Two UF College of Pharmacy trainees receive American Association for Cancer Research’s Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Awards

By Tyler Francischine

Corey Perkins, a University of Florida College of Pharmacy graduate student, and Monika Trejos Kweyete, Pharm.D., a health disparities research fellow in the UF College of Pharmacy department of pharmacotherapy and translational research, have both been named 2024 recipients of the American Association for Cancer Research, or AACR, Minority Scholar in Cancer Research award.

The Minority Scholar in Cancer Research award provides funding for early-career scientists of backgrounds underrepresented in cancer research to travel to the AACR’s annual meeting — held this April in San Diego — to present their research to their fellow scientists, as well as to clinicians, health care professionals, cancer patients, survivors and advocates.

Perkins said this opportunity to share her work, which focuses on therapies that inhibit the progression of pancreatic cancers, will surely strengthen and improve the quality of her research.

“One thing about research is that you are constantly learning. I find that some of my best learning happens at conferences — by being asked questions I may not evaluate in my day-to-day research, as well as by brainstorming new approaches and methods for addressing my research question through presenting my work. I am very fortunate that I can engage in this learning experience by presenting at such a high-caliber, national meeting such as AACR,” she said.

For Trejos Kweyete, whose research studies the presence of racial and ethnic disparities in treatments for end-of-life, pancreatic cancer patients, receiving this honor validates her efforts toward achieving both quality health care and abundant professional opportunities for all.

“Many underrepresented, minority communities experience higher rates of cancer incidence, mortality and disparities in access to health care. Having researchers from these communities means we can better understand the underlying causes of these disparities and develop targeted interventions to address them,” she said. “By increasing the visibility of underrepresented minorities in cancer research, aspiring scientists from similar backgrounds are more likely to pursue careers in the field. Having role models and mentors who share similar experiences can inspire and support the next generation of researchers.”

Perkins’s faculty advisor is Thomas Schmittgen, Ph.D., chair of pharmaceutics and the V. Ravi Chandran Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, while Trejos Kweyete’s program director is John M. Allen, Pharm.D., associate dean and clinical associate professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research. Perkins and Trejos Kweyete were recognized, along with the other award winners, at the AACR Annual Meeting on April 6.