Susan G. Komen® Recognizes Renowned Investigators as 2020 Recipients of Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction

September 30, 2020

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, recognized two widely respected and innovative breast cancer researchers this week, announcing that Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., and Laura Esserman, M.D., have been selected as this year’s recipients of the Brinker Awards – Komen’s highest scientific honor.

Established by Komen in 1992, the prestigious Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction recognize advances in both our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of breast cancer (Basic Science) – and the clinical setting (Clinical Research), which are both essential to combating the disease.

Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science

This year’s Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science will be presented to Donald McDonnell, Ph.D., Glaxo-Wellcome Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology, Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Professor of Medicine, Co-Director, Women’s Cancer Program, Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University School of Medicine.

Dr. McDonnell is being honored for his significant contributions to breast cancer research, which have been instrumental in advancing our understanding of estrogen receptor signaling in breast cancer. His research has resulted in critical insights into the structure, function and regulation of nuclear hormone receptors and is helping to lay the foundation for the development and clinical use of novel endocrine therapies to treat Estrogen Receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer.

“Dr. McDonnell’s innovative research has provided significant insights to the biology and pharmacology of the estrogen receptor and led to the development of new drugs for the treatment of hormone-dependent breast cancer. His leadership in the field and creative approach to translating laboratory-based discoveries to new cancer drugs will have a lasting impact on breast cancer research and care,” said Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Molecular Oncology.

Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research

This year’s Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research will be presented to Laura Esserman, M.D., M.B.A., Director, Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, Alfred A. de Lorimier Endowed Chair in General Surgery, Professor of Surgery and Radiology, University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Esserman is being recognized for her seminal contributions in clinical research, which are paving the way towards more personalized approaches to breast cancer care. She has led innovative clinical trial programs, notably the I-SPY trials, which have become models to accelerate the development of safe, effective, personalized treatment, detection and prevention options and improve the delivery of clinical care for breast cancer patients.

“Dr. Laura Esserman is an internationally recognized breast cancer surgeon and researcher who has spent her career at the University of California-San Francisco. Her groundbreaking work in the I-SPY and I-SPY2 clinical trials have revolutionized our understanding of neoadjuvant clinical trials as biomarker and novel therapeutic testing venues and have led the way for the development of several clinically important agents,” said Komen’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Dr. George Sledge, Jr. M.D., Professor of Medicine, Stanford University.

The 2020 Brinker Award winners will deliver keynote lectures at the 43 rd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, which will be held virtually on December 8-12, 2020.

Advancing breast cancer research has been a priority for Komen since opening its doors in 1982. To date, Komen has invested more than $1.1 billion in breast cancer research, making it the largest nonprofit funder of breast cancer research outside of the U.S. government.

About Susan G. Komen®

Susan G. Komen® is the world’s leading nonprofit breast cancer organization, working to save lives and end breast cancer forever. Komen has an unmatched, comprehensive 360-degree approach to fighting this disease across all fronts and supporting millions of people in the U.S. and in countries worldwide. We advocate for patients, drive research breakthroughs, improve access to high-quality care, offer direct patient support and empower people with trustworthy information. Founded by Nancy G. Brinker, who promised her sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would end the disease that claimed Suzy’s life, Komen remains committed to supporting those affected by breast cancer today, while tirelessly searching for tomorrow’s cures. Visit or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. Connect with us on social at

About Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative

Quantum Leap Healthcare Collaborative is a 501c(3) charitable organization established in 2005 as a collaboration between medical researchers at University of California, San Francisco and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Our mission is to integrate care and research, and to foster high-impact trials with embedded clinical processes and systems technology and improved data management, greater access to clinical trial matching, and greater benefit to patients, providers,  and researchers. Our goal is to improve and save lives. Quantum Leap provides operational, financial, and regulatory oversight to I-SPY. For more information, visit

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