Kacie Waiters, Biochemistry Ph.D. Student, Receives Susan G. Komen ASPIRE Award

Award Supports Salary, Travel, and Manuscript Publication

Kacie D. Waiters

Kacie D. Waiters, a biochemistry Ph.D. student at the University of Houston’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry, was one of the few graduate students to receive the inaugural Susan G. Komen ASPIRE (A Supplement to Promote Inclusion for Research Excellence) award. The award will support her salary, travel and manuscript publication. Waiters was recognized during the Susan G. Komen “A Celebration of Research Excellence” event in San Antonio, Texas, during the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2023.

“My passion and drive to support my community in breast cancer research stems from first-hand knowledge of breast cancer’s direct impact on those who surround me every day,” Waiters said. “This award allows me to continue this research as well as gain skills and provide networking opportunities in the field as I progress toward a career.”

Her ASPIRE project is titled “Targeting Druggable Protein Modifications in HR+ Breast Cancer” and will identify biomarkers to predict endocrine therapy response and present alternative targeted approaches for endocrine-resistant breast cancer patients. The project stems from the ongoing focus of the lab of Tasneem Bawa-Khalfe on the impact of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like peptide tags on cancer development and treatment.

Waiters joined the Bawa-Khalfe Lab after an 11-year career in forensic sciences as a DNA analyst with Harris County.

“With Kacie’s extensive background in nucleic acids and her dedication to research, I think she will do an exceptional job to discover druggable pathways and establish novel therapies for metastatic HR+ breast cancer patients,” said Bawa-Khalfe, who is an associate professor in the UH Department of Biology and Biochemistry.