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AACR-MICR Special Mentorship Spotlight: Patricia Lorenzo

Patricia Lorenzo, Ph.D. Patricia S. Lorenzo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Cancer Biology Program
Director, Microscopy & Imaging SR

University of Hawaii Cancer Center
677 Ala Moana Boulevard
Gold Bond Building, Suite 901
Honolulu, HI 96813

phone: 808-586-5868
fax: 808-586-3052

Now that Patricia S. Lorenzo has more than 15 years of studying pharmacology and cancer research under her belt, she concedes that finding good mentors is key to career success for researchers from underrepresented populations.

Good mentors not only understand science, but also recognize what the hot topics are in cancer research that merit exploration. That kind of knowledge and insight is invaluable in helping students and early-stage investigators define their research interests and plan their academic and career paths.

As most scientists will attest, simply trying to grasp the essence of the science is challenging in itself, without the added hurdle of mastering the art of grantwriting. A mentor who can teach you that skill is hugely beneficial.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lorenzo studied biochemistry and pharmacy at the University of Buenos Aires and was recognized with various awards for her academic performance, including Top Ranked Student. In 1995, she received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the same institution and was honored with a Young Scientist Award from the Fundación Alberto J. Roemmers, in Argentina, for her research in Pharmacology.

Lorenzo met her mentor, Peter Blumberg, Ph.D., in 1996, during her stint as a Fogarty Visiting Fellow at the Laboratory of Cellular Carcinogenesis and Tumor Promotion at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Working in his lab, she developed an interest and strong background in the study of Ras guanyl releasing protein 1 (RasGRP1) and other diacylglycerol targets in tumorigenesis.

Blumberg, a senior investigator in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Genetics, and Chief of the Molecular Mechanisms of Tumor Promotion Section says, "As an NIH scientist, I recognize that my job is to have maximum impact. Helping able, younger scientists in their careers is a critical part of this, just as is the research that we do." Like all good mentors, Blumberg doesn't like to take full credit for his mentees' success. "It was my pleasure to have Dr. Lorenzo in my laboratory," he says. "But, of course, Dr. Lorenzo's success really reflects her talent, her dedication, and her hard work."

After five years in Blumberg's lab, Lorenzo stepped into independent research status and moved to Honolulu to take up a position as Assistant Professor in the Cancer Biology Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, in 2001. Currently an Associate Professor at the Center, she also holds graduate faculty appointments in both the Cell and Molecular Biology Program and the Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering Program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Lorenzo's work with Blumberg laid the foundation for the type of research she conducts in her lab. A key contribution from Lorenzo's lab is the discovery that RasGRP1 has a role in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, a prevalent form of skin cancer, and could potentially serve as a therapeutic target in skin cancer.

Once you reach independent researcher status and that place you can call success, Lorenzo says you can't just rest on your laurels and rely on what your college professor taught you ten years ago. You need to be learning new things continually to keep pace with scientific advances. And that she certainly has done. The recipient of several research grants from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations throughout the years, Lorenzo is currently pursuing research funded under two NIH-NCI R01grants: Regulation of Tumor Promotion by RasGRP1 (under award number R01 CA09684-06) and Ras activation pathways in UVR-induced epidermal transformation (under award number R03 CA165128-01).

Since receiving her Young Scientist Award, Lorenzo has continued to garner more awards for her outstanding work. She was a recipient of the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Minority Scholar Award for Scientific Excellence in 2005, as well as the AACR Minority Scholars in Cancer Research Award in 2003—an award sponsored by CRCHD for early-stage, meritorious scientists from institutions serving underrepresented populations.

From 2006 to 2007, she was appointed Council Member for the AACR's Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR), a membership group within the AACR committed to preventing and curing cancer while meeting the professional needs and advancing the careers of minority scientists.

This past spring, Lorenzo enlightened the audience with her account of what it was like to be a past minority-serving institution faculty scholar at the 2012 AACR/MICR annual conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, a conference of which CRCHD has long been a co-sponsor. The Center sponsors the attendance of investigators from diverse backgrounds at the conference through R13 conference grants. Sponsorship of awards and attendance both allows CRCHD to promote diversity training and furthers AACR's ability to spotlight the cancer health disparities work of its member scientists.

Updated: 01/10/14