Skip to main content

Top Cancer Scientists Speak at the Fourth Annual Festival of Science

November 10, 2016

Keynote speaker: Victoria M. Richon, PHD

From Diagnosis to Treatment, University of Maryland School of Medicine Researchers Lead the Way

More than 500 people saw leading cancer scientists discuss their cutting-edge work at the fourth annual University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) Festival of Science, a one-day celebration of research at the school held November 10, 2016 the SMC Campus Center.

The conference, titled "Cancer Research: Translational Discoveries to Next Generation Treatments," featured a range of UM SOM’s top cancer researchers, who are working on the front lines of science to unravel crucial problems involving cancer in its many forms.

The Festival of Science is a one-day celebration of research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM). It featured a series of 12 faculty presentations showcasing innovative work by UM SOM scientists. The Festival of Science was hosted by Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MPH,  who is also Vice President of Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor at UM SOM. Also in attendance was the UM SOM Scientific Advisory Council, which provides the school with big-picture advice on research (see below for more information on each council member).

“The lives of everyone here have been personally touched by cancer,” said Dean Reece, when he welcomed the audience and opened the conference. “Despite the advances and progress made in the field of cancer research, there is a great deal that we don’t know and need to learn.”

Keynote Address

“By 2035, it’s estimated that we will have almost 15 million deaths per year worldwide from cancer,” said keynote speaker Victoria M. Richon, PHD, President and Chief Scientific Officer of Ribon Therapeutics, a start-up biotechnology company focused on developing first-in-class therapeutics for the treatment of cancer. “Look to your left, look to your right,” said Dr. Richon. “One of the three of you will get cancer in your lifetime.” Dr. Richon is investigating the role of gene mutation plays in cancer and is developing drugs to inhibit tumor growth.

The opening morning session focused on immunity and cancer.

Kevin J. Cullen, MD, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor in Oncology, and Director of the UM Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, gave an overview of research at the School of Medicine.

Eduardo Davila, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, discussed his work on how the immune system can be targeted to attack cancer.

Tonya J. Webb, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, talked about her work on how ovarian cancer suppresses the body’s immune reaction.

The second session focused on Molecular and Structural Biology.

David Weber, PhD, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Director, The Center for Biomolecular Therapeutics, gave an overview of the topic.

Feyruz Rassool, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, discussed her work on DNA Demethylating Agents as potential cancer treatments.

Toni M. Antalis, PhD, Professor, Department of Physiology, Associate Director for Training and Education for the UMGCC, talked about cancer training and education.

Nicholas Ambulos, Jr., PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and Director, Biopolymer Core Facility, talked about the importance of core resources on cancer research.

The afternoon session focused on population science and other topics.

Joanne F. Dorgan, PhD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health, and Division Director of Cancer Epidemiology, discussed her work on how childhood environment and diet may play a major role in cancer risk.

Susan G. Dorsey, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor of Anesthesiology and Chair of the Department of Pain and Translational Symptom Science in the School of Nursing, talked about her research into how to better treat chronic cancer pain.

Maria R. Baer, MD, Professor, Department of Medicine, and Director of Hematologic Malignancies, provided an overview of experimental therapeutics.

Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology, and Director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences, will discuss his work to minimize damage to normal tissue done by radiation treatment.

Amy M. Fulton, PhD, Professor of Pathology, and Leader of the Hormone Responsive Cancers Program at the UM Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, provided an overview of work on hormone responsive cancers.

M. Minhaj Siddiqui, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, and Director of Urologic Robotic Surgery, offered a look at his work on how to differentiate between low-risk prostate tumor and those that are most harmful.

After the presentations, Dean Reece and Margaret McCarthy, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology, honored Dr. Angela Brodie, Professor Emerita of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at the School of Medicine. Dr. Brodie, who retired recently, pioneered a new field of cancer therapeutics – known today as aromatase inhibitors – that are widely considered to be among the world’s most important therapeutic advances in breast cancer treatment in the last century.

To celebrate her stellar career, the School of Medicine honored Dr. Brodie with an endowed chair, the Drs. Angela and Harry Brodie Distinguished Professorship in Translational Cancer Research. This esteemed position will allow another innovative scientist to continue in her footsteps, developing strategies to help patients vanquish this terrible disease. The School of Medicine now has nearly 70 endowed chairs and professorships, and Dr. Brodie is a worthy addition to this pantheon.

Scientific Advisory Council

The external Scientific Advisory Council (SAC), which consists of internationally acclaimed biomedical researchers and physician-scientists, provide critical advice on SOM’s research, programs and plans, as well as guidance and support for junior faculty presenters.

Rita Colwell, PhD
Professor and Chair, US Life Sciences at UMCP
Former Director, National Science Foundation
2006 National Medal of Science

Carol Greider, PhD
Professor & Chair, Molecular Biology at JH
2009 Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine
Member, IOM

Philip Needleman, PhD
President/CEO, St. Louis Science Center
Member, NAS & IOM
Former President of Searle R&D

Ralph Snyderman, M.D.
Chancellor Emeritus, Duke University & James B. Duke Professor of Medicine
Former President & CEO, Duke University Health System
Former Chair, AAMC
Member, IOM


Office of Public Affairs
655 West Baltimore Street
Bressler Research Building 14-002
Baltimore, Maryland 21201-1559

Contact Media Relations
(410) 706-5260

Related stories