100 McAllister Way, Santa Cruz, California 95060

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Research talks: 6:00–7:15 p.m.
Reception: 7:15–7:45 p.m.

Fighting breast and ovarian cancers

Join us for three short, accessible presentations about the impactful research happening at UC Santa Cruz in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer by professors Shaheen Sikander and Laura Sanchez and research scientist Melissa Cline. 

This event is co-sponsored by the Santa Cruz Cancer Benefit Group, which has supported cancer-research projects by UC Santa Cruz faculty and students since 2005, aiming to generate groundbreaking scientific discoveries that could lead to the development of innovative cancer treatments.

Shaheen Sikander
Assistant Professor, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, UC Santa Cruz

The Sikandar lab seeks to understand the functional role of different subpopulations in tumor cells, especially in relation to breast cancer metastasis. The lab also studies how pregnancy and aging affect breast cancer risk in women. Dr. Sikander’s research has questioned previous beliefs about how cancer cells change and spread. She has also created new ways to identify the cells that can start tumors. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in India, then moved to the United States to earn a Ph.D. from UC Irvine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University on breast-tumor-initiating cells.

Melissa Cline

Associate Research Scientist, UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute

Dr. Cline leads a team of software engineers and graduate students at UC Santa Cruz in developing the BRCA Exchange, the world’s largest public repository on genetic variation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The presence of these genes can greatly increase the risks of breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and other cancers. She will discuss approaches to curating and analyzing clinical evidence and genetic variation data on patients and their families without compromising their privacy. Dr. Cline earned a Ph.D. from UC Santa Cruz in 2000 and went on to positions as a senior research scientist at Affymetrix and as a postdoctoral researcher at the Pasteur Institute and UC Santa Cruz before becoming a project manager at the UCSC Genomics Core and then taking on program management for the BRCA Exchange. She is also a member of the ClinGen Variant Curation Expert Panel, which is the internationally-recognized expert body on BRCA variation that generates FDA-recognized curations of the clinical significance of BRCA variants.

Laura Sanchez

Associate Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, UC Santa Cruz

Dr. Sanchez’s research team specializes in using analytical chemistry to image small molecules in complex systems. She is employing these methods to probe the small-molecule signaling that governs early metastasis of ovarian cancer and to develop new screening tools to incorporate into routine women's health exams. Born and raised in Northern California, Dr. Sanchez earned a bachelor’s in chemistry from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, followed in 2012 by a Ph.D. in chemistry at UC Santa Cruz, where her graduate studies encompassed medicinal chemistry and natural products drug discovery. After a postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Diego, Dr. Sanchez started her independent lab in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The lab relocated to UC Santa Cruz in January 2021. She has received a number of honors throughout her career, most recently the 2022 ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award, the Analytical Scientist Power List Top 40 Under 40 in 2022, and a 2023 Allen Distinguished Investigator Award.

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