Julio Pimentel, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in cancer biology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been named a member of the first Janssen Scholar of Oncology Diversity Engagement Program by pharmaceutical companies Johnson & Johnson.
The program aims to provide mentorship from senior industry leaders and develop essential skill sets valued in scientific careers inside and outside an industrial setting to those who identify as Hispanic or African American.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the first round of investigators, and for the support and mentorship I receive from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, as it will allow me to progress towards my long-term career. goals of leading a research agenda and contributing to cancer diversity,” Pimentel said.
Selection as a fellow includes a $10,000 stipend to be used for conference travel, research supplies and training courses, and mentorship.
To be considered for the program, applicants must be full-time doctoral students in their second year or later, first- or second-year medical students, postdoctoral fellows, or PharmD students engaged or interested in the oncology or other closely related disciplines such as immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, computational biology/data sciences, clinical research and pharmacology.
Pimentel’s research goal in the Cancer Biology graduate program is to overcome tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand resistance, or TRAIL, in triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer, or TNBC, is an aggressive disease that does not respond to widely used targeted endocrine therapies due to the lack of progesterone, estrogen, and HER2 receptors. While previous studies indicate that the majority of TNBC cells are highly susceptible to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, the development of resistance to TRAIL limits its effectiveness. Pimentel’s study evaluated the effects of protein phosphatase 2A, or PP2A, inhibition on TRAIL-induced cell death in TRAIL-resistant TNBC cells. He generated two TRAIL-resistant cell lines from parental TRAIL-sensitive cells (MDA-MB-231 and SUM159) and found that both TRAIL-resistant cell lines are sensitive to the PP2A inhibitor LB-100 compared to their corresponding TRAIL-sensitive counterparts. . The results suggest that inhibition of PP2A activity could be a novel therapeutic strategy to overcome TRAIL resistance in triple-negative breast cancer.
Last June, Pimentel was selected for the second time to receive the National Latino Leader Award and a scholarship to attend and present at the 2021 Society of Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences Conference. He also received recognition in 2020.
The Society of Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences is dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in obtaining higher degrees, careers and leadership positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The organization’s conference is the largest multidisciplinary, multicultural STEM diversity event in the country.
The 2020 Wayne State University Board of Governors recognized Pimentel for exhibiting “Profiles in Warrior Strong.” The recognition recognizes the positive achievements that have continued throughout the University community despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Pimentel won first place in the poster presentations at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Junior Faculty Research/Retreat and the Director of Cancer Biology Award. He was selected in 2018 for a WSU Dean’s Diversity Fellowship, designed to attract new doctoral students and support departmental recruitment of students who demonstrate academic excellence and are underrepresented in their disciplines.
In addition to continuing his research during the pandemic, he gave a virtual presentation to minority high school students interested in STEM as part of the FocuSSTEM NextGen program and was nominated as a Latin role model shaping the world by the Latino Community Stage, an online platform. for aspirants. Latino and Latino students to explore academic and career interests in STEM.