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UNC Lineberger’s Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, and Patricia Spears, FASCO.

Susan G. Komen® honored UNC Lineberger’s Gaorav Gupta, MD, PhD, and Patricia Spears, FASCO, for their work to drive discoveries and improve breast cancer patient outcomes. They and three other researchers were formally recognized at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Awards ceremony in San Antonio on Dec. 6.

Gupta received the Susan G. Komen Rising Star Researcher Award and Spears was presented with the Research Advocacy Champion Award.

The Susan G. Komen Rising Star Researcher Award was established this year to recognize mid-career investigators whose work shows potential to significantly impact the field of breast cancer research and who demonstrate strong leadership potential in the breast cancer community. The Research Advocacy Champion Award, also newly created, honors an emerging or established research advocate who is highly effective in ensuring that the unique and valuable perspectives of breast cancer patients, survivors and co-survivors are integrated into the scientific dialogue to drive progress, improve patient outcomes, and help realize Komen’s vision of a world without breast cancer.

Gupta, associate professor of Radiation Oncology, Biochemistry and Biophysics at UNC School of Medicine and co-leader of the UNC Lineberger Breast Cancer Research Program, is renowned for his seminal research on the interplay between genome integrity pathways and breast cancer initiation, progression and response to therapy. His research will translate to innovative ways of monitoring treatment, including the use of non-invasive “liquid biopsy” tests to monitor treatment and to personalize radiotherapy and other cancer treatments.

A national leader in cancer research and patient advocacy, Spears brings her personal experience as a breast cancer survivor of 20-plus years, a recent liver cancer survivor and a laboratory scientist to her advocacy work. She is a scientific research manager and patient advocate at UNC Lineberger, where she also leads the UNC Lineberger Patient Advocates for Research Council and the UNC Breast SPORE advocates. Spears is being honored for her decades-long commitment to research advocacy, which includes ensuring the patient voice is incorporated in the development of clinical trials, communicating research to the public, and mentoring the next generation of patient advocates.

“The field of breast cancer is better today because of these five outstanding individuals and their dedication to furthering our understanding of the disease, to discovering new therapies, and to ensuring people diagnosed with breast cancer can live their fullest and best lives. I am thrilled that Komen is recognizing each of them for the countless ways they have impacted millions of people affected by breast cancer,” said Jennifer A. Pietenpol, PhD, co-chief scientific advisor at Susan G. Komen and chief scientific and strategy officer and executive vice president for research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.