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Former LRF Fellow Receives National Institutes of Health K07 Career Development Award to Continue Research Evaluating Association between Vitamin D and Lymphoma Prognosis.

The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is proud to announce that one of our former postdoctoral fellows, Jennifer Kelly, PhD, MPH, has received a K07 Career Development Award (CDA) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With her NIH CDA funding, Dr. Kelly will finish her ongoing research projects evaluating the association between vitamin D and lymphoma prognosis, while also conducting another project to begin investigating potential biological mechanisms by which vitamin D may impact prognosis.

"My current research project is specifically aimed at determining whether lymphoma patients with adequate vitamin D have a better prognosis than those with insufficient vitamin D," she said. "We are looking at this association within the two most prevalent lymphoma subtypes, namely diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and follicular lymphoma (FL). This research project is an exciting and innovative attempt to begin to identify modifiable factors that may impact health outcomes in lymphoma patients, an area that is poorly understood and understudied in this disease."

Dr. Kelly originally began her focus on lymphoma during her dissertation studies. "My dissertation chair, Dr. Susan Fisher, was working on a project evaluating the association between infection and lymphoma risk, and often used examples from her research in class," she explained. "Interested in her stories, I starting reviewing the lymphoma literature for a few class projects of my own, and discovered lymphoma's very interesting epidemiology. In particular, I was intrigued by the rise in lymphoma incidence rates over the past 30 years and began exploring whether this pattern could help provide clues as to what exposures are associated with lymphoma risk."

After immersing herself in studying lymphoma, Dr. Kelly was introduced to a number of collaborating clinical researchers, epidemiologists, and basic scientists with similar focus. "The enthusiasm, dedication, and collaborative energy among my colleagues has been an inspirational and a constant force driving my ongoing engagement in lymphoma research," she said.

To date, Dr. Kelly's research has focused on the potential roles of sun exposure and vitamin D (obtained primarily from sun exposure) in decreasing the risk of lymphoma and improving prognosis in lymphoma patients. With her LRF fellowship funding, she was able to initiate her ongoing research projects while also expanding her network of collaborators. According to Dr. Kelly, "the LRF award enabled me to dedicate time to career development with my team of mentors, enhance my understanding of the biology of lymphoma, and strengthen established collaborations." Adding that "in fact, I have recently established a new collaboration with the LYSA (formerly GELA) in France, a leading cooperative group for studying the treatment of adult lymphoma patients, to replicate some of the promising findings from this research."

As Dr. Kelly's NIH CDA research project progresses, she hopes to become competitive for NIH R01 level or equivalent funding and to succeed as an independent academic investigator. The 5-year mentored career development period under the K07 Career Development Award will help her achieve these goals. During this time, she will pursue specialized didactic training in molecular epidemiology methods and practical experience in innovative translational research hypothesis generation, project design, relevant analyses, and communication of results. Furthermore, she will work to develop the leadership and management skills necessary to run an effective research team while enhancing her understanding of clinical and therapeutic aspects of lymphoma to support future research on how vitamin D and other modifiable lifestyle factors may influence treatment response, survival quality, and prognosis.