Zara Cooper, MD, MSc, Awarded a $3.3M National Institutes of Health Grant

Zara Cooper, MD, Msc, has been awarded a $3.3M National Institutes of Health grant for the study, “A layered examination of the patient experience to elucidate the role of palliative care in surgical care for seriously ill older adults.”

Over 1 million older adults with serious illness have major surgery or severe trauma each year, and palliative care delivered alongside surgical care can help relieve patient suffering, improve postoperative outcomes and reduce health care utilization. Although seriously ill surgical patients benefit from palliative care, they are less likely than other patients to receive it. The proposed study will provide an innovative and layered examination of the role of palliative care in surgery in order to directly inform bedside clinical decisions and the implementation of targeted palliative care interventions to improve care for older seriously ill surgical patients.

Zara Cooper, MD, MSc
Michele and Howard J. Kessler Distinguished Chair in Surgery and Public Health
Kessler Director, Center for Surgery and Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Chair, Executive Advisory Committee, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Health
Director, Center for Geriatric Surgery
Associate Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Cooper is an acute care surgeon, trauma surgeon and surgical intensivist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where she also serves as Kessler director of the Center for Surgery and Public Health (CSPH), chair of the Executive Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Community Health and director of the Center for Geriatric Surgery. Dr. Cooper is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and adjunct faculty at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research. A graduate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Cooper completed her general surgery residency and critical care fellowship at the Brigham; a trauma fellowship at Harborview Medical Center and the University of Washington; and training in hospice and palliative medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Brigham.

Her research aims to improve palliative and geriatric care for older seriously ill surgical patients. A national leader in surgical palliative care and geriatric trauma, she has authored over 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts, chapters, and abstracts and lectures nationally about surgical care in complex older patients.

Dr. Cooper is currently funded through the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), the National Palliative Care Research Center (NPCRC), the Department of Defense and is a co-investigator on multiple federally funded grants. She also serves on numerous editorial boards and committees for professional societies, Mass General Brigham and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a member of the Brigham Health Board of Trustees.

Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, MD, PhD, Awarded a $748K Grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, MD, PhD, has been awarded a $748K grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center for the study, “Leveraging digital pathology to identify and cure high risk breast cancer.”

We have reached the limits of how standard pathologic evaluation of breast biopsy or surgical specimens can inform the care of breast cancer patients. While routine hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained slides, as well as additional staining to assess expression of the estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) and HER2 are used to define the subtype of breast cancer a patient has and dictates their initial therapy, it is unable to predict who is going to respond to that treatment or provide significant prognostic information. Therefore, there is a critical unmet need to develop novel technologies that will enable improved prediction and prognostication in order to inform personalized treatment recommendations for breast cancer patients. Digital pathology has the potential to address that need, revolutionizing the way that breast cancer patients are cared for. Specifically, by employing machine learning to the evaluation of pathologic specimens, we anticipate more rapid, accurate and refined diagnoses that will inform treatment recommendations that are personalized to the individual patient.

Elizabeth A. Mittendorf, MD, PhD
Rob and Karen Hale Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Vice Chair for Research, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Director of Surgical Research, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) Breast Program
Director, Breast Immuno-Oncology Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Co­-Director, Breast Cancer Clinical Research Program, Breast Oncology Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Mittendorf is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where she also completed a residency in general surgery.  After completing her residency, she served on active duty in the United States military before completing a fellowship in surgical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mittendorf also holds a PhD in immunology from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston.

Prior to joining Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Dr. Mittendorf was a professor in the Department of Breast Surgical Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Mittendorf is board certified by the America Board of Surgery. She maintains a busy clinical practice and oversees a portfolio of clinical trials, as well as a basic laboratory effort.

She is principal investigator on a number of clinical protocols, including the phase III PRESENT (Prevention of Recurrence in Early-Stage, Node-Positive Breast Cancer with Low to Intermediate HER2 Expression with NeuVax Treatment) study, and a multicenter phase II trial investigating the efficacy of a CD8+ T cell eliciting vaccine in combination with trastuzumab, which is based on preclinical data generated in her laboratory and follows a phase I trial she conducted demonstrating the combination to be safe. This trial is supported by a Breakthrough Award from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Dr. Mittendorf is also the principal investigator on a multi-center trial supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) evaluating the impact of vaccination in patients with ductal carcinoma in situ, a trial evaluating the impact of preoperative radiation therapy on the immune response in breast tumors, as well as two investigator initiated studies evaluating immune checkpoint blockade administered to breast cancer patients in the presurgical setting.

Her laboratory work is focused on identifying novel tumor antigens and investigating aspects of the tumor microenvironment that impact the response to immunotherapy. Specifically, she is investigating mutations in the ESR1 gene as targets for vaccination, as well as the impact of standard therapies on the immune microenvironment with the goal of informing rational clinical trials evaluating the addition of immunotherapy to treatment regimens for breast cancer patients. This work is supported by the Komen for the Cure Foundation and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

2021 Final Service Conference and Graduation Awards

The following recipients were recently honored with awards at the Final Service Conference.

Student Teaching Awards           

  • PGY 1: Alex Ordoobadi, MD
  • PGY 2: Brittany Powell, MD
  • PGY 3: Katherine He, MD
  • PGY 4: Sasha Mahvi, MD
  • PGY 5: George Li, MD, and Jonathan Hills-Dunlap, MD, MPH (the Robert T. Osteen Award for Medical Student Education in Surgery)

Surgery Class of ’63 Scholar: Sameer Hirji, MD

PBB Scholar Award: George Li, MD

Grant Rodkey Award (VA Hospital Award): Danny Mou, MD

Christine Weeks Schofield Award (South Shore Hospital Award): Sarabeth Spitzer, MD

Edward Kwasnik Award (South Shore Hospital Award): Will Phillips, MD

The Vollman Award (Faulkner Hospital Award): Katherine He, MD

Starfish Award: Pamela Lu, MD

Francis D. Moore, Sr. Award: Heather Lyu, MD

Donald D. Matson Award: Jiping Wang, MD, PhD

Richard E. Wilson Award: Zara Cooper, MD, MSc