Sidewalks to Science: Getting to Know Dr. Paula D. Bos, Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

With lab colleagues at VCU

Dedicating her life to finding a cure for breast cancer, Dr. Paula D. Bos is driven to help Komen meet our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. As an Assistant Professor of Pathology, she and members of her lab are dedicated to developing new treatment options for breast cancer patients with metastatic brain tumors.

In this month’s Sidewalks to Science blog, we will get to know Dr. Bos a little better.

When I’m not in the lab I…

  • Enjoy the outdoors with my daughter and husband.
  • Love reading and baking with my daughter.
  • Am an enthusiastic follower of my daughter’s soccer team. As a native Argentinian, I am very passionate about soccer.

Family Picture at the beach

 What I do…targeting immune cells to treat brain metastases.

Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it’s still considered and treated as breast cancer. Breast cancer that has spread to the brain is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the brain. However, treatments that work for the primary breast tumor are often ineffective at treating the metastatic brain tumor. Current treatment strategies for brain metastasis, which include surgery and radiation, only offer some improvements for most patients. Therefore, I want to improve the options available to breast cancer patients that have developed brain metastases.

I am investigating how a type of immune cell called a regulatory T (Treg) cell helps breast cancer cells that have spread to the brain grow and survive. Tregs can be found in primary and metastatic breast tumors and correlate with poor patient prognosis. A normal function for Tregs is controlling immune responses, and researchers have shown these cells have the ability to suppress the immune system response against cancer. With my Komen funding, I’m studying how Treg cells support brain metastases. I’m trying to develop a treatment strategy to disrupt the support of breast cancer cells that have metastasized to the brain that could be used in patients.

Breast cancer…touches the lives of so many.

My aunt is a 12-year breast cancer survivor, and other types of cancers have taken dear family members and friends.

Working with patients…motivates my research strategy.

Through my research, I have met and come to admire an incredible group of advocates. Their strength and tireless efforts to bring awareness and increase funding for breast cancer research are a constant incentive to intensify our research efforts.

Dr. Paula Bos

People with breast cancer should…participate in clinical trials!

With new technologies available, science is progressing at a fast pace. We have seen major improvements in the treatment of cancer, especially with the immune system checkpoint blocking antibodies. Breast cancer has yet seen the benefit seen by other cancers, but several approaches are at the clinical trial stage.

Komen is…about patient advocacy!

I have always been motivated to do research to answer pressing clinical needs, but since I started working with patient advocates a few years ago, I now have a better understanding of where the priorities are. Involving advocates allows us to know we are on the right track to discover something of value to the patient community.

“Research is a challenging, expensive, and time-consuming activity. Knowing that patient advocates agree with the goals of our research is reassuring that we are on the right track to discover something of value.”

You can support Dr. Bos and her research by donating directly to her grant here.

If you or a loved one needs information or resources about clinical trials, call our Clinical Trial Information Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877- 465- 6636) or email clinicaltrialinfo@komen.org.

The helpline offers breast cancer clinical trial education and support, such as:

  • Knowing when to consider a trial
  • How to find a trial
  • How to decide which trial is best
  • What to expect during a trial
  • Information about clinical trial resources

Getting to know Dr. Benjamin Vincent, MD, at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center: Sidewalks to Science

Dr. Vincent

Dedicating his life to finding a cure for breast cancer, Dr. Benjamin Vincent is driven to help Komen meet our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. As an Assistant Professor of Medicine, he is working to find the cures for breast cancer through precision medicine and immunotherapy.

In this month’s Sidewalks to Science blog, we will get to know Dr. Vincent a little better.

When I’m not in the lab I…

  • Write short stories. If I wasn’t a researcher, I would be an author.
  • Enjoy outdoor activities with my wife and two young children.
  • Love reading novels by my favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jorge Luis Borges, and many others.

Dr. Vincent and his family

What I do… pursue the cures for breast cancer through immunotherapy

My lab focuses on discovering techniques to help the immune system recognize and attack breast cancer cells in ways that help the immune system fight, and then long-term remember how to fight, breast cancer. The challenge for oncologists is that just as each breast cancer patient is a different person, each breast cancer itself is different, presenting different possible targets for the immune system to recognize. In addition, different tumors use different defense techniques for suppressing the immune system. My Komen-funded project focuses on identifying immune targets and mechanisms of tumor resistance so that we can tailor a treatment strategy for each breast cancer patient.

Our goal with this treatment approach is to yield better immune response and more cures than the one-size fits all approach.

Breast cancer is…personal to me and my family

Two of my aunts are survivors and my mother is considered high risk. She has had discussions with her physician about what breast cancer screening tests are best for her due to the high risk and family history.

Working with patients…is inspirational and insightful

I pursued oncology during my medical school oncology rotation because I was inspired by breast cancer patients – women who showed impressive grace and generosity while suffering from metastatic disease. Working with these women was highly motivating for me to pursue breast cancer cures in the research lab.

I am also fortunate to work with patient advocate Dr. Susan Palmer in developing my research plan and communicating the impact of my work. After meeting with her, we see our work as not just about solving intellectual puzzles, but also extending and improving the lives of advanced and metastatic breast cancer patients. We are excited to work with patients and involve them in our research. I hope our relationship will continue to strengthen, and I expect her insights to be vital for designing and communicating future research.

People with breast cancer should…know their bodies well.

Know when to ask for help and support. You are not in this alone and there are likely friends, family members, health care providers, and community support services who would be excited to help if they can. If something is wrong, please don’t be silent, you are your best advocate. Let someone know they can help!

Dr. Vincent with his lab colleagues

Komen is…connecting patients to researchers

We are developing a program to foster interactions between breast cancer researchers and breast cancer patients – something informal where we can all just communicate our work and experiences. My co-workers, colleagues, and I are excited to participate in the Komen Triangle Race for the Cure in Durham each year as well.

Quote

“You are 100% NOT defined by your cancer, no matter what stage you are in your cancer journey. You are your own person and deserve to live as well as you can according to your values and goals!”

 

 

Sidewalks to Science: Getting to know Dr. April Kloxin, Ph.D. at the University of Delaware

Dr. Kloxin

Getting to know Dr. April Kloxin, Ph.D. at the University of Delaware

Dedicating her life to finding a cure for breast cancer, Dr. April Kloxin is driven to help us meet our Bold Goal of reducing the current number of breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by 50% by 2026. As an Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, she is addressing the issue of late recurrence for breast cancer survivors.

In this month’s Sidewalks to Science blog, we will get to know Dr. Kloxin a little better.

When I’m not in the lab I…

  • Love to make things! These range from making materials in the lab that mimic tissues in the body to cooking dinner tonight! My favorite quick meals are breakfast foods, which I like any time of day.
  • Love being out in nature, especially hiking. I take my two little ones (two boys, ages four and two) out to our local White Clay Creek Preserve or Longwood Gardens when the weather is nice.
  • Am passionate about solving big problems through science and believe collaboration with others is key.
Dr. Kloxin with Augie and Luke at Longwood Gardens

With my two little ones at Longwood Gardens

What I do…

Study how the environment surrounding breast cancer cells can lead to metastasis

My research group is working to develop materials that mimic the body tissues where breast cancer recurrence is likely to occur. Our team is trying to understand how the environment of these tissues causes dormant breast cancer cells to “wake up”, leading to recurrence.

Breast cancer is…personal to me and my family

My mother is a breast cancer survivor who currently is 13 years disease-free. As a co-survivor, I know firsthand some of the challenges people with breast cancer and survivors face. When my mother was diagnosed, I looked at literature to learn about the latest treatment options for her type of ER+ breast cancer. I realized that patients face a constant concern of recurrence, even after successful initial treatment. Therefore, I decided to focus my research efforts on addressing this outstanding issue of late recurrence.

Dr. Kloxin with student Lisa Sawicki in lab looking at breast cancer cells in 3D culture

With Lisa Sawicki, student, looking at breast cancer cells in 3D culture

Working with patients…has been both motivating and enriching.

Our patient advocate, Kimberly Newman-McCown, provided valuable perspective on the needs of people with breast cancer and kept our work focused on developing tools and finding solutions that will help patients within the next decade.

People with breast cancer should…stay strong and engaged.

Patients and survivors are amazing, and your stories inspire and inform our efforts to find solutions.

Komen is…getting the word out about our research efforts!

I have been excited to engage with our local press to get the word out about our research funded by Komen. This year, I am organizing a team with my research group for the Komen Race for the Cure in Philadelphia, PA.

Family 2017 on vacation in NYC

2017 Family Vacation to NYC’s American Museum of Natural History

Quote…

”Stay strong and engaged! You are amazing and your stories inspire and inform our efforts to find solutions!”

Note: Dr. Kloxin is a Komen grant recipient generously funded by American Airlines.