Awardees & Updates – 2008

2008 Joyce Brenner Women’s Health Research Award

The recipient of this award is Dr. Alison Huang MD, Mphil, assistant professor of the Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine of the University of California San Francisco to support: “Endogenous Estradiol and the Effects of Estrogen Therapy on Major Outcomes of the Women’s Health Initiatives Trials.”

This study is important to providing better information to women as they enter menopause and assess the risks and benefits of hormone therapy. Specifically it will examine how postmenopausal women’s baseline levels of estradiol (an estrogen molecule) relate to treatment effects of hormone therapy on cardiovascular disease, blood clots, fractures, breast cancer, dementia, and mild cognitive impairment. Researchers will use samples taken from women who participated in a large national study known as the “Women’s Health Initiative (WHI)” which was widely reported about in 2002. This is an important follow up to the WHI because it examines a factor that varies between individuals and thus provides much needed exploration of individual factors at play when assessing hormone therapy use.

The principal investigator, Dr. Alison Huang, graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and received her Masters of Philosophy from Cambridge University prior to earning an M.D. from the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine where she received advanced training in clinical research and primary care. Dr. Huang wrote: “I am very grateful to have this opportunity…[It is] a topic which is important to me not only as a researcher and a doctor, but also as a woman who will some day have to face these difficult choices about postmenopause therapy. I hope this research…will help improve the health and well-being of many more women who will also face these difficult decisions.”


In 2013 and 2011, two large manuscripts incorporated to the research of 2008 FWW research awardee Dr. Allison Huang, MD, were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concerning naturally occurring sex hormone levels and post-menopausal women’s breast cancer risk.

2008 Rachel Tawil Women’s Health Award

The recipient of this award is Dr. Sonja Schrepfer, MD, PhD of Stanford University School of Medicine, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Falk Cardiovascular Research Center to support: “Regenerative Cell Therapy: Is source gender a biologically relevant aspect of protective power?” Ischemic heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States among both women and men. Adult mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) transplantation holds promise for treating patients suffering from ischemic heart disease. To date, very few studies have examined whether gender differences exist in MSC function and it remains unknown whether gender differences exist in these cells ability to release protective growth factors. This study hypothesizes that because female MSCs produce more growth factor when stressed, such cells will be more effective in tissue regeneration and treating those suffering from ischemic heart disease. This study will help to better understand sex-related differences in cell-based myocardial regeneration therapy and explain the high variability and conflicting results reported in medical literature on this subject.

Lead investigator Sonja Schrepfer MD, PhD was mid-way thru her six year training to become a cardiac surgeon when she decided to also pursue her PhD in immunology in order to devote her career to medical research. She has won numerous awards in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery and transplantation. Dr. Schrepfer wrote: “I am very honored to receive the Rachel Tawil Women’s Health Award. Based on the results I am able to generate… I am planning to apply for NIH funding. Much more work needs to be done to lead to a better understanding of [this subject]. Thank you again for this wonderful award.”