Scientific Advisory Board - Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation

Scientific Advisory Board

Aimee Crago, MD, PhD, Assistant Attending Surgeon, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (Chair, DTRF Scientific Advisory Board)

Dr. Crago is a surgeon-scientist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where she serves as an Assistant Attending. As a member of the institution’s Sarcoma Disease Management Team, she is an active participant in the care of patients with desmoid fibromatosis and coordinates clinical research and basic science efforts examining the causes of desmoid formation and progression. Her research has been funded by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American College of Surgeons, the Kristen Ann Carr Fund, Cycle for Survival and the MSKCC SPORE in soft tissue sarcoma. Most recently she has worked to create a nomogram that uses clinical characteristics to predict outcome after surgical resection of desmoid tumors, and she is actively engaged in work characterizing genomic changes that mediate formation of desmoid tumors.

Benjamin Alman, MD, Department Chair, Orthopedic Surgery, Duke University

Dr. Alman is an orthopaedic clinician-scientist, whose research focuses on understanding role of developmentally important processes in pathologic and reparative process involving the musculoskeletal system. The long-term goal of his work is to use this knowledge to identify improved therapeutic approaches to orthopaedic disorders. He makes extensive use of genetically modified mice to model human disease, and has used this approach to identify new drug therapies for musculoskeletal tumors and to improve the repair process in cartilage, skin, and bone. He also works on cellular heterogeneity in sarcomas, and has identified a subpopulation of tumor initiating cells in musculoskeletal tumors. In this work, he also has identified specific cell populations that are responsible for joint and bone development. He has was recently recruited from the University of Toronto to Duke University to chair the department of orthopaedics, which was established in 2010, and includes a large musculoskeletal research component. He has half his time protected for his research work. Dr. Alman is the Principal Investigator in the DTRF-funded collaborative project, “Collaboration for a Cure: Identifying new therapeutic targets for desmoid tumors.”

Jesse Boehm, PhD Chief Science Officer, Break Through Cancer Principal Investigator, MIT and Broad Institute

Jesse Boehm is the Chief Science Officer of Break Through Cancer, a novel foundation dedicated to urgently reimagining how we cure cancer by harnessing the power of extraordinary partnerships. With an initial $250M from private philanthropy, Break Through Cancer unites five leading cancer institutions: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, jointly focused on overcoming barriers impossible for any single organization to solve.The collective intention is to build an expansive member community of diverse partners committed to working together.

Jesse maintains a research lab at MIT’s Koch Institute focused on bringing the power of functional genomics to bear on living samples from cancer patients with particular emphasis on rare and underrepresented tumors.

Before transitioning to MIT, Jesse previously spent 14 years in the Broad Institute’s Cancer Program, most recently as an Institute Scientist and Scientific Director of the Cancer Dependency Map project. As the Director of the Broad’s Cancer Model Development Center (part of the National Cancer Institute’s Human Cancer Models Initiative), he led his laboratory in developing a scalable capacity to convert patient tumors into organoids and other cell models. Prior, he was the recipient of a Broad Institute Merkin Fellowship and the Associate Director of the Broad’s Cancer Program. In these leadership roles, he drove the scientific planning and strategic execution of a diverse set of program projects, collaborations, and activities for over a decade.

Propelling the “cancer research ecosystem of the future” to benefit patients as rapidly as possible is his ultimate professional passion and ambition.

Jesse received his BS in biology from MIT and his PhD from Harvard University, Division of Medical Sciences at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Mrinal Gounder, MD, Associate Professor and Medical Oncologist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Mrinal Gounder is the Scientific Director of DTRF and a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Boards. He is an Associate Professor of Medicine at MSKCC specializing in sarcomas and developing new drugs in cancer. He is an internationally recognized leader in desmoid tumors and leads clinical trials in desmoid tumors. He recently showed for the first time that sorafenib is an active drug in desmoid tumors. He completed his fellowship in medical oncology at MSKCC. Prior to arriving at MSKCC, he completed his internal medicine training at Northwestern University in Chicago and received his MD from SUNY- Syracuse.

Alexander Lazar, MD, PhD, Director, Department of Pathology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Selective (Soft Tissue) Pathology Fellowship Training Program

Alexander Lazar MD/PhD is a practicing academic pathologist at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where his clinical, academic and research interests are focused on sarcoma and the genomics of solid tumors. Working within a multidisciplinary team at a high volume treatment center for desmoid tumors, over the last decade he has participated with colleagues on multiple projects involving these tumors.

Kelly Mercier, PhD, Chair of the DTRF Coordinating Center, adjunct associate professor at Duke University and Diagnostics Regional Medical Lead for Daiichi Sankyo
In November, 2020, Dr. Kelly Mercier joined the DTRF team as Chair of the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation Coordinating Center (DTRFCC). She is a past DTRF grant recipient, the DTRF Natural History Study and Patient Registry Principal Investigator, a Diagnostics Regional Medical Lead for Daiichi Sankyo in thoracic oncology, and an adjunct associate professor at Duke University.
She specializes in designing, implementing, and prompting the adoption of novel therapies and diagnostic assays in oncology. She has received grants to understand the metabolic differences between desmoid tumors and normal adjacent tissue in the same patient with Dr. Ben Alman. Dr. Mercier is passionate about desmoid tumor research and is thrilled to be able to contribute her scientific knowledge to better understand and treat desmoid tumors.
Roel Nusse, PhD, Professor of Cancer Research and of Developmental Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, Program Director of Stanford’s Cancer Stem Cell Research Program, and member of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine

Dr. Roeland Nusse is a professor in the Department of Developmental Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, the Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. He is a member of the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford and the Stanford Ludwig Center for Cancer Stem Cell Research and Medicine. Dr. Nusse received his PhD from the Netherlands Cancer Institute at the University of Amsterdam in 1980. He completed postdoctoral studies at the University of California, San Francisco in 1982 working with Dr. Harold Varmus. After several years as head of the molecular biology department at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, he returned to the Bay Area and joined the Stanford medical faculty in 1990 as an associate professor of developmental biology. In 1994 he was promoted to professor. In 1997 he became associate chair of the Department of Developmental Biology, and in 1999 he was appointed as chair of the department. In 2010, he was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Nusse is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences.

Jean Paty, PhD, Vice President, Patient Centered Endpoints, IQVIA

Jean is an acknowledged leader in the effective strategies and practices of capturing patient perspective data for use in the clinical development and commercial success of new medical products. He has not only published extensively in the areas of Patient Reported Outcomes (PRO) and electronic PRO (ePRO), but also on the regulatory guidance for development and implementation of ePRO. He has worked closely with the international industry and regulatory agencies on ePRO best practices. Dr. Paty’s work is well-referenced in a wide variety of peer-reviewed journals and in numerous conferences and events, where he has presented his findings on the scientific, clinical, and regulatory implications of Clinical Outcome Assessment (COA) data collection in clinical trials.
Jean joined Quintiles (now IQVIA) from invivodata (now ERT), where he was most recently Chief Scientific and Regulatory Advisor, Outcomes. Jean has collaborated with industry and regulatory agency groups on PRO and ePRO best practices, and has partnered with invivodata Co-Founder Dr. Saul Shiffman since 1990 on the creation of real-time/real-world solutions to study patient experience. He has also held positions in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and the Addiction Research Foundation (Toronto, Canada). Recent publications include articles on regulations guiding development and implementation of patient reported outcomes (PRO), and electronic implementation of PROs (ePRO).
Jean has a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

Matt van de Rijn, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Pathology, Stanford University Medical Center

Matt van de Rijn received his MD and PhD degrees from the University of Amsterdam, the latter based on his research at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University he completed his residency training in surgical pathology and joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1998 he returned to Stanford where he is now a Professor in Pathology. His research has focused on sarcoma and he reported the first major gene expression profiling study on sarcomas in 2002. The identification of a novel translocation involving CSF1 in PVNS resulted in several ongoing clinical trials. In addition his group discovered a novel diagnostic marker for GIST (DOG1). Gene expression profiling studies also led to the investigation of the role of macrophages in leiomyosarcoma (LMS) and GIST with an opportunity to develop therapeutic targets for these tumors. In addition to his work on LMS and GIST he has performed gene expression profiling studies on Desmoid Tumors to study the biology that underlies the aggressive behavior of these tumors, to develop novel diagnostic markers and discover novel therapeutic targets. Dr. van de Rijn is Principal Investigator of the DTRF-funded study, “Next generation sequencing approach to desmoid tumors.”

Breelyn Wilky, MD, Director of Sarcoma Medical Oncology and desmoid researcher at the University of Colorado Cancer Center

Dr. Breelyn A. Wilky, MD is a sarcoma medical oncologist and clinical trialist with research interests in immunotherapy, targeted therapy and precision medicine, and early phase drug development.  She has recently joined the University of Colorado School of Medicine as Associate Professor, where she is a member of the Sarcoma and Phase I Programs, expanding the portfolio of investigator-initiated clinical trials, and helping to advance immunotherapy and adoptive cellular therapy for solid tumors.  As the Director of Sarcoma Translational Research, her laboratory initiatives will study tumor and immune microenvironment in sarcomas, focusing on angiogenesis as a potential resistance mechanism to checkpoint inhibitors.  She is particularly interested in desmoid fibromatosis, and was awarded a DTRF research grant in 2016 to study the association of beta catenin mutation status as a predictor for chemotherapy responses.

Dr. Wilky received her undergraduate degree in Biology and Music from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and attended medical school at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey (now Rutgers Medical School.)  She received her MD with Distinction in Research.  She then completed the Osler internship and residency in Internal Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and stayed there to complete her fellowship in Medical Oncology.  Her honors and awards include election to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, an ASCO/Conquer Cancer Foundation Young Investigator Award in 2012, Outstanding Clinical Researcher of the Year for 2017 at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and most recently has received an American Cancer Society Mentored Research Scholar Grant to further her research in understanding the role of the immune system in fighting sarcomas.