Olopade Delivers Eighth Annual Diggs Lecture
By Willie Davis and Alfred Johnson
Dr. Olufunmilayo F. Olopade, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics at the University of Chicago Medical Center, delivered the NIH Black Scientists Association John W. Diggs Lecture before an enthusiastic crowd in Masur Auditorium recently.
Her topic was "Dissection of Cooperating Genetic Pathways Involved in Aggressive Early Onset Breast Cancer Reveals Mutually Distinct Roles for BRCA1 and HER-2/neu Genes." This research is focused on trying to understand the genetic risk factors involved in the development of breast cancer in black women.
Olopade ended the lecture with a discussion of the association of BRCA1 mutations with other tumor markers. "There is an association between BRCA1 and HER-2/neu, as breast tumors that exhibit mutations in either of these genes show similarities in their pathophysiology." She has also linked BRCA1 mutations with estrogen receptor and c-myc expression. These associations led to a model for breast cancer tumorigenesis that involves initial mutations in caretaker genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, followed by mutations in gatekeeper proteins such as cell-cycle mediators, tumor suppressors and oncogenes.
Prior to Olopade's lecture, the Black Scientists Association awarded the Cheryl Torrence-Campbell Memorial Scholarships, presented each year to two graduating seniors from District of Columbia high schools who intend to pursue an education in the sciences. The recipients were Brionna Hare of Benjamin Banneker High School, who will attend Brown University, and Kaima Howard of St. John's College High School, who will attend Loyola University. The awardees were presented with a $1,000 scholarship check and a plaque commemorating their achievement.
The John W. Diggs lecture, first given in 1995, is an annual event that honors the former deputy director for extramural research at NIH. Diggs was well respected for his contributions to the NIH community and to the scientific community at large, and especially for his efforts in advancing underrepresented minorities in the biomedical sciences.
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