WE’RE THRILLED TO WELCOME MELISSA B. DAVIS, PHD, TO THE ENGLANDER INSTITUTE FOR PRECISION MEDICINE TEAM. DR. DAVIS IS A MOLECULAR GENETICIST, AND HER RESEARCH INTERESTS INCLUDE GENOMICS AND SYSTEMS BIOLOGY.
Dr. Davis is Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Surgery, Scientific Director of the International Center for the Study of Breast Cancer Subtypes, Weill Cornell Medical College. She is co-author of more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles.
We hope you enjoy learning more about Dr. Davis’ work.
Please provide a brief overview of your work.
I am a classically trained molecular geneticist. I also have expertise in genomics and systems biology. I use this skillset to unravel the multifocal contributions to cancer risk, disparities in clinical oncology outcomes and link this information back to genetic ancestry, particularly Sub-Saharan West African Ancestry.
What makes your research unique? Can you share with us some recent findings?
We have the most comprehensive multi-ethnic cohort of breast cancer cases and controls studied to date. We are tracking the incidence of specific tumor phenotypes throughout the African Diaspora (globally) and creating a unique set of genomes (sequences) which promise to enable our quest to find population-specific genetic risk and tumor progression markers.
What excites you about your work?
I’m excited about this possibility to shift a paradigm and reclaim the notion of genetic diversity, in the context of self-identified race, and use cutting-edge technologies to transcend big data and apply findings to under-represented groups – even in 3rd world countries.
When thinking about your research, what are some recent breakthroughs that are propelling the field forward? How will they impact healthcare and patient care in the future?
The integration of immunology and tumor evolution. How a tumor progresses, and its treatment response, is significantly impacted by the immune system. All immune systems are not created equally (or at least they are certainly modified along the life course). This means we have a great opportunity to harness immunotherapy and direct the course of immune system impact. Considering these factors on an individual patient basis will truly make treatments individualized. In addition, by diversifying the research population and taking an account of the genetic diversity within each person, precision medicine will finally be truly precise.
What are the short-term challenges that your scientific field is facing?
Disparities research is still considered anecdotal in some research circles. We don’t always get the recognition of rigorous and notable findings. As we more clearly define the links between ancestry groups and disease (incidence and pathology), I believe our place will be carved into translational research.
What else would you like to share with Englander Institute for Precision Medicine team?
I’m delighted to be here and look forward to being immersed in world-class science!
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