Alexandra Harris, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Alexandra Harris, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG)
Entry Year

Doctoral Degree

Ph.D., Experimental Pathology, University of Virginia (2018)

Master's Degrees

  • M.P.H., Harvard University (2021)
  • M.S., University of Virginia (2016)
  • M.S., University of California San Diego (2014)

Research Interests

Breast Cancer Etiology; Risk Factors; Tumor Microenvironment; Cancer Disparities

Primary Preceptor/Branch/Division

Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D., M.P.H., Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB), Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG)

Secondary Preceptor/Branch/Division

Stefan Ambs, Ph.D., M.P.H., Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis (LHC), Center for Cancer Research (CCR)


Lord BD, Harris AR, Ambs S. The impact of social and environmental factors on cancer biology in Black Americans. Cancer Causes Control. 2023 Mar;34(3):191-203. doi: 10.1007/s10552-022-01664-w. Epub 2022 Dec 23. PMID: 36562901.

Wallace IJ, Kraft TS, Venkataraman VV, Davis HE, Holowka NB, Harris AR, Lieberman DE, Gurven M. Cultural variation in running techniques among non-industrial societies. Evol Hum Sci. 2022;4:e14. doi: 10.1017/ehs.2022.12. Epub 2022 Apr 11. PMID: 36325185.

Harris AR, Esparza S, Azimi MS, Cornelison R, Azar FN, Llaneza DC, Belanger M, Mathew A, Tkachenko S, Perez MJ, Rosean CB, Bostic RR, Cornelison RC, Tate KM, Peirce-Cottler SM, Paquette C, Mills A, Landen CN, Saucerman J, Dillon PM, Pompano RR, Rutkowski MA, Munson JM. Platinum Chemotherapy Induces Lymphangiogenesis in Cancerous and Healthy Tissues That Can be Prevented With Adjuvant Anti-VEGFR3 Therapy. Front Oncol. 2022 Mar 17;12:801764. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2022.801764. eCollection 2022. PMID: 35372032.

Beeghly GF, Thomas C, Yuan JX, Harris AR, Munson JM. Designing Patient-Driven, Tissue-Engineered Models of Primary and Metastatic Breast Cancer. Bioengineering (Basel). 2022 Jan 18;9(2):44. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering9020044. PMID: 35200398.

Cornelison R, Biswas K, Llaneza DC, Harris AR, Sosale NG, Lazzara MJ, Landen CN. CX-5461 Treatment Leads to Cytosolic DNA-Mediated STING Activation in Ovarian Cancer. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Oct 9;13(20):5056. doi: 10.3390/cancers13205056. PMID: 34680204.

Shim S, Belanger MC, Harris AR, Munson JM, Pompano RR. Two-way communication between ex vivo tissues on a microfluidic chip: application to tumor-lymph node interaction. Lab Chip. 2019 Mar 13;19(6):1013-1026. doi: 10.1039/c8lc00957k. PMID: 30742147.

Harris AR, Perez MJ, Munson JM. Docetaxel facilitates lymphatic-tumor crosstalk to promote lymphangiogenesis and cancer progression. BMC Cancer. 2018 Jul 6;18(1):718. doi: 10.1186/s12885-018-4619-8. PMID: 29976154.

Harris AR, Yuan JX, Munson JM. Assessing multiparametric drug response in tissue engineered tumor microenvironment models. Methods. 2018 Feb 1;134-135:20-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2017.12.010. Epub 2017 Dec 16. PMID: 29258924.

Ledur PF, Liu C, He H, Harris AR, Minussi DC, Zhou HY, Shaffrey ME, Asthagiri A, Lopes MB, Schiff D, Lu YC, Mandell JW, Lenz G, Zong H. Culture conditions tailored to the cell of origin are critical for maintaining native properties and tumorigenicity of glioma cells. Neuro Oncol. 2016 Oct;18(10):1413-24. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/now062. Epub 2016 Apr 21. PMID: 27106408.

de Jong PR, Taniguchi K, Harris AR, Bertin S, Takahashi N, Duong J, Campos AD, Powis G, Corr M, Karin M, Raz E. ERK5 signalling rescues intestinal epithelial turnover and tumour cell proliferation upon ERK1/2 abrogation. Nat Commun. 2016 May 17;7:11551. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11551. PMID: 27187615.

de Jong PR, Takahashi N, Harris AR, Lee J, Bertin S, Jeffries J, Jung M, Duong J, Triano AI, Lee J, Niv Y, Herdman DS, Taniguchi K, Kim CW, Dong H, Eckmann L, Stanford SM, Bottini N, Corr M, Raz E. Ion channel TRPV1-dependent activation of PTP1B suppresses EGFR-associated intestinal tumorigenesis. J Clin Invest. 2014 Sep;124(9):3793-806. doi: 10.1172/JCI72340. Epub 2014 Aug 1. PMID: 25083990.

de Jong PR, Mo JH, Harris AR, Lee J, Raz E. STAT3: An Anti-Invasive Factor in Colorectal Cancer? Cancers (Basel). 2014 Jul 3;6(3):1394-407. doi: 10.3390/cancers6031394. PMID: 24995503.

Program Spotlight

2023 Merit Award Winners

August 31, 2023
2023 Merit Award Recipients: Drs. Elfer, Harris, McGee-Avila, Ramirez-Peña.

The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program recently announced its 2023 Merit Award Winners, recognizing the exceptional contributions of Drs. Kate Elfer, Alexandra Harris, Jennifer McGee-Avila, and Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña. The winners were honored at the Annual Potluck, a celebration marking the culmination of a year and the welcoming of a new cohort of fellows.

Kate Elfer

Dr. Kate Elfer, a recipient of the program's Merit Award, has made significant strides in various areas of cancer research. Their expertise spans digital pathology, medical devices, regulatory aspects of diagnostic devices, artificial intelligence/machine learning, image perception, and the integration of sex and gender in research. Dr. Elfer's contributions have been supported by research funds from prestigious organizations such as the NCI-FDA Interagency Oncology Task Force and the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, FDA/CDRH Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories. They have developed continuing medical education courses and been recognized for their involvement in esteemed events, including the STEM Representation Matters Series at Brown University and the Biomedical Engineering Departmental Seminars at UMass Lowell. Dr. Elfer's commitment extends to serving as a co-chair in working groups such as the FDA DigiPath and AI/Machine Learning Working Groups. Additionally, they actively mentors aspiring researchers through programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program and FDA PRIDE Mentoring Committee. Their exceptional contributions to the Peer Mentoring Program have earned her the prestigious NCI Director's Champion Award in 2023. Dr. Elfer also takes an active role in service within the CPFP, they served as former co -chair of the Fellows Advisory Board CDSS committee, and organizes the CPFP Book Club.

Alexandra Harris

Dr. Alexandra Harris, another recipient of the 2023 Merit Award, has made remarkable strides in cancer research. Her dedication to bringing the worlds of laboratory science and molecular epidemiology to study the breast tumor microenvironment, molecular underpinnings of epidemiologic risk factors, and breast cancer disparities in women of African descent has garnered widespread recognition and support. Dr. Harris has been honored with prestigious accolades such as the CPFP Transdisciplinary Fellowship Research Award, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG )Intramural Research Award, and, together with her mentors, the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) Health Disparities Flex Award. Her commitment to science communication, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) , and outreach is evident through her leadership roles in significant initiatives like the CPFP Grants and Scientific Writing Committee and active participation in the DCEG Cancer Health Disparities Fellows Interest Group, DCEG Inclusivity Minute Project, and NCI Cancer Community Partnership. Dr. Harris's passion for mentorship is exemplified through her involvement in programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program for which she earned an NCI Director's Champion Award, and STEM for Her, where she empowers aspiring researchers and promotes diversity in STEM.

Jennifer McGee-Avila

Dr. Jennifer McGee-Avila has also been honored with a merit award for her notable contributions to cancer prevention research. Her achievements span a wide range of areas, including cancer prevention in people with HIV, cervical cancer, HPV-associated cancers, cancer inequities, and public health policy. Dr. McGee-Avila's active participation in influential initiatives such as the NIH Federal Cervical Cancer Collaborative, focusing on cervical cancer elimination, and the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) Evidence-Based Cancer Control Policy Research Working Group, and the DCEG Cancer Health Disparities Fellows Interest Group, showcases her dedication to the field. She has been recognized with prestigious awards, including the NCI Director's Champion Award and the Sallie Rosen Kaplan Fellowship. Dr. McGee-Avila's involvement in various working groups, councils, and committees highlights her commitment to addressing cancer health disparities. As a mentor, she actively contributes to programs like the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Policy Research Scholars Program.

Esmeralda Rameriz-Pena

Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, a distinguished recipient of this Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program's prestigious award, has made exceptional contributions to cancer prevention research. Her expertise in real-world and clinical trial data analysis, chemoprevention, and cancer recurrence measurements has led to her work being presented at renowned events. Esteemed institutions have recognized Dr. Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña's work, reflecting the quality and impact of her research. With a commitment to collaboration, she actively engages with national and international partners, participating in working groups focused on addressing cancer recurrence and systemic racism. Dr. Ramirez-Peña's notable accolades include the NCI Director's Emerging Leaders Award and the NCI Director's Champion Award, further underscoring her contributions to the field. As a mentor in the CPFP Peer Mentoring Program, she plays a pivotal role in empowering aspiring researchers and cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment in STEM. Her dedication to fostering equity and promoting underrepresented groups' involvement in research is evident.

The Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program's 2023 Merit Award winners, Drs. Kate Elfer, Alexandra Harris, Jennifer McGee-Avila, and Esmeralda Ramirez-Peña, represent the program's commitment to recognizing excellence in cancer prevention research. Their diverse expertise, significant contributions, and dedication to mentorship underscore the program's mission of advancing the field and reducing the burden of cancer. These accomplished researchers serve as inspirations for the future generation of cancer prevention scientists.

2023 recipients Jennifer McGee-Avila, Esmeralda Ramirez-Pena, and Kate Elfer, pose with previous recipients Heather Platter and Lauren Hurwitz.
Figure 1. From left, 2023 recipients Jennifer McGee-Avila, Esmeralda Ramirez-Pena, and Kate Elfer, pose with previous recipients Heather Platter and Lauren Hurwitz.
Alexandra Harris, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.

Center for Cancer Research (CCR) Health Disparities Flex Award Winners Drs. Alexandra Harris and Brittany Lord

April 8, 2022

Cancer Prevention Fellows, Drs. Alexandra Harris and Brittany Lord, together with their mentors, Drs. Stefan Ambs and Gretchen Gierach, were awarded the Center for Cancer Research (CCR) Health Disparities Flex Award for their proposal, “Investigation of the immune microenvironment landscape in tumor and normal breast tissues from women of African ancestry through an integrated single-cell and computational pathology approach.” The CCR Health Disparity Awards are a new category under the CCR Flex Program. This intramural funding mechanism funds high-risk, high-impact projects focused on reducing cancer health disparities. The team will use a multi-pronged approach to characterize the spatial transcriptomic architecture and chromatin accessibility at the single-cell level, both pre- and post-tumor development. The proposed work can offer insight into etiological factors that may contribute to both the development and the aggressive characteristics of breast tumors in women of African descent.

To learn more about the CCR Health Disparities Flex Award, visit here.

Alexandra Harris, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.
CCR Health Disparities Flex Awardee