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The Beacon Award for Women Leaders in Oncology

The AIM-HI Beacon Award for Women Leaders in Oncology recognizes outstanding women leaders in all sectors of the health and life sciences industry who have made a significant impact on advancing cancer treatment, detection, and diagnosis for patients worldwide through the development and commercialization of novel technologies and/or implementation of public policy. Learn more.

Dr. Barker is honored for her accomplishments in championing, designing, and implementing innovative, often unprecedented, scientific, and clinical programs that have enabled advances in the field of cancer research and provided critical support for the development of precision oncology. These programs have engaged numerous institutions, clinicians, researchers, and patients to catalyze new thinking and novel approaches to solve major problems in cancer.

In her role as Principal Deputy Director and Deputy Director for Strategic Scientific Initiatives at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Dr. Barker created novel programs to inform the development of precision oncology, such as programs in nanotechnology, proteomics, and convergence science and notably The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). Co-founded in 2004 by Dr. Barker and Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and launched in 2005 as a collaboration between the NCI and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), TCGA has proven to be transformative for cancer research. Impacting virtually every area of cancer research, the TCGA teams molecularly characterized 33 tumor types, including 10 rare cancers, and in doing so, provided an unprecedented data resource for what has become “multi-omics”- based precision oncology. Dr. Barker collaboratively coordinated the planning and design phases of the program with NCI, NHGRI, and extramural scientists and for several years led the NCI and NHGRI teams that managed the project through its pilot and scale up phases.

Another paradigm-shifting program in which Dr. Barker played a critical role was the creation of GBM AGILE, an unprecedented adaptive platform clinical trial for glioblastoma, the most lethal of adult brain tumors. Despite efforts to improve patient outcomes, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive type of brain tumor, kills 95 percent of patients within five years of diagnosis, with more than half dying within the first 15 months after diagnosis. To reduce the mortality rates by rapidly and safely bringing new drugs and therapies into the clinic, Dr. Barker convened and led the creation of a global coalition of 130 oncologists, statisticians, pathologists, neurosurgeons, imagers, patient advocates, and cancer researchers from different organizations and countries to design an innovative clinical trial program, the GBM AGILE (Adaptive, Global, Innovative, Learning Environment). Currently performed under a Food and Drug Administration-approved master protocol, GBM AGILE determines the efficacy of novel therapies through seamless stages that rapidly transitions successful agents to FDA registration. The ongoing progress of the GBM AGILE framework promises to rapidly and effectively change how GBM patients are treated.

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