UC Davis cancer researcher Alan Lombard, with the Department of Urologic Surgery, has received the prestigious NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01). With the aim of supporting underrepresented cancer researchers, this award gives Lombard the funding to conduct his own research as an independent investigator.

“As a Black oncology researcher, I’m hoping to use this award as a platform to inspire others from underrepresented backgrounds to achieve a career in science,” said Lombard. “It is important to believe in yourself and to seek out the resources and other opportunities that will help provide a pathway for success.”

Lombard, now an assistant professor, serves on the inaugural Scholar Council for the cancer center. He said his interest in cancer was sparked at the age of 4 after watching his mother answer the phone and react with shock and sadness to the news that a family member had died from cancer.

“My mom said I begged her to explain what cancer was, after seeing her reaction. After that, my interest in cancer took off,” Lombard said.

Lombard went on to receive his doctorate in biochemistry, molecular, cellular and developmental biology from UC Davis while pursuing biotechnology and translational research. As a Ph.D. student, Lombard was awarded several grant opportunities, including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Integrating Medicine into Basic Science program and the Biotechnology Fellowship.

Prostate cancer research is a priority

Lombard was awarded a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program training fellowship as a postdoctoral researcher working under urologist Allen Gao. In Gao’s lab he helped investigate the causes of drug resistance in patients who have advanced prostate cancer.

Lombard is using his newest grant to better understand and define PARP inhibitor response and resistance in relation to prostate cancer. PARP inhibitors can help to treat cancer by exploiting certain mutations in cancer cells, destroying tumors while largely sparing normal, healthy cells.

Black men with prostate cancer are more than twice as likely as white men to die from it, according to the National Cancer Institute. Lombard hopes to work toward eradicating this disparity and improving outcomes for men diagnosed with this disease.