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LRF’s Newest Grantees 2011 – The Future of Lymphoma Research

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 The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is pleased to introduce our six newest grantees! In the Fall of 2010, LRF’s Scientific Advisory Board reviewed applications for three different programs: Post-Doctoral Fellowships, Career Development Awards (CDA) and Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) Correlative Grants. Matthew Davids, MD from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Arnab Ghosh, MD, PhD from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Jennifer Kelly, PhD, MPH from the University of Rochester have each received 2-year Fellowship grants totaling more than $300,000 over the award period. Jonathan Schatz, MD from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center received LRF’s CDA, which will provide $225,000 over three years. Selina Chen-Kiang, PhD from the Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Jianguo Tao, MD, PhD from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute were awarded the MCL Correlative Grants and will each receive $200,000 over the next two years.

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

One of LRF’s cornerstone research programs, the Post-Doctoral Fellowship is central to LRF’s mission as it attracts promising young physicians to the field of lymphoma and supports their training in lymphoma and clinical research while allowing them to do meaningful research in the present. The LRF SAB selects fellows through a highly competitive process with emphasis on the quality of the research project proposed and the potential of the candidate to become a life-long asset to the lymphoma community. Since 1992, LRF has awarded more than 200 fellowships.


Matthew Davids, MD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston
BH3 Profiling of Apoptosis to Characterize Treatment Resistance in CLL

After graduating from both Harvard College and Yale Medical School cum laude, Dr. Davids trained in internal medicine and served as an assistant chief resident at Cornell and Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He then returned to Boston to do a hematology/oncology fellowship in the Dana-Farber Partners CancerCare program. Under the mentorship of Anthony Letai, MD, PhD, Dr. Davids focuses his research on developing new treatment strategies for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This award will enable him to use a technique called BH3 profiling that will allow him to identify specific factors that might prevent CLL cells from dying in response to chemotherapy and other treatments. He has found that although CLL cells may be killed effectively in the blood, some cells remaining in the lymph nodes or bone marrow may be resistant to dying. He plans to test a variety of treatments that may be able to "restore sensitivity of these cells to undergo death in response to treatment."

"I am excited that I will be able to both care for CLL patients in the clinic while at the same time studying their disease in the lab and devising clinical trials," he said. "I think this kind of translational work has the potential to improve our understanding of CLL and to lead to important new treatment strategies."

Arnab Ghosh, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York
Genetic Engineering of T-cell Progenitors for HSCT-based Therapy of Lymphoma and its Complications

Dr. Ghosh studied medicine at the Mysore Medical College, India and began his studies on tumor immunology at Tata Memorial Center, Mumbai. He completed his PhD under the supervision of Dr. Martin Sauer at the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany. Currently a Research Scholar at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center working in the lab of Marcel R. M. van den Brink, MD, PhD, Dr. Ghosh focuses his research on immunotherapy in the form of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT). He will utilize the funding from his LRF grant to study genetically engineered T-cells with the goal of making allo-HSCT more effective and safe.

"We look forward to developing innovative cell based therapies to treat cancers," he said. "Allogeneic HSCT is an excellent platform to develop innovative cell therapies. We hope this approach will provide fresh insights into separating cancer cell killing and indiscriminate killing of normal tissues."

Jennifer Kelly, PhD, MPH
University of Rochester
Vitamin D and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Prognosis

Recently appointed as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester, Dr. Kelly was drawn to the field of lymphoma after studying the rise in lymphoma incidence rates over the past thirty years and questioning whether that pattern could help provide clues as to what exposures are associated with lymphoma risk. With the aid of the LRF Fellowship grant, she will be focusing on finding a potential role for vitamin D, a hormone obtained mainly via exposure to the sun, in both decreasing risk of lymphoma and improving prognosis in patients diagnosed with lymphoma.

"In addition to learning more about a potential association between vitamin D and lymphoma prognosis, I am most excited that this award will allow me dedicated career development time with my team of mentors so that I may enhance my understanding of the biology of lymphoma, strengthen established collaborations and gain additional practical experience in translational research," Dr Kelly said.

Career Development Award

An essential element of LRF’s junior researcher grant portfolio, the clinical investigator Career Development Award funds training of clinicians who will participate in developing new therapeutics and diagnostic tools for lymphoma. Clinicians will be trained to design and administer clinical studies and to take on primary responsibility for trial design, protocol development, IRB submission and publication. A career development plan and the commitment of a mentor are required as part of the grant program. LRF has awarded about $3 million in CDA grants since 2002.
 

Jonathan Schatz, MD
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Targeting Cap-Dependent Translation to Improve Clinical Outcomes in Lymphoma

Dr. Schatz has been interested in lymphoma research throughout his medical career, as a medical student and resident at the University of Chicago, and as a fellow and now an instructor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. His work studying the role of the transcription factor IRF4 in tumor suppression and B-cell development won him several awards including the Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and a Clinical Scholars Biomedical Fellowship funded by the Charles A. Dana Foundation. The CDA will enable Dr. Schatz to focus his research on the Pim family kinases and helping to clarify their roles in disease onset, prognosis and response to therapies. He plans to further his findings by evaluating specific treatment strategies in clinical trials.

"The career development plan my mentors and I developed for the grant will allow me to establish myself as an independent researcher at the same time I'm making important contributions to the field of lymphoma therapeutics," he said.

Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) Correlative Grants

In 2003, LRF started the Mantle Cell Lymphoma Initiative to accelerate the pace of research in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). The MCL Correlative Clinical Studies Grant was developed to encourage innovative MCL research adjunct to a major research project in the clinical setting, as often basic funding does not allow for additional studies to explore these areas. Ideally, these studies will complement and synergize with ongoing MCL trials within the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Cooperative Groups or other LRF-funded clinical trials. The LRF has awarded more than $1.3 million to these grants since 2007.

Selina Chen-Kiang, PhD
Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Targeting CDK4/CDK6 in Sequential Combination with Bortezomib in MCL

Dr. Chen-Kiang has served as a Professor of Pathology and Professor of Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at the Weill-Cornell Medical College since 1996. After receiving her PhD in Genetics and Development at Columbia University, she went on to become a Jane Coffin Child Cancer Fellow and completed her postdoctoral training in molecular biology at the Rockefeller University. Her research focus centers around studying cell cycle control of cancer and B-cell immunity. A recipient of LRF’s 2010 MCL Planning Grant as well, Dr. Chen-Kiang will use the support from the MCL Correlative Grant to further clinical testing of a novel therapy using the genes CDK4 and CDK6 to control the cell cycle of MCL.

"We have implemented our strategy in a Phase I clinical study targeting CDK4/CDK6 in combination with the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib in MCL," she said. "The LRF grant provides us timely and much needed support to correlate the molecular signatures of this therapy with treatment outcomes in MCL."

Jianguo Tao, MD, PhD
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute
MicroRNA profiling to Predict Prognosis and Progression for Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Trained as a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center to identify and diagnose malignant blood disorders, Dr. Tao earned his MD from the Henan Medical University, his PhD from the University of Miami and he received post doctoral training from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. His current research interest revolves around molecular signal pathways in the pathogenesis of lymphoma and leukemia. Using Micro RNAs (miRNAs), a contemporary class of tiny non-coding RNA molecules, Dr. Tao and his team has identified a relationship between expression levels of a certain miRNA and prognosis of MCL.

"Our clinical observations have identified variable clinical courses of MCL patients," he said. "Some patients succumb rapidly to the disease, while others have a more chronic course and may not require treatment for prolonged periods of time. In this study we propose to use a new emerging technology, small (micro) RNA array to identify new biomarker(s) for MCL prognosis and diagnosis. This study will help the clinician to predict survival of MCL patients and guide the treatment."

2/9/2011

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