October 26, 2021

Doctoral student named to 40 Under 40 in Cancer class

Julio Pimentel, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in Cancer Biology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, was selected for inclusion in the national 40 Under 40 in Cancer Class of 2021.

The honor, sponsored by the Lynx Group, Upstream Partners, Swim Across America and the National Community Oncology Dispensing Association Inc., identifies and recognizes the contributions made by rising stars and emerging leaders younger than 40 in the United States.

Julio Pimentel

The award recognizes the nation’s most promising young oncology professionals and celebrates the contributions to improve the lives of those affected by cancer.

“It is an honor to be named one of the forty most promising young oncology professionals in the country,” Pimentel said. “This award reaffirms the national acclaim of our work at Wayne State University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.”

He, along with the other class members, were recognized Oct. 14 during the Association for Value-Based Cancer Care’s 11th annual Summit and Educational Program.

Pimentel’s research focus in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program is overcoming tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, or TRAIL, resistance in triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer, or TNBC, is an aggressive disease that does not respond to widely-used targeted endocrine therapies because of the absence of progesterone, estrogen and HER2 receptors. While previous studies indicate the majority of TNBC cells are highly sensitive to TRAIL-induced apoptosis, the development of TRAIL resistance limits its efficacy. Pimentel’s study evaluated the effects of protein phosphatase 2A, or PP2A, inhibition on TRAIL-induced cell death in TRAIL-resistant TNBC cells. He generated two TRAIL-resistant cell lines from TRAIL-sensitive parental cells (MDA-MB-231 and SUM159), and found that both TRAIL-resistant cell lines are sensitive to the PP2A inhibitor LB-100 compared to their corresponding TRAIL-sensitive counterparts. The findings suggest that the inhibition of PP2A activity could be a novel therapeutic strategy for overcoming TRAIL resistance in triple-negative breast cancer.

In June, Pimentel was selected for a second time to receive the National Latino Leader Award and a scholarship to attend and present at the 2021 Society of Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences Conference. He also received the recognition in 2020.

The Society of Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in the Sciences is dedicated to fostering the success of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in attaining advanced degrees, careers and positions of leadership in science, technology, engineering and math. The organization’s conference is the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country.

In March, the Wayne State University Board of Governors recognized Pimentel for exhibiting “Profiles in Warrior Strong” during 2020. The recognition acknowledges positive accomplishments continued throughout the university community despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2019, Pimentel won first place in poster presentations at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute Junior Faculty Research/Retreat, and the Cancer Biology Director's Award. He was selected in 2018 for a WSU Dean's Diversity Fellowship, designed to attract new doctoral students and support departmental recruitment of students who demonstrate academic excellence and are underrepresented in their disciplines. In addition to continuing his research during the pandemic, he gave a virtual presentation to minority high school students interested in STEM in the FocuSSTEM NextGen program and was nominated as a Latino role model shaping the world by the Latino Community Stage, an online platform for aspiring Latina & Latino students to explore academic and career interests in STEM.

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