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Cancer Research Advocacy Day

Research Advocacy Day

Composed of individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer or have a strong personal connection to it, the Cancer Research Advocacy Group (CRAG) represent and share insights and experiences of cancer survivors. CRAG's Research Advocacy Day at the I-Hotel and Conference Center will promote interactions between cancer survivors, researchers, and clinicians and honor those who have been impacted by the disease.

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I-Hotel and Conference Center
1900 S 1st St
Champaign, IL 61820


Hotel Reservation


Note: The cutoff date for the room block is April 16th and reservations must be submitted by then. Reservations can also be made by calling 217-819-5000 and referencing the “IND--Regional Research Advocacy Day” block.

Time Topic
7:30-8:00 a.m. Registration and Breakfast
8:00-8:15 a.m. Opening Remarks
Erik Nelson, Zeynep Madak-Erdogan, and CRAG Advocate
8:15-8:30 a.m. Remarks from the Cancer Center at Illinois
Rex Gaskins
8:30-9:30 a.m. Keynote Address
Yibin Kang, Princeton University
9:30-10:00 a.m. Alicia Staley, Founder of #BCSM
10:00-10:30 a.m. Coffee Break and Poster Session
10:30-11:30 a.m. Impact and Advantages of Collaborating with Advocates
1. Jamie Holloway, Georgetown Breast Cancer Advocates
2. Harikrishna Nakshatri, IU School of Medicine.
3. Representative from UIC Patient Brigade
4. Karen DiVito, University of Pittsburgh Advocacy Group
11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Round Table: Barriers to Advocate–Scientist–Clinician Interactions, and Solutions
1. Connie Rufenbarger
2. Jamie Holloway
3. Alicia Staley
4. Sarah Adams
5. Steffi Oesterreich
6. Harikrishna Nakshatri
7. Yibin Kang
12:15-1:30 p.m. Lunch and Poster Session
1:30-2:30 p.m. Keynote Address
Steffi Oesterreich, University of Pittsburgh
2:30-2:50 p.m. Coffee Break and Poster Session
2:50-4:00 p.m. Support and Resources for Patient-Centered Research
(5- to 15-Minute Introductions, Followed by Roundtable Discussion)

1. Alicia Thomas, PCORI
2. Gayle Young and Jill Elaine Henry, Susan G. Komen
3. Linda Schultz, American Cancer Society
4. Lori Petiti, Lobular Breast Cancer Coalition
5. Brian Sladek, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
4:00-4:30 p.m. Poster Awards and Concluding Remarks
Keynote Speaker: Yibin Kang
Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor, Molecular Biology, Princeton University
KangYibin Kang is a Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. 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, and he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2010 and to Endowed Chair Full Professor in 2012.
Keynote Speaker: Steffi Oesterreich
Professor and Vice Chair, Precision and Translational Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh
OesterreichSteffi Oesterreich is a Professor and Vice Chair of Precision and Translational Pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her PhD from Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany) in 1992 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center (San Antonio) in 1996. Her research interests include the pharmacology of cell and organ systems, cancer pharmacology, and hormone pharmacology.
H. Rex Gaskins
Associate Director for Education, Cancer Center at Illinois
GaskinsH. Rex Gaskins obtained his PhD in cell biology from the University of Georgia in 1989. From 1989-92, he completed postdoctoral studies in immunology and genetics at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1992 and is a professor with appointments in the Departments of Animal Sciences and Pathobiology, the Division of Nutritional Sciences, and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. Research in his laboratory focuses on host-intestinal microbe interactions relevant to colorectal cancer with a particular interest in microbial sulfur metabolism. Professor Gaskins serves as Deputy Director of the NIH-supported Tissue Microenvironment Training Program and chairs the Steering Committee of the Cancer Center at Illinois.
Jamie Holloway
Clinical Research Advocate, Science 37; Patient Advocate, Georgetown Breast Cancer Advocates
HollowayJamie Holloway is an academically trained cancer researcher, earning her PhD from Georgetown University for her research into the interaction between estrogen receptor expression and growth factor signaling in breast cancer. She received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Illinois and works as a breast cancer patient to work with scientists as a research advocate.
Zeynep Madak-Erdogan
Assistant Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition
ZeynepZeynep Madak-Erdogan, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Nutrition and the Director of Women’s Health, Hormones and Nutrition lab at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. She received her bachelor's degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics from Bilkent University in 2002. After completing her PhD and postdoctoral studies on mechanisms of estrogen receptor action, she joined Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Illinois, in 2014. Her lab uses “Systems Biology” approaches to understand how nutrients and hormones impact metabolic health and breast cancer outcomes and identify biomarkers and associated molecular mechanisms driving disease in pre- and postmenopausal women.
Harikrishna Nakshatri
Professor of Breast Cancer Research, Indiana University
NakshatriHarikrishna Nakshatri is the Marian J. Morrison Professor of Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. His research interests include understanding the mechanisms of resistance to antiestrogen and chemotherapy in breast cancer, therapeutic targeting of breast cancer stem cells, and serum biomarkers of cancer progression.
Erik Nelson
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois
NelsonErik Nelson completed his PhD in comparative endocrinology at the University of Calgary, and specialized in pharmacology and cancer biology as a postdoctoral associate at Duke University School of Medicine. In August 2014 he was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology. He is also a member of the Cancer Center at Illinois, Division of Nutritional Sciences and Institute for Genome Biology, and an associate member of the University of Illinois Cancer Center (Chicago). His research focuses on how endocrine and metabolic factors impact the progression of breast and ovarian cancers.
Lori Petitti
Coordinator, Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance
PetittiA former television and documentary producer, Lori Petitti is a coordinator at the Lobular Breast Cancer Alliance. Her interests are in research advocacy, mentoring newly diagnosed patients, and raising awareness on the unique aspects of lobular breast cancer.
Alicia Staley
Co-Founder of Breast Cancer Social Media, #BCSM
StaleyOver the past 10 years, Alicia Staley applied her engineering background to improve the patient experience for those dealing with cancer. With an extensive network of patient advocates and non-profit organizations, she collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to help improve processes and policies that impacts patient care and clinical trials. She’s co-led numerous research studies on how patients share information in online forums and seek out clinical trial opportunities. An early adopter of social media, she co-founded #BCSM, which attracts over 250 global participants each week to its scheduled online discussions. Alicia is also a three-time cancer survivor, first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease as a sophomore during college.
Alicia Thomas
Senior Program Officer for the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards
ThomasAlicia Thomas is a Senior Program Officer for the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards program at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Thomas is responsible for strategic decision making and high-level management of the program, its funded projects, and activities that advance PCORI’s Engagement mission. Thomas has a bachelor's in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She also holds a MHS from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, with a concentration in reproductive, perinatal, and women’s health. Thomas has also earned a DrPH in public health, with concentrations in health disparities, and maternal and child health, from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.