2024 A Breath of Hope Research Award Recipient

Jessica Konen, PhD, Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology Instructor at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University

A Breath of Hope is pleased to announce our 2024 Julie Swedberg YOLO Award to Jessica Konen, PhD, of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, for her project entitled MiR-29 as a master regulator of anti-tumor immunity.

Jessica Konen, PhD:

Jessica Konen, PhDJessica Konen, PhD, has dedicated her scientific career to researching mechanisms of tumor growth, metastasis, drug resistance, and immune evasion in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Dr. Konen began this work in graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, in the lab of Dr. Adam Marcus, where she studied the dynamic interactions between phenotypically distinct subpopulations within a collectively invading tumor pack. This work created significant contributions to the field of tumor invasion and metastasis, including revealing survival dependencies of the highly invasive leader cells that can be targeted as an anti-metastatic agent for the control of NSCLC.

After receiving her PhD, Dr. Konen completed her post-doctoral fellowship at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Here, she began her training in tumor immunology and immunotherapy, with a focus on KRAS-driven lung cancers. Her work in the laboratory of Dr. Don Gibbons led to several discoveries of novel tumor-driven resistance mechanisms to immune checkpoint inhibitors, revealing potential combination treatment strategies with small molecule inhibitors to combat immune checkpoint inhibitor resistance. During her pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training, Dr. Konen received numerous awards for her poster and oral research presentations and training fellowship awards through the NIH and the University of Texas Lung Cancer SPORE.

Currently, Dr. Konen is an instructor in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. Her research aims to continue to reveal targetable immune checkpoint resistance mechanisms in NSCLC, combining her backgrounds in studying dynamic, tumor-centric growth and metastasis mechanisms with a microenvironmental perspective of the extracellular matrix and anti-tumor immune response. Through this work, Dr. Konen hopes toreveal the vast heterogeneity of mechanisms that lung tumors utilize to escape immune detection and elimination in a spatiotemporal manner. She has received several accolades early in her career, including a Career Enhancement Proposal Award through the Emory University Lung Cancer SPORE and an American Cancer Society-Winship Internal Review Grant award.

Dr. Konen is excited to have received the ABOH Julie Swedberg YOLO research award to expand her research. She believes it will not only provide the necessary support for her research aspirations but also for the next steps of her career development. The proposed studies will generate the foundational data for the high-risk/high-reward next steps that Dr. Konen aims to take. The award will also help support the growth of several key collaborations with scientists at Emory University and other institutions.


About the project:

Dr. Konen’s project aims to define a vast transcriptional network that is dysregulated following loss of the micro-RNA (miR)-29 in tumors with resistance to immune checkpoint therapy. Specifically, the project aims to discover the tumor cell-intrinsic and extrinsic effects of miR-29 loss, including a focus on the cellular and non-cellular components of the tumor microenvironment, and to determine the efficacy of targeting this pathway to reinvigorate anti-tumor immunity and response to immune checkpoint inhibitor treatment. These studies will reveal previously unexplored biology of the miR-29 family with the goal of generating rational drug combinations for the treatment of lung cancer.

Named Research Awards

This award was named in honor of Peg Fisher-Jullie. Read her story here. ABOH offers major donors the chance to “name” an ABOH national research award. “Named Research Awards” enable donors to fund part or all of a research award in their name or in memory or honor of a loved one. To learn more, email Executive Director, Nancy Torrison at .