MD/PhD student Peter Cruz-Gordillo receives American Society of Clinical Oncology award

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

May 13, 2014
MD/PhD student Peter Cruz-Gordillo, center, poses for a photo with Burncoat House mentor David Hatem, MD, left, and Cruz-Gordillo’s father, Peter R. Cruz. Cruz-Gordillo is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and grew up there and in Miami.
MD/PhD student Peter Cruz-Gordillo, center, poses for a photo with Burncoat House mentor David Hatem, MD, left, and Cruz-Gordillo’s father, Peter R. Cruz. Cruz-Gordillo is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and grew up there and in Miami.

UMass Medical School MD/PhD student Peter Cruz-Gordillo is the recipient of a Medical Student Rotation Award for Underrepresented Populations from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The award recognizes outstanding scientific research, supports young potential cancer doctors and helps promote diversity in oncology.

Cruz-Gordillo will do a clinical rotation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a co-research rotation between a lab here and his former lab at the Broad Institute this summer. The award also funds his travel to the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June 2015.

The award will allow Cruz-Gordillo to expand his clinical training perspective to include a current physician-scientist's approach to cancer treatment and help him to understand his mentor's methods for prioritizing clinical observations that inform his research goals. Cruz-Gordillo also hopes to build a lasting connection between UMass Medical School and the institutions he will spend time at over the summer.

“I am determined to use my cultural background as well as my clinical and research knowledge to uncover the biological and environmental—social, cultural, economic—mechanisms underlying cancer heterogeneity and drug resistance, with a commitment to customizing therapeutics,” said Cruz-Gordillo. “This award affords me invaluable, direct experience in my ideal future career scenario—gaining perspective in the clinic that I can use as motivation and direction in the laboratory.”

The Conquer Cancer Foundation was created by members of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in order to pursue dramatic advances in the prevention, research and the sharing of cutting-edge knowledge with patients and physicians worldwide; by improving the quality of and access to care; and by enhancing quality of life for all who are touched by cancer.

“The devastating effects of cancer are blind to race, religion, class and ethnicity,” said W. Charles Penley, MD, FASCO, chair of the Conquer Cancer Foundation Board of Directors. “The Resident Travel Awards and Medical Student Rotation Awards aim to infuse our field with doctors from diverse backgrounds to help break down barriers in access to care for people from underserved populations. They also spark innovation by engaging multiple perspectives to solve complex problems and by drawing on the unique talents and contributions that each and every one of us brings to the table.”

“I couldn’t have accomplished this without the help and support of my mentors at the Broad Institute, Dr. Jens Lohr and Dr. Todd Golub, and my supporters here—Dr. Deborah Plummer [Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion and professor of psychiatry] and Dr. Silvia Corvera [the Endowed Chair in Diabetes Research and professor of molecular medicine and cell & developmental biology and associate director of UMMS NIH Medical Scientist Training Program],” said Cruz-Gordillo.