May 6, 2019, New York, NY—Today, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) announced that breast cancer researcher Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD, joined its executive leadership team as Chief Scientific Officer. Dr. El-Ashry will work with the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to set the science vision each year, selecting the world’s best investigators to work on the most promising and urgent research needs, and managing all scientific aspects of the BCRF portfolio of grants.
As Chief Scientific Officer, El-Ashry will directly influence the course of breast cancer research around the world, leading BCRF’s multi-million-dollar grant program and serving as a breast cancer expert and spokesperson. In 2018-19, BCRF invested $63 million in breast cancer research, supporting 300 researchers at leading academic and medical institutions across 14 countries.
“We welcome Dr. El-Ashry to the leadership of BCRF’s large, vibrant and highly productive research endeavor,” said Dr. Larry Norton, BCRF Co-Scientific Director. “Furthering the work of 300 dedicated investigators around the world is an enormous challenge. Dr. El-Ashry’s personal involvement in cutting-edge breast cancer research for over two decades as well as her extensive knowledge of science and scientists give her a special perspective on the task. We look forward to her successful stewardship of our great mission.”
El-Ashry’s entire career has been in breast cancer research—initially compelled to study the disease in college after witnessing two of her best friends cope with their mothers being treated for or lost to metastatic breast cancer. Two of her aunts, one of them being just 39 years old with two young daughters, her grandmother, and several friends and colleagues have either been treated for breast cancer or died from breast cancer. Her personal experience fortified her determination to eradicate the disease through research.
El-Ashry’s research focus was on mechanisms of estrogen receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer. Her lab identified factors that drive the reversible loss of ER, such that inhibitors of these factors could restore both ER expression and responses to anti-estrogen therapies. Her lab also identified a microRNA signature that could predict poor outcome and resistance to anti-estrogen therapies.
More recently, her focus turned to those cells that surround, support, and drive many of the aggressive behaviors of the cancer cells, and in particular, a cell type known as cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs). She and her colleagues discovered that these CAFs move along with circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in patient blood and play important roles in breast cancer metastasis.
El-Ashry was most recently Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Minnesota/Masonic Cancer Center, and prior to that, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Miami/Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, and Assistant Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University/Lombardi Cancer Center.
She graduated from Vanderbilt University and then went on to receive her PhD in Experimental Pathology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, performing her post-doctoral training at the Lombardi Cancer Center.