associated microenvironment, designs better experimental models and explores novel methods to target brain metastasis. All these aims consider the brain environment as a critical component to understand the biology of this progression of cancer.
    Dr. Valiente has co-founded the first National Network of Brain Metastasis (RENACER) in Spain, which is allowing his team to translate laboratory findings to clinical studies faster. In addition, he has established a large network of international clinical collaborators for the same purpose.
    His contributions to brain metastasis research have been recognized with the ASPIRE Award, ERC CoG, EMBO YIP, CLIP Award, Beug Foundation’s Prize for Metastasis Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb-MRA Young Investigator Award among others.
    He is a member of the Scientific Committee of the European Association of Neuro-Oncology (EANO), ESMO faculty member (CNS Tumours faculty group), and Board Member of the Metastasis Research Society (MRS).

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    Shizhen Emily Wang, Ph.D.
    Professor, University of California, San Diego

    S. Emily Wang, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego. She first began her research career in the late 1990s as a virologist and obtained her doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nankai University, followed by post-doctoral trainings at the Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University. Dr. Wang’s group is currently exploring mechanisms through which cancer cell-derived extracellular vesicles contribute to the multifaceted reprogramming of non-cancerous cells in the host as well as novel therapeutic strategies targeting cancer-derived extracellular miRNAs for their function in cancer-host communication.

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    Nicole E. Willmarth, Ph.D.
    Chief Mission Officer, American Brain Tumor Association

    Nicole Willmarth, PhD, joined the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) in 2015. As Chief Mission Officer, she leads a team in developing and executing ABTA’s investment toward the mission. This includes oversight of the strategic direction, expansion and operation of the ABTA’s scientific and research grants program, as well as brain tumor patient support, education and awareness. Nicole is currently a member of several organizations and committees including the NCCN Guidelines Panel for CNS Cancers and the NCI’s National Council of Research Advocates. Prior to joining the ABTA, Nicole served in a leadership position at Susan G. Komen® where she oversaw the business and science management of Komen’s research program. She also previously worked for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) where she managed several grant mechanisms and programs, including the Associate Member Council and the Molecular Epidemiology Working Group. Before joining AACR, Nicole received her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Michigan and published in a number of peer reviewed journals over the course of a decade in research.