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I was recruited by Ponce School of Medicine and Health Sciences (PSMHS) as Assistant Research Professor in 1992, where I currently serve as Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Principal Investigator in the PSM-MCC (Moffitt Cancer Center) U54 Partnership funded for 5 years in 2012. I have been a leader in the development of research and teaching programs at PSMHS, particularly in areas relevant to pharmacology/toxicology and cancer research. After losing several close family members to cancer in the 1990s, in 1999 I decided to switch the focus of my laboratory from toxicology to cancer.
I am a member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the Society of Toxicology and the Association for Medical School Pharmacology Chairs (ASMPC). I serve on the chemotherapeutics subcommittee of the ASMPC that establishes the learning objectives in pharmacology for USA medical schools. I have taught for many years the cancer chemotherapeutic drugs in the medical pharmacology course. I am an active cancer researcher funded by NCI and initiated the development of the U56 and U54 Partnerships, and the cancer program of PSMHS.
My laboratory was the first one to publish the finding that a low DNA repair is an important susceptibility for breast cancer (Ramos et al. 2004). For the last 11 years, my laboratory has focused on conducting translational cancer research in large scale population studies, with emphasis on the role of DNA repair as a risk factor for breast and skin cancer, identifying DNA repair genes involved in cancer susceptibility, and studying epigenetic mechanisms by which such genes are regulated. I have been very successful in maintaining active collaborations with scientists from MCC as well as other research-leading institutions. I am a member of the Editorial Board of Biological Trace Element Research and the Puerto Rico Health Science Journal. The American Association for Cancer Research awarded me with a 2004 Minority Serving Institution Faculty Scholar Award, and in the 2010 AACR meeting, research from his laboratory was evaluated as highly meritorious (top 2-3%) by the AACR Program Committee among over 6,000 studies presented.
My administrative experience includes having been the Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology for nearly six years (1999-2004), Director of the RCMI Toxicology Program and Director of the MBRS SCORE Program (2007-2010) at PSMHS. I currently serve on the Steering Committee of the Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan (2008-2012), on the Internal Advisory Committee (IAC) of the PSMHS RCMI Program, as an IAC member in the Puerto Rico Clinical and Translational Research Consortium (PRCTRC) and as Co-Principal Investigator of the U56 Partnership.
Title: Factors associated with variability in DNA Repair capacity and their
effect on breast cancer
Project Period: 08/01/13 – 07/31/2017
Breast cancer is a complex disease that is caused by multiple factors. Deficits in DNA repair capacity (DRC) are known to cause certain familial breast cancers, and dysregulation of DRC develops with progressive mutagenesis. Studying DRC in healthy women and women with breast cancer (BC) will provide critical new information to help predict breast cancer risk and its risk of recurrence—regardless of the breast cancer’s phenotype. Identifying phenotypic, epigenetic and epidemiological factors that can be used as diagnostic or prognostic indicators holds great value for improving human health in relation to breast cancer prevention and therapy.
Specific Aim 1: Examine the association between a low DNA repair capacity (DRC) and risk of breast cancer (BC) and its distant recurrence.
Specific Aim 2: Study the association between hormone receptor status and low DRC
Specific Aim 3: Examine whether DNA repair capacity is partly regulated by epigenetic mechanisms.
Title: Ponce School of Medicine – Moffitt Cancer Center Partnership (1/2 )
Agency/Type: NIH/National Institute of Cancer (NCI)
Project Period: 2011-2016
Institution: Ponce School of Medicine
The objectives to expand the Ponce School of Medicine-Moffitt Cancer Center Partnership are to:
1) Maintain a comprehensive administrative infrastructure and procedures to perform critical evaluations of the projects and cores, solve problems, maintain quality, and strategically plan for continued expansion of the Partnership, and provide support for the development of the successful careers of the Partnership faculty.
2) Bring together in close collaboration basic scientists at PSM and MCC to conduct research projects: this will provide scientists at PSM access to experienced cancer research scientists as collaborators and mentors as well as advanced technologies, to advance their careers and the impact of their science. Reciprocally, the MCC scientists will benefit from becoming involved in new research projects focused on the unique biology of Hispanic patient cancers.
3) Develop a comprehensive training pipeline to produce a cadre of cancer translational research scientists, both basic and clinical, to address the shortage of Hispanic academicians on the faculties of academic health centers in Puerto Rico and the mainland US. This will produce scientists who are knowledgeable about the issues related to Hispanic cancer health disparities and motivated to perform research to address these disparities. 4) Conduct rigorous outreach research to learn the most effective ways of communicating cancer related information, and expand community outreach programs incorporating these discoveries. This will improve participation in clinical research and biobanking, and the overall health of the Hispanic community in Florida served by the MCC and in Puerto Rico. 5) Expand at the PSM tertiary referral clinical oncology services, educational opportunities for community oncologists and oncology fellows, and patient access to clinical trials to improve cancer care for the currently underserved population of Southwest Puerto Rico. 6) Establish for the first time a high quality tumor bank of tissues from Puerto Rican cancer patients that will provide a unique and valuable resource for the basic research scientists to make discoveries that are specific for Hispanic cancer patients that will provide insight for the development of biomarker driven personalized medicine for this population.
Title: Molecular epidemiology studies on the role of DNA repair in breast
Agency/Type: NIH/NIGMS/MBRS/SC1 funded by NCI Minority Diversity Branch
Project Period: 08/04/10 – 07/31/2013
The overall aim of this incident case-control study is to examine whether a low DRC is a predictor of breast cancer and to identify whether the expression of genes that are associated with DNA repair capacity vary as a function of age and subtype of BC. Because age is one of the most important risk factor for cancer and DRC declines with age, this project will identify recently discovered critical genes associated with the loss of DRC.
1) To test whether DRC can be utilized as a predictor for BC risk in women of different age groups. Datagathered during the current cycle have shown that women (n=283) in PR with BChave a statistically (p<0.001) significant reduction (56%) in age-adjusted DRCcompared to controls (n=479).
2) To identify whether the expression of DNA repair genes that are associated with various phenotypes of DRC vary as afunction of age. It is hypothesized that women with BC have an alteredexpression of key DNA repair genes as a function of age.
3) To study key epidemiological risk factors for breast cancer and their association with DRC inwomen.
4) To develop scientific expertise in the area of epigenetics and to utilize
these newfound tools in cancer studies in the laboratory of the PI.
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