Philadelphia researcher paves road to treat (and possibly cure) prostate cancer

By Dave Dovell

2/9/2020

In 2018, Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board, led by Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology Dr. Kevin Kelly, reviewed countless research projects in search of the most promising and most deserving of our financial support. After employing a stringent and strictly meritorious selection process, the board chose Dr. Veronica Rodriguez-Bravo of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center and her auspicious exploration of proteins which may cause genetic alterations of cells leading to prostate cancer. Legacy of Hope immediately began to champion Dr. Bravo’s research which, in 2020, has proven itself worthy of funding from the National Institute of Health due to the high likelihood of yielding positive results.

I sat down with Dr. Bravo on 1/31/2020 to find out more about this groundbreaking cancer research, as well as to learn about the challenges faced by scientists in securing the funding necessary to keep their projects alive.

Dr. Bravo states her work focuses on the mechanism of aggressive prostate cancer. “I have a small group of people, and we’re growing over time, to try and address fundamental aspects of this disease…and try to find new cures.” She cheerfully described the unique and uncommon relationship between researchers and clinicians at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

“The connection between researchers and clinicians, in my experience, is not an easy one to have in many situations…what happens here at Thomas Jefferson [University Hospital] and Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is very special. We do have that connection.”

As for the research itself, Dr. Bravo was happy to report on her current projects. “One of the things I find exciting about what we are doing right now…we are trying to find new mechanisms to attack those cells that are so resistant to everything they are treated with. We found a new protein that works within the nucleus of the tumor cells which regulates the turning on and off of genes…that’s a function that was never found before for that protein.

We are basically unveiling the function of this protein that wasn’t supposed to be there. We see there is a strong correlation with the existence of this protein in higher levels and having a worse clinical outcome.” If this protein can be proven as the cause of prostate cancer, treatments can be developed to specifically target this protein and stop tumor growth.

In discussing the importance of funding for research, Dr. Bravo explains “Everything starts with a small idea and you need some investment initially to develop that idea. You have to secure bigger funding that will sustain the program in which you work for a longer period of time.” She goes on to describe just how “extremely competitive” the National Institute of Health grants are but how they are “crucial to sustain the life of a laboratory.” This laboratory funding is not only used to cover the costs of equipment and experiments, but also “human capital,” the researchers themselves who, Bravo informs, “must be thinking and working on a particular problem or question full-time.”

The highly complex and competitive nature of NIH grants means spending innumerable hours away from actual research in order to prepare materials, proof of concepts, and evidence of data to submit in hopes of being awarded funding. Once finally submitted, it can take over a year to receive financial support, even for outstanding research. “Writing it [the proposal] is long, but that process of peer review is even longer. It has to be evaluated by experts; it takes some time from the moment you submit one of these grants…until you get the final score and whether it will be funded or not…in my case it was a year and a half.”

“It is frustrating because you spend too much time writing and rewriting and editing documents and grants instead of thinking about the exciting research that you are doing in the lab or going to your lab to do it. Funding is one of the things we dedicate a lot of our time to.”

With so much time spent away from actual research to secure funding, Dr. Bravo expresses her gratitude to Legacy of Hope and our supporters. “The role of Legacy of Hope and many other organizations that….work toward helping axillary research advancement is key.” She explains how new, young research projects do not always have enough data to present to the NIH to obtain grant funding and, without other sources, the research could not exist. “It absolutely helps a lot to have different sources of funding that can help you push a project farther” and get researchers back in the lab. “All this work that [organizations] like yours do is really, really useful. It’s a very important message for everybody that participates in your events, gives their time and resources…that really makes a difference, it’s really important.”

Thanks to the selfless support of our donors, Legacy of Hope continues to support the research of Dr. Bravo and other scientists on the cutting edge of developing cancer treatments and cures. When asked why we should continue to fund cancer research, Dr. Bravo replied simpy “Because it saves lives.”

To support Dr. Bravo’s incredible journey to cure prostate cancer, as well as other local researchers AND Philadelphia’s most financially-distressed cancer patients, check out www.SKCC.life. Every dollar raised is maximized to create the biggest impact possible for patients in need and researchers on the brink of finding new cures.

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Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Dr. Claudia Capparelli, PhD

Affiliations: Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Education: PhD, University of Calabria, Cosenza, Italy – 2011

Focus & Impact:  Focus on the role of the SOX10 transcription factor with regard to tumor cell heterogeneity and plasticity across multiple genotypes in melanoma. Investigating how SOX10 plasticity/heterogeneity affects the response to MEKi and anti-ErbB3 combinations in WT BRAF melanoma patients. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Outrun the Sun Melanoma Research Scholar Award

  • Unical Fellowship Visiting Scholar

  • International Pigment Cell Conference Travel Award

  • Best Poster Presentation, Ninth Annual Jefferson Post-doctoral Research

  • INPDAP Fellowship for Student Merit 

  • University of Calabria Fellowships for Student Merit 

Bryan Lathrop

Bio Coming Soon

Maree Lavo

Bio Coming Soon

Carol Sollenberger

Bio Coming Soon

Rebecca Blinn

Bio Coming Soon

Nia Andrews

Bio Coming Soon

Dr. Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Affiliations: The Wistar Institute, The Chen Laboratory, University of Maryland

Education: PhD,Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo (Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation) – 2006

Focus & Impact:  Focus is on the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis originating from primary tumors like breast cancer, and the interplay between cancer cells and the stromal cells that populate the brain microenvironment. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards​:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy Award

  • Susan G. Komen, CCR Basic/Translational and Clinical application

  • The V Foundation for Cancer Research Award

  • Dissertation Research Award, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Michael Rowe

Awards:

Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014

Bio:

With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.