International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020

In honor of International Women and Girls in Science Day, we celebrated female mentors and mentees in the Neuro-Oncology Branch who strive every day to make advances in ground-breaking research for brain and spine tumor patients. 

By Neuro-Oncology Branch Staff

March 1, 2020


In honor of International Women and Girls in Science day on February 3, we are celebrating female scientists and physicians at the NCI Center for Cancer Research's Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB), who are training the next generation females involved in ground-breaking research for brain tumor patients.

Dr. Jing Wu and Madison Butler

Dr. Jing Wu and Madison Bulter
Dr. Jing Wu and Madison Butler

Jing Wu, M.D., Ph.D., and her Postbaccalaureate Fellow Madison Butler have worked together for two years studying IDH-mutated gliomas. Dr. Wu’s laboratory also focuses on the multi-kinase inhibitor TG02, now called Zotiraciclib, which has recently been granted orphan drug status by the Food and Drug Administration for its positive impact on high-grade glioma patients.

As part of Dr. Wu’s laboratory, Madison was involved in a pre-clinical study investigating whether a combination of two drugs that target DNA and inhibit damage response pathways effectively kills glioblastoma cells. She utilized patient-derived glioblastoma cell lines to understand how these drugs work together and determine the potential survival benefit for patients in the future.

“My experience at NCI has been wonderful and helped me gain confidence in my research, scientific, and critical-thinking abilities” says Madison. She also emphasized that Dr. Wu was an ideal mentor to expose her to clinical projects by “providing many opportunities for professional growth and investment in my career goals, while also valuing my ideas and contributions to her research team.”

Dr. Wu shares in Madison’s enthusiasm, stating that “it has been very rewarding to see Madison making progress over the last two years and knowing that I have participated in her career development.” Since Madison is pursuing a career in medicine and research, she says working with Dr. Wu has been and “instrumental opportunity to gain significant research training and knowledge in neuro-oncology, in addition to learning from many different people at NCI, including having Dr. Wu as an inspiring female role model.”

Drs. Terri Armstrong, Dorela Shuboni-Mulligan, and Amanda King

Dr. Amanda King, Dr. Terri Armstrong, and Dr. Dorela Shuboni-Mulligan
Drs. Amanda King, Terri Armstrong, and Dorela Shuboni-Mulligan

Terri Armstrong, Ph.D., has mentored several female scientists in the past through her robust laboratory and clinical endeavors focused on improving outcomes for brain tumor patients. Through her NCI-CONNECT program and Natural History Study, her research seeks to understand the trajectory of brain and spine tumors, their symptom burden, and quality of life through and after treatment.

Her two postdoctoral fellows—Dorela Shuboni-Mulligan, Ph.D., and Dr. Amanda King, Ph.D.—are focused on similar aspects of research. Dr. Shuboni-Mulligan arrived at the Neuro-Oncology branch with a background studying circadian rhythms and is focused on developing preclinical models to explain changes in sleep cycles after a patient undergoes radiation therapy. Dr. King, on the other hand, brought her experience in stress research to the Branch and is exploring how virtual reality can help ‘scanxiety’ (the anxiety related to undergoing cancer imaging).

Dr. Shuboni-Mulligan has only high praise for Dr. Armstrong, stating that she is “truly an inspiration for young female scientists like me because she has been able to create a groundbreaking program of research in a male-dominated field that does not compromise her passion for the patients she cares for in clinic.” Dr. King shares a similar, very positive sentiment about working with “such an inspiring and successful female mentor.” Because she and Dr. Armstrong both have nursing backgrounds, Dr. King says it has been easy to be on the same page when approaching research problems—helping her to successfully design a clinical trial.

Dr. Armstrong is also committed to the success of not only her two postdoctoral fellows, but all the scientists she mentors. “One of my favorite parts of working with trainees is providing opportunities for them to have access to resources, experiences, and leadership opportunities that help them on their own professional growth and trajectory,” she says. As a female nurse scientist, Dr. Armstrong says that it's crucial for women to provide one another opportunities and supportive leadership.

Dr. Armstrong offers some words of support to aspiring female scientists, researchers, and physicians: “I learn from each trainee that I have had the opportunity to mentor. My biggest piece of advice would be to try something outside of your comfort zone to grow and learn. Work hard and deliver. Trust in your ideas and passions—integrity and vision are key to success!”

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