Judith Agudo, PhD

Assistant Professor of Immunology at Dana-Farber Cancer Research Institute and Harvard Medical School

2018 Cancer Research Grant Recipient

“My work with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Breast Cancer group has put me in contact with patient advocates who have been amazing and have taught me so much about the disease and have helped my research a lot by always keeping [the patient] in mind.”

Judith Agudo, PhD

Dr. Judith Agudo is an Assistant Professor of Immunology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts. She received her PhD in regenerative medicine in 2009 from the University Autonomous Barcelona in Spain. She completed her post-doctoral training in the US, where she gained experience in dendritic cell and T cell immunology. When Dr. Agudo established her own laboratory in 2017, she was determined to devote part of her research program to breast cancer immunology after being profoundly impacted by the disease when it struck two close women in her life. As an early career scientist with very little experience in breast cancer, she was able to capitalize on the seed-type funding offered by the TMKF Cancer Research Program by securing an award in 2018 to use a novel approach to study immune evasion of dormant disseminated breast cancer cells in the bone marrow. Although still early in the award cycle and not yet published, her research has already found that while most breast cancer cells that leave the primary tumor in the breast are targeted and eliminated by the immune system, a fraction can evolve to escape. Utilizing novel murine models and tools developed in her laboratory, she has identified pathways involved in DNA damage repair and the recruitment of specialized myeloid cells as the major mechanisms of protecting surviving disseminated breast cancer cells.

Funding from TMKF not only shaped the line of research in Dr. Agudo’s laboratory at a critical juncture in her career and helped secure additional funding, but also provided her with recognition at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which has led to connections and collaborations with leading breast cancer researchers and oncologists at the institute. Through these collaborations, the team is able to push their collective research in breast cancer immunology much further than any of the members could do separately.

Based on the promising results that are emerging in the field of cancer immunotherapy and the prospect of exploiting the immune system for the treatment of breast cancer, Dr. Agudo has become a key immunology advisor to the breast cancer group at her institute. Importantly, this position has provided her with the opportunity to interact with patient advocates, which has become one of the most rewarding experiences of her career. Not only has she met with advocates on multiple occasions to discuss and receive feedback on her research from a patient perspective, but she has also taught the advocates some basic cancer immunology classes. Interacting with the advocates has continued to put a face to breast cancer, and Dr. Agudo has been surprised by how insightful and intelligent this group of women are and how eager they are to learn about the immune system and how immunotherapy works. Likewise, the patient
advocates have been very excited and appreciative of having such intricate science communicated to them.

“The Mary Kay Foundation believed in my bold ideas, and the initial funding gave me the tools and resources to start a breast cancer program.”

Judith Agudo, PhD