Our Young Investigator Awardees are extremely productive, resulting a huge return on their investment. What sets the EI Symposium apart is that it continues to be the only organization that supports young investigators at a critical juncture in their work.
— Expedition Inspiration Medical Advisory Committee Chair Angela DeMichele, M.D., M.C.S.E.

Expedition Inspiration is thrilled to announce Dr. Erin Cobain as the 2017 Dr. Brenda Williams Memorial Young Investigator Award Recipient for her visionary and innovative breast cancer research.

Dr. Erin Cobain joined the faculty of the Breast Medical Oncology Program at the University of Michigan in August of 2016. She recently completed her hematology/oncology fellowship at the University of Michigan where she was supported for two years by the institutional NIH T32 training grant. She is committed to pursuing a career as a clinician scientist and is currently engaged in several translational research projects, many of which focus on the clinical application of next generation sequencing (NGS) technology, as well as the use of tumor biomarkers to direct patient care.

Dr. Cobain has a burgeoning interest in the use NGS technology to identify biomarkers predictive of response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy. Along with her mentor, Dr. Daniel Hayes, she has recently proposed a clinical trial through SWOG aiming to administer combination immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy to patients with persistently elevated circulating tumor cells (CTC) following one cycle of first line chemotherapy treatment for metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

With the grant funds from E.I., Dr. Cobain aims to characterize the mutational landscape of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) pre- and post-neoadjuvant chemotherapy administration. The objective is to determine if sensitivity or resistance of TNBC to chemotherapy is related to tumor somatic mutational burden. Her hypothesis is that multiple genetic abnormalities result in resistance to chemotherapy, and conversely that patients with high mutational burden, who have a worse prognosis when treated with chemotherapy, might benefit from treatment with immune checkpoint inhibition.

The Young Investigator Awards funded to young investigators come at a critical time in the development of their careers as clinical breast cancer scientists and junior faculty members.  Of the award, Dr. Cobain says, “I am truly honored to have been selected as a recipient of the Expedition Inspiration Young Investigator Award. The support from this award will go toward a project which aims to better understand genomic differences between pre- and post-chemotherapy treatment specimens from patients with triple negative breast cancer. We hope that identifying these genomic differences will help us to better understand which patients have disease that is fundamentally chemotherapy resistant, and as a result require novel treatment strategies. I am so grateful to my mentors as well as Expedition Inspiration for the opportunity to do this important research, which we hope will translate into improved outcomes for our patients.”

Here are YouTube videos of 2012's Young Investigators at our Open Forum:

J. Chuck Harrell, Ph.D.
Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center
University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill

Patrick Morris, M.D.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Recipient - Brenda M. Williams Young Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research

Brenda Williams, M.D.


Dr. Williams was an obstetrician/gynecologist and her work has touched countless lives.

Brenda Williams had breast cancer, and for her the future cure is too late. But she didn't let that stop her from making a difference. After her initial diagnosis 15 years prior, the cancer returned. Brenda thought she had been cured. When the cancer returned, "It felt like my world ended," she said.

But her world hadn't ended. Instead, she and a circle of friends turned into a dynamic  volunteer force and organized the first and four subsequent Survivor Celebration Dinners for Boise's Susan G. Komen for the Cure. They raised tens of thousands of dollars each year.

Brenda was honored at the Oct. 8 dinner for her work: She personally contributed more than $250,000 in cash and in-kind support for breast cancer research and awareness.

She says: "None of us are going to take our earthly possessions with us. If you can share what you have, I think that's what you should do."

Young Investigator Award Recipients

2014 Recipients

Lisa Arendt, PhD
Tufts University School of Medicine

Eleonore Beurel, PhD
University of Miami School of Psychiatry

2013 Recipients

Katherine Drews-Elger, PhD
University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine

Amy S. Clark, MD
Department of Medicine Division of Hemotology, University of Pennsylvania

2011 Recipients

Patrick Morris, MD - Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
2011 Brenda M. Williams Young Investigator Award for "A Retrospective to Investigate the Prognostic Impact of Inflammation in Women with Breast Cancer"

L. Chuck Harrell, PhD - Linegerger Comprehensive Cancer Center - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
2011 Young Investigator Award for "Intrinsically Targeting Breast Cancer in Liver Metastasis"


Chloe C. Milson, PhD - Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Department of Cellular Biology, Toronto
2010 Brenda M. Williams Young Investigator Award for "Impact of Chemotherapy-Induced Activation of Platelets on Therapeutic Efficacy Outcomes in Breast Cancer"

Toby M. Ward, PhD, University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, Department of Hematology/Oncology
2010 Young Investigator Award for "Truncated ErbB2 Receptors as Diagnostic and Therapeutic Targets"


Bushra Ateeq, PhD Research Fellow/Michigan Center for Translational Pathology / University of Michigan
2009 Young Investigator Award for "The Role of Antiotensin Type 1 Receptor (AGTR1) in a Subset of Breast Cancer"

Laura Gonzalez-Malerva, PhD /The Biodesign Institute /Arizona State University 
2009 Young Investigator Award for "Functional Genomics and Proteomics for the Understanding of Endocrine Resistance in Breast Cancer"


Elizabeth Iorns, PhD / University of Miami, Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine
2008 Young Investigator Award for "Characterization of Breast Stem Cells for the Identification of Cancer Stem Cell Specific Therapeutic Targets"

Jinfeng Suo, PhD / Baylor College of Medicine, Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center
2008 Young Investigator Award for "Duo Regulation of Protein Synthesis and Degradation by the Int6 Breast Tumor Suppressor"


N. Lynn Henry, MD, PhD/University of Michigan
2007 Young Investigator Award for "Pilot Study to Characterize Musculoskeletal Changes with Ultrasonography in Women with Breast Cancer Treated with Aromatize Inhibitors"

Vijayakrishna K. Gadi, MD, PhD / University of Washington
2007 Young Investigator Award for "Fetal Microchimerism in Normal Human Breast and Breast Cancer"


Richard M. Neve, PhD/UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center
2003 Young Investigator Award for "ESX: an epithelial-specific Ets transcription factor regulating the metastatic potential of human breast cancers"

Virginia Kaklamani, MD/ Northwestern University
2003 Young Investigator Award for "Familial Epidemiologic Study of Polymorphisms of the TGF-B Pathway and Familial Breast Cancer Risk"


Lisa Newman, MD/ Karmanos Cancer Institute
2001 Young Investigator Award for "Feasibility of Evaluating Breast Cancer Patients with Nipple Aspirates and Ductal Lavage"

Maureen Chung, MD/ Women And Infants Hospital, Providence, RI
2000 Young Investgator Award for "Development if RBCG-IL2MUCI Breast cancer Vaccine"


Daitoku Sakamuro, MD, The Wistar Institute 
1999 Young Investigator Award for "Research in the area of tumorigenesis pathways including the novel Myc-interacting breast tumor suppressor protein, BIN1"

Olufunmilayo Olopade, MD, University Of Chicago School Of Medicine
1998 Young Investigator Award for "assessing the response to treatment of patients with known BRCA1 and BRCA 2 mutations"