A Decade of Impact: Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Awards

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The Kidney Cancer Association has supported 12 kidney cancer research projects through the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award (YIA) program over the past decade. Early seed funding from the Kidney Cancer Association is advancing research, improving the lives of those affected by kidney cancer, and encouraging bright young doctors to pursue careers in kidney cancer research.

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“The Conquer Cancer Foundation is deeply appreciative of the loyal and generous support from the Kidney Cancer Association that has provided critical funding for kidney cancer research and helped launch the careers of physician-scientists,” said Nancy R. Daly, MS, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Philanthropic Officer of the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Updates From Select Recipients

Previous recipients of Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Awards continue to pursue cutting-edge cancer research and are making great strides in their careers, as illustrated by the following updates from select recipients:

  • Matthew Campbell, MD, MS, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and 2015 Young Investigator Award recipient, was promoted to junior faculty since receiving the YIA, and the clinical trial he is working on has started to actively accrue patients.

“The YIA application and grant process helped me establish collaborative networks within my institution. It provided me experience in grant writing and allowed me to dedicate time to research activities, while also boosting my confidence in pursuing a career in academia,” said Dr. Campbell.

  • Kevin Courtney, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and 2008 Young Investigator Award recipient, continues to pursue clinical and translational research focused on kidney and prostate cancers. In addition to mentoring graduate students and clinical fellows, he leads clinical trials and performs funded research assessing tumor metabolism in vivo in patients with kidney and prostate cancers.

“The Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association YIA provided me with crucial funding to continue my postdoctoral research past the completion of my clinical fellowship and to gain further experience as a basic and translational scientist in genitourinary cancers,” said Dr. Courtney.

  • Thai Ho, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and 2011 Young Investigator Award recipient, identified errors that initially arise in early kidney cancer, which lead to propagation of these same errors in metastases. Dr. Ho’s team continues to focus on the epigenetics of these alterations in kidney cancer metastases and has started treating patients affected by kidney cancer with drugs that target these epigenetic errors propagated in metastases.

“The YIA helped provide me with protected time to translate my research from the lab to the bedside. It also helped provide preliminary data to support extramural grants,” said Dr. Ho.

  • Eliezer Van Allen, MD, Assistant Professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and 2013 Young Investigator Award recipient, remains focused on cancer genomics and clinical applications of this technology. Since receiving the Young Investigator Award, he and his team have revealed new drivers of chemotherapy response, immunotherapy response, and targeted therapy resistance. They are now applying these findings toward kidney cancer through the study of immunotherapy and genomics.

“The YIA was the true catalyst in providing funding during the gap between the end of my fellowship and the beginning of my independent faculty position. Without this award, I would not have been able to pursue a career as an academic oncologist and contribute to the scientific fight against cancer. This award was transformative for my career, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities it afforded me,” said Dr. Van Allen.

  • Martin Voss, MD, Assistant Attending at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and 2012 Young Investigator Award recipient, continues to study the development of novel treatment strategies and biomarkers for advanced kidney cancer. Dr. Voss’ team was among the first to correlate acquired somatic mutations along the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/ mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, with exceptional responses to mTORC1 inhibitor therapy. They further demonstrated that clonal evolution toward a targetable pathway can help overcome clonal tumor heterogeneity. His research sparked subsequent investigations by others, which helped design the trial that allows for molecular selection of patients to receive mTOR-directed agents.

“The YIA enabled me to complete a project that was critical to my early career as a clinical investigator. It provided invaluable recognition during my application for a faculty position and ultimately enabled me to stay in academic medicine as an independent investigator,” said Dr. Voss.

For more information about the Young Investigator Award, ­visit ­www.conquercancerfoundation.org/YIA. Learn more about the ­Kidney ­Cancer Association at www.kidneycancer.org. ■

Originally featured in ASCO Connection. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “A Decade of Impact: Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Awards.” ASCO Connection, October 2016. All rights reserved.

Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Award Recipients

  • 2006: Henk Verheul, MD, PhD
    “Combination Antiangiogenesis and Anticoagulatory Therapy in ­Patients With Advanced Renal Cell Cancer”
  • 2007: Patricia Tang, MD
    “The Role of VEGF-A Signaling in Maintenance of the Glomerular ­Filtration Barrier and Blood Pressure”
  • 2008: Aymen Elfiky, MD
    “Targeting Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase in Renal Cell Cancer”
  • 2008: Kevin Courtney, MD, PhD
    “Identification of Activators of Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase Signaling in Renal Cell Carcinoma as Potential Therapeutic Targets”; and
    “Evaluation of ­Signaling Mechanisms Involved in Prostate Cancer Development and Progression”
  • 2009: Stephen Keefe, MD
    “Predicting Response to Antiangiogenic Therapies in Renal Cell Carcinoma”
  • 2010: Aditya Bardia, MD, MPH
    “Evaluation of Cardiac Glycoside, Digoxin, as a Novel Inhibitor of ­Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1a and Its Target Genes in the Tumor ­Microenvironment”
  • 2011: Thai Ho, MD, PhD
    “The Role of SETD2, a Histone Methyltransferase, in the Development of Renal Cell Carcinoma”
  • 2012: Martin Voss, MD
    “Predictive Tissue Biomarkers for mTOR Inhibitors in Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma”
  • 2013: Eliezer Van Allen, MD
    “Dissecting Clinical Resistance to PI3K Inhibitors in PIK3CA or PTEN-Mutant Cancers”
  • 2014: Kathleen Mahoney, MD, PhD
    “PD-L1 and a Secretory Variant in Renal Cell Carcinoma”
  • 2015: Matthew Campbell, MD
    “Enhancing Therapeutic Efficacy in Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma by Combining Immune Checkpoint Blockade With Cryoablation”
  • 2016: Raj Gopal, MD, PhD
    “Mitochondrial Profiling in Kidney Cancer”




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