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Wistar Hosts Final Women & Science Event of the Season with Special Presentation About Genes and Cancer
Ben Leach

Wistar recently wrapped up the last of four Women & Science events for the 2016-2017 season, and the tone of the evening perfectly embodied everything the program was designed to achieve.

Many of the women who attended the event on June 22, 2017, had come to know each other through the course of the series. This network of scientifically engaged women have been brought together through a common interest in health, science, and biomedical research and the pursuit of greater scientific knowledge related to women’s health.

Following a cocktail reception, opening remarks were given by Liz McKee Anderson, who is not only a Wistar board member but also the previous Worldwide Vice President and Commercial Leader in the infectious diseases and vaccines global commercial strategy organization at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, another example of an influential woman involved in the field of biomedical science.

"The Wistar Institute is an ideal place to host the Women and Science Program, as the Institute has been a strong supporter of women scientists throughout its history," Anderson said. She touted that today, many of Wistar’s scientists are women, and this legacy is continued in the celebration of leading women scientists, the fostering of a greater female scientific community, and the promotion of greater scientific literacy amongst women through the Women & Science Program.

Maureen M. Murphy, Ph.D., professor and program leader of Wistar’s Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program, Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs, and Associate Director for Education and Career Development, Wistar Cancer Center, was the evening’s main speaker, and she opened her lecture by explaining that her childhood goals were to cure cancer and support the underdog. Through her research and findings, she has made huge strides in both of these areas. Further, this opening was perfectly fitting for the final Women & Science lecture of the season, since women have historically been the underdogs in the male-dominated field of biomedical research.

Murphy explained how her research on the p53 oncogene has allowed her to identify why certain groups, such as African American women, are more likely to develop breast cancer and often have a lethal combination of a poorer prognosis and a poorer response to standard treatments.

Not settling with this knowledge alone, Murphy described her determination to find treatments ten times more effective on those with a mutant form of the p53 gene, which one out of every fifty African Americans has. She explained that she was successful in finding a handful of novel treatments which have huge efficacy on this small group, and she is now working to improve precision medicine and fighting for the most effective treatment possible to be provided to patients with this mutant p53 gene. This progress towards leveling the playing field in the fight against cancer for those with mutant p53 mirrors the progress achieved by distinguished women scientists such as Murphy towards leveling the playing field of biomedical research and scientific accomplishment for women in science.

With the success of the first year of our Women and Science program, we have officially announced the dates for our 2017-2018 season. Click here to learn more about the next four events and to purchase tickets.