2020 ABOH Research Fellowship

Dr. Esra Akbay of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

A Breath of Hope is honored to announce our 2020 Research Fellow and the winner of the Katherine Bensen Hope Award—Dr. Esra Akbay of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Akbay’s winning proposal focuses on overcoming resistance to immune checkpoint blockade in lung cancer by targeting Telomerase. Dr. Akbay proposes to target an essential survival mechanism of tumor cells to activate protective anti-tumor immunity and immune memory. She will give an update this fall at the Midwest Lung Cancer Summit, a virtual event for survivors and caregivers.

Dr. Esra Akbay

Dr. Akbay started her scientific training at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey majoring in Molecular Biology and Genetics. After graduating she moved to the United States for PhD studies. She joined the Cancer Biology PhD program at UT Southwestern Medical Center and studied the role of telomere shortening in endometrial cancer development. Her work led to the development of first preclinical model of type II endometrial cancer.

For her postdoctoral studies, Dr. Akbay joined the lab of Dr. Kwok-Kin Wong at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical school. Her postdoctoral studies focused on developing novel mouse models and studying the tumor immune micro-environment. Her work led to a better understanding of tumor immune escape mechanisms.

Dr. Akbay moved to UT Southwestern Medical Center as an assistant professor in 2016. Research in her laboratory focuses on understanding how tumors evade the immune surveillance and designing therapies that target these escape mechanisms and activate anti-tumor immunity.