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Stand Up To Cancer Names Grant Recipients of ‘Innovation in Collaboration’


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Phillip A. Sharp, PhD

Phillip A. Sharp, PhD

The Phillip A. Sharp Awards for Innovation in Collaboration, are named for Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Nobel Laureate, and molecular biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in recognition of his emphasis on collaboration across research institutions and different teams. Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) recently announced the recipients of five such awards, drawing on existing research activities to explore cross-cutting questions that have the potential to open new paths to improved cancer treatment.

A special award was funded this year by the Emily Whitehead Foundation, named for the first pediatric patient to receive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for leukemia (see photo below). Emily was 7 years old when she received the groundbreaking treatment in 2011, and recently celebrated her 7th anniversary cancer-free, with no evidence of disease.

Emily Whitehead was the first pediatric patient to receive chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy for leukemia. This past month Emily celebrated her 7th Anniversary being cancer-free, with no evidence of disease. Photo courtesy of the Emily Whitehead Foundation (emilywhiteheadfoundation.org).

Grant Recipients

Alan D’Andrea, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, will evaluate gene signatures controlled by phospholipid messengers and endoplasmic reticulum stress in responding and nonresponding patients. The project will also utilize tumor organoids to test whether pharmacologic inhibition of these pathways can render ovarian tumors susceptible to treatment. This is a 2-year grant, with total funding of $250,000.

Denada Dibra, PhD, of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, and Peter P. Lee, MD, of City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, will use novel mouse models to study how the TP53 tumor-suppressor gene may influence the tumor microenvironment and will characterize both tumor cells and immune cells that may be present within the tumor tissue. This is a 1-year grant, with total funding of $250,000. 

Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, of Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, and Aaron Hata, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, will work on the project titled, “Noninvasive monitoring of tumor phenotype by interrogation of plasma cell-free RNA.” While circulating tumor DNA analysis allows noninvasive tumor genotyping, it is unable to assess nongenomic features of tumors such as gene expression. This team seeks to develop a novel method for analyzing cell-free RNA associated with resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in patients with non–small cell lung cancer, to develop a noninvasive approach to better characterize tumors and detect changes in cancer phenotypes during treatment. This is a 2-year grant, with total funding of $225,000.

Sarah Tasian, MD, of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Kimberly Stegmaier, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, will test a novel hypothesis that multiantigen-specific CAR T cells targeting two or more neoantigens presented by the cancer cells will have superior antileukemia efficacy in preclinical models of childhood Down syndrome–associated acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)and Philadelphia chromosome–like ALL, prevent resistance mechanisms observed with single antigen-targeted CAR T cells, and facilitate more durable leukemia remissions in these medically fragile populations. This is a 2-year grant, with total funding of $250,000. This grant was funded with support from the Emily Whitehead Foundation.

Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, of the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, Philadelphia, and Vinod P. Balachandran, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, will combine expertise in immunobiology and computational biology to analyze three unique, clinically curated data sets, including short- and long-term pancreatic cancer survivors, primary resected pancreatic cancers, and mKRAS lung and colon cancers, to investigate how mKRAS immunogenicity may dictate outcomes. This is a 2-year grant, with total funding of $225,000. 


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