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2020 Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference Speakers
Nicole Aiello, PhD
Dr. Nicole Aiello is a postdoctoral fellow in the Kang Lab at Princeton University. She earned her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania where she focused on the molecular mechanisms that drive metastasis in pancreatic cancer. Now Nicole studies the intersection between normal and malignant mammary stem cells, which are thought to be responsible for drug resistance, tumor recurrence and metastasis.
Ruchi Bhatt, DO
Ruchi Bhatt, D.O., is a fellowship trained hematologist oncologist. She treats patients with a variety of malignancies and benign hematology conditions. Dr. Bhatt is a member of several professional associations including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Society of Hematology, American College of Osteopathic Internal Medicine and American Osteopathic Association. She is proficient in Gujarati, Hindi and entry level medical Spanish. Dr. Bhatt participates in our case presentation conferences, where multiple oncology specialists meet to discuss patient treatment options, tailored to the needs of each patient.
Tami Eagle Bowling
Tami Eagle Bowling graduated from Marlboro High School in 1991, and received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing from Penn State University in 1995. Tami spent twenty years in the media world, selling print & digital advertising for well-known brands such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue and Bon Appetit. During her career, Tami traveled to 24 countries, always proud to return to her home in the United States.
During a routine mammogram, Tami was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) in early 2015. Her daughters were just 2 and 5 years old. She met with three breast surgeons and two reconstructive surgeons and wanted to have a double mastectomy. However, a PET/CT scan revealed the cancer had already metastasized to her liver which meant it was stage IV metastatic breast cancer and too late for surgery. Tami immediately started taking an oral chemotherapy and is alive because this treatment was approved by the FDA just 3 months before her diagnosis. That is the power of research. Tami’s current treatment is working well, and her scans currently show no evidence of disease. However, the average life span for metastatic breast cancer patients is 3 years. She does not take any day for granted. Her mantra is Make Each Day Meaningful.
Since her diagnosis, Tami has raised over $200,000 to fund metastatic breast cancer research grants for METAvivor and Breast Cancer Alliance. She was presented with the 2017 Play for P.I.N.K. Humanitarian Award for her steadfast dedication to raising these vital funds and for being an inspiration to so many. She traveled to Washington to fight for better access to healthcare for metastatic patients and championed bills that could improve quality of life. In 2018, she was recognized for her efforts by the State of New Jersey with a Joint Legislative Resolution. In April 2019, Tami co-founded the 1st local NJ chapter of METAvivor Research and Support and Facebook group METAvivors of NJ. This group is for patients, family and friends who want to learn about hopeful stories, the latest MBC research and ways to advocate. Tami currently serves as a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense CDMRP program and helps evaluate the impact for which grants should get funded. She will continue to play an active role in the #LightUpMBC campaign which lit up over 80 monuments around the world last year on October 13th to show unity for MBC.
Tami continues to speak to groups of all ages about metastatic breast cancer, mentors newly diagnosed patients and continues to be a fierce advocate for research.
Mark Esposito, PhD
Dr. Mark Esposito is the CEO and co-founder of KayoThera, a discovery stage biotechnology company developing therapies to treat advanced cancer patients. Dr. Esposito received his B.A. from Middlebury College and his PhD from Princeton University under Dr. Yibin Kang. Dr. Esposito’s work has focused on identifying the fundamental mechanisms driving solid tumor relapse and suppression of anti-tumor immunity. Translating discoveries made in the lab at Princeton University, Dr. Esposito’s team at KayoThera is developing small molecule therapeutics with the goal of curing advanced-stage cancer patients.
Yibin Kang, PhD
Yibin Kang is a Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University and an Associate Director of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Fudan University in Shanghai in 1995. After completing his graduate study at Duke in 2000, Dr. Kang became an Irvington Institute postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Joan Massagué at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and pioneered a functional genomic approach to elucidate mechanism of breast cancer metastasis.
Dr. Kang joined the faculty of Princeton University as an Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology in 2004. He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2010 and to Endowed Chair Full Professor in 2012. Dr. Kang is President of the Metastasis Research Society (2016-2018), Chair of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Tumor Microenvironment Working Group (2018-2019) and President-Elect of Chinese Biological Investigator Society (2018-2020).
Dr. Kang’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis. His laboratory applies a multidisciplinary approach to analyze the molecular basis of cancer metastasis, combining molecular biology and genomics tools with animal models and advanced in vivo imaging technologies. His work discovered new genes that promote recurrence, metastasis and chemoresistance of breast cancer, delineated tumor-stromal interactions that are essential for metastatic growth, and identified novel regulators with dual functions in mammary gland cell fate determination and tumor progression. Dr. Kang has published over 140 original articles in leading journals including Science, Cancer Cell, and Nature Medicine. Dr. Kang’s outstanding achievements have been recognized by many prestigious awards, including a Department of Defense Era of Hope Scholar Award (2006), the 2011 Vicek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Sciences (2011), and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research (2012), the Fidler Innovation Award from the Metastasis Research Society (2014), the Fuller Albright Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (2014) and the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award in Breast Cancer Research (2014). Dr. Kang was elected as a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a Komen Scholar, and an inaugural inductee of the Duke Graduate School Few-Glasson Alumni Society in 2016.
Liz Johnson is a writer, blogger, digital marketer, aspiring novelist, serial entrepreneur, adventurer, investor, triathlete (emphasis on the word “try”) and willing to try anything new. In 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and in 2015, she was diagnosed with a recurrence. Her blog, Breast Cancer Conscript, describes the daily challenges of making peace with the enemy within.
Denise Johnson Miller, MD
Denise L. Johnson Miller, M.D., FACS, is a board-certified general surgeon and is fellowship trained in surgical oncology. As a nationally recognized breast surgeon, she specializes in breast cancer, melanoma surgery, and soft tissue tumors. Dr. Johnson Miller is currently developing clinical translation trials in support of oncology drug testing, as well as an in-depth genetic testing program for multidisciplinary cancer risk screening in breast cancer. Dr. Johnson Miller is also a member of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) accreditation committee for Hackensack Meridian Health, and holds high academic standing as the Clinical Professor of Surgery at Seton Hall Medical School and Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at Rutgers Medical School. Dr. Johnson Miller is interested in the following specialties: accelerated partial breast irradiation, autologous “tissue flap” breast reconstruction, and skin and nipple sparing mastectomies.
Melissa Surdez has been employed by Johnson & Johnson for 17 years. Currently, Melissa is a Senior Human Resources Director for J&J’s Global Technology function.
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Melissa developed her professional skills over ten years at GE Capital, where she held positions in many aspects of HR including Talent Management and recruiting.
In 2016, Melissa became certified as a Life Coach by the International Federation of Coaching. This great achievement is super exciting for her because in addition to her professional experiences, Melissa is currently living with Stage 4 Breast Cancer and is proud to mentor many women with cancer from all ages on how to live life to its fullest.
Lastly, Melissa has a fantastically supportive husband – Lance and two deliciously wonderful children – Quinn, 19 and Brielle, 15 who continue to hold her up when she needs a little extra support and love her unconditionally.
Melissa is a human resources leader who brings drive, collaboration, pragmatism and authenticity to all she does. Melissa has a passion for life, passion for family, passion for friends and passion for everyone she meets. She lives every day like it is the best day ever and will be for everyone.
Kathleen Toomey, MD
“I chose this career to take care of patients with serious illnesses and provide all the resources available to help with this difficult journey. The most enjoyable aspect is the relationship that I develop with you and your family, and it’s an honor and a privilege to help you through this challenging part of your life. I strive to give you hope, no matter what the situation, encouragement where my worries are not conveyed, peace in all the decisions you make for yourself, reassurance for your family, and courage to do the difficult but necessary things for your health and well-being.”
Fellowship: Hematology/Oncology, UMDNJ – Rutgers Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ
Residency: Internal Medicine, St. Peter’s Medical Center, New Brunswick Affiliated Hospitals, Inc., New Brunswick, NJ
MD: University of Bologna, Italy
Honors: Motolinsky Fellow – Melvyn H. Motolinsky Ressearch Foundation, The Wellness Community – Spirit of Hope Award, The Rotary – Pail Harris Fellow Award
Member: American Society of Clinical Oncology
Languages: English, Italian