A successful early-career scientist will apply for many grants and even win a few, often first from foundations and associations, perhaps from programs designed to promote the training of young researchers, and eventually from the National Institutes of Health to fund specific projects, starting small and (hopefully) increasing in size and scope. Traci Lyons, PhD, investigator at the CU Cancer Center and assistant professor at the CU School of Medicine is officially no longer one of these early-career scientists. With the recent award of a prestigious National Cancer Institute R01 grant with funding of $228,500 each year for five years, Dr. Lyons has now established herself as a nationally recognized cancer researcher, the head of her own laboratory.
“This is the one,” she says. “For me, it means I’ve arrived. It also means I get to keep my job for another five years!”
The grant, along with a large 4-year Research Scholar Grant, awarded earlier this year from the American Cancer Society (ACS), will allow Lyons and her staff to continue their research into causes and possible treatments for postpartum breast cancer, those cancers associated with changes in the breast due to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the process of involution that transforms the breast once infants are weaned.
Lyons remembers that on previous grant applications, reviewers often cited her work with postpartum breast cancers as a negative – “they would say it’s such a niche area, it’s so rare,” Lyons says. “For ten years we’ve been pushing the idea that not only are postpartum breast cancers not rare, but they are also especially metastatic and deadly.”
On the recent R01 grant and also Lyon’s grant from the ACS, reviewers listed her area of research with postpartum breast cancer as a positive and not a negative.
“We’ve done it. We’ve finally done it. We’ve finally shown this is important,” Lyons says.
By “we” Lyons means the community of scientific mentors and collaborators she has worked with in Colorado, first as a PhD student, then as a postdoc, then as a junior faculty member and now as an assistant professor of Medical Oncology at the CU School of Medicine.