Reflecting on Women’s History Month & NFCR’s Commitment - NFCR


Reflecting on Women’s History Month & NFCR’s Commitment

NFCR Women's History Month

Throughout the month of March, the National Foundation for Cancer Research highlighted some of the extraordinary women leaders who have changed our understanding of cancer research and patient advocacy.

Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, Director National Institute of Health

To start out our month-long series highlighting extraordinary women scientists and leaders, we heard from Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, the first female director of the National Institutes of Health and the 2023 Beacon Award for Women Leaders recipient, on the importance of supporting women in science and beyond. During this same post, we put a spotlight on a few other female leaders and scientists.

Dr. Azra Raza, Columbia University

Starting out with Dr. Azra Raza, whose research and book, The First Cell, have shifted the cancer research community in how it is approaching the problem of fighting cancer. Her research and book emphasize how the common focus of fighting later-stage cancers may be flawed. Proposing the idea that cancer should not only be fought in later stages but could be targeted at stage 0, stopping cancer before it starts.

Dr. Susan Band Horwitz, 2020 Szent-Györgyi Prize Winner

Following Dr. Raza, Dr. Susan Band Horwitz, 2020 recipient of the coveted Szent-Györgyi prize, was shown. Dr. Horwitz’s work has pioneered the understanding of the mechanisms of action and resistance of multiple effective and widely utilized anti-tumor drugs, particularly Taxol. Her work with Taxol, one of the most widely prescribed chemotherapy treatments, has led to an interest in microtubule-stabilizing agents. This has specifically led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of several other life-saving drugs.

Dr. Mary-Claire King, 2016 Szent-Györgyi Prize Winner

After Dr. Horwitz, we shifted the spotlight to Dr. Mary-Claire King, winner of the 2016 Szent-Györgyi Prize. Dr. King’s work has proved to be foundational to the genetic understanding of cancer. Dr. King was able to prove the existence of BRCA1 and identify its location, which has made genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancers possible. Countless lives have been saved thanks to these discoveries and screening techniques.

Dr. Sujuan Ba, NFCR President and CEO

Finally, we highlighted our own president and CEO, Dr. Sujuan Ba. Under Dr. Ba’s long tenure and leadership, the National Foundation for Cancer Research has been able to raise funds for needed research that has not only shifted the paradigm of surrounding cancer and how to beat it but has also allowed NFCR to fund the research that is saving countless lives around the world.

Dr. Suzanne L. Topalian, Johns Hopkins University

The next post in our month-long series looked at Dr. Suzanne L. Topalian, whose pioneering work in immunotherapy has reshaped the landscape of cancer treatment. Dr. Topalian’s groundbreaking research on immunotherapy has propelled the development and FDA approval of six different checkpoint inhibitors across 17 types of cancer. Her tireless efforts have not only advanced our understanding of cancer biology but have also offered hope to countless patients worldwide.

Dr. Beatrice Mintz, 2011 Szent-Györgyi Prize Winner

For our third post celebrating Women’s History Month, we honored the legacy of Dr. Beatrice Mintz, the 2011 recipient of the Szent-Györgyi Prize. Dr. Mintz’s innovative work in developing chimeric and transgenic mouse models has been instrumental in unraveling the complexities of cancer and genetic diseases. Her visionary spirit continues to inspire us as we strive to build upon her groundbreaking discoveries.

NFCR Community Ambassadors: Hope Stewart and Linda Bessacque

In the fourth and final post of the series celebrating women leaders, we highlighted two of our NFCR community ambassadors and the tireless work they have done to make cures possible. First up was Hope Stewart. As a breast cancer survivor, Hope has been leveraging her journey and experiences to advocate for patient support and recognition of healthcare professionals. Hope’s involvement with NFCR underscores the power of community support in navigating the challenges of the cancer battle.

In the same post, we placed a spotlight on Linda Bessacque. Linda, inspired by her personal loss, has been utilizing her passion for dance fitness to champion cancer awareness and support through NFCR. Linda’s efforts exemplify how creativity and personal commitment can collectively fuel the cure for cancer.

We would like to thank Linda and Hope for turning challenges into support, empowerment, and inspiration within the NFCR community in the fight against cancer. Their contributions highlight the power of unity and resilience that women can generate.

Empowering Women in Cancer Research

At NFCR, we recognize the invaluable contributions of women in the fight against cancer and advocate for their increased representation in scientific fields. As Dr. Sujuan Ba, President and CEO of NFCR, reminds us,

“Believe in yourself, stay curious, work smartly, seek help if needed, and support each other.”

This Women’s History Month, the National Foundation for Cancer Research celebrated some of the women leaders who have made groundbreaking contributions to cancer research over the years. Although these women scientists and leaders have made amazing breakthroughs that have changed how we view and advocate for cancer research, the list is not all-encompassing. There are many more scientists that NFCR has had the privilege to work with and support. You can learn more about them here.

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