Bethany Hannafon, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at the Stephenson Cancer Center (SCC), University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (OUHSC), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She earned a dual Ph.D. in the Program in Molecular Medicine & Cell and Molecular Biology from Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts. Her doctoral work defined dysregulated microRNA expression profiles and investigated the role of microRNA-mediated changes in gene expression in pre-invasive breast cancer. This work was supported by a Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program Pre-Doctoral Traineeship Award. Her postdoctoral work in the Department of Cancer Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute involved investigating a potential novel regulator of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in breast cancer. Returning to her home state of Oklahoma, she conducted a second postdoctoral research project in the Department of Pathology at the OUHSC. Where her research involved defining the contents and investigating the role of extracellular vesicle-mediated intercellular communication in breast and pancreatic cancers. During her postdoc, she received an AACR-Susan G. Komen Scholar-In-Training Award for her research investigating extracellular vesicle-associated microRNAs as biomarkers for invasive breast cancer.
After being invited to speak on the topic of microRNAs in pre-invasive breast cancer for the Breast Cancer Workshop at Experimental Biology held in Chicago, IL in 2017, she pivoted her research back to pre-invasive breast cancer and was awarded a research grant from the Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology to investigate the role of extracellular vesicles in pre-invasive breast cancer progression. She also now serves as the co-Leader of the Scientific Interest Group in Breast Cancer for the American Society of Investigative Pathology (ASIP) and Chair of the Breast Cancer Workshop for Experimental Biology 2020-2022.
Dr. Hannafon is adjunct faculty in the Department of Cell Biology at OUHSC, a member of the Cancer Biology Research Program, and a member of the leadership team for the Gynecologic Cancers Working Group at the SCC. Her basic cancer research aims to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of cancer development and progression, to ascertain the role of extracellular vesicle-mediated intercellular communication in these processes and their involvement in therapeutic resistance in breast and gynecologic cancers. She is also conducting research to screen and evaluate novel inhibitors of extracellular vesicle content loading and secretion as potential therapeutic strategies to improve response to cancer therapy and as preventative agents. As a member of the Translational Science Gynecologic Oncology Committee of the NRG Oncology cooperative clinical trial group, she is also committed to the integration of translational science into gynecologic cancer clinical trials, as well as translating her research into biomarker-driven and clinically relevant trials in partnership with her clinical colleagues in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. The ultimate goal of her research is to discover novel treatment strategies for the prevention of cancer progression and to improve therapeutic and patient outcomes.
As a cell and molecular biologist and faculty in a clinical division, she is committed to mentoring trainees and teaching the next generation of cancer biologists and gynecologic oncologists. She serves as a mentor for Gynecologic Oncology Fellows, postdoctoral research fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students. She participates in the ASIP Summer Research Opportunity Program in Pathology and is a member of the ASIP, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and the International Society of Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV). She received the Dani and Erik Zander Junior Faculty Scholar Award for the Pathobiology for Investigators, Students and Academicians (PISA) 2020. She currently serves as an ASIP Ambassador and is a member of the ASIP Program Committee for Experimental Biology 2022.