Source: Cancer Research Institute
More than $1.8 Million Committed for Research in Cancer Immunology
Newswise — NEW YORK, NY, Feb. 16, 2012 – The Cancer Research Institute, Inc. (CRI), a U.S. nonprofit organization established in 1953 to support and coordinate scientific studies in the fields of immunology and tumor immunology with the goal of harnessing the power of the immune system to treat and cure cancer, announced that the Fellowship Review Committee of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council, with the approval of the Institute’s Board of Trustees, has named 11 new postdoctoral fellows from its October 2011 application round, totaling more than $1.8 million in research funding through the Irvington Institute Fellowship Program of the Cancer Research Institute.
The 11 young scientists are conducting research under the guidance of leading immunologists and tumor immunologists at distinguished academic institutions throughout the United States, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, Columbia University, California Institute of Technology, and University of California, San Francisco. Each of their projects is advancing knowledge about the immune system that can be directly applied to solving the cancer problem, with projects providing insights into lymphoma, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, and HIV-related cancers, among others.
Each fellow will receive stipend support totaling $160,000 over three years, plus an annual research allowance of $1,500.
Cancer Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellows Awarded in January 2012:
• Anne Chauveau, Ph.D., with her sponsor Morgan Huse, Ph.D., at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, will investigate how a family of proteins known as the diacylglycerol kinases (DGK) are involved in the process of immune cell polarization—a process that plays an important role in ensuring that T cells can accurately direct cell-killing substances against their targets, including cancer cells. A better understanding of the mechanisms involved in directional secretion could make important contributions to the design of novel cancer immunotherapeutics.
• Juan R. Cubillos-Ruiz, Ph.D., with his sponsor Laurie H. Glimcher, M.D., at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, aims to understand how immune cells called dendritic cells promote and support the development of ovarian cancer. Through his project, he aims to identify the pathways involved in immune-related cancer progression and use a nanotechnology-based strategy to effectively block these pathways as a novel therapeutic approach to complement standard ovarian cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
• Timothy Eitas, Ph.D., with his sponsor Jenny P.-Y. Ting, Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, will study a protein called NLRX1 and its role in mediating the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines in ulcerative colitis and colitis-associated cancer. Dr. Eitas’s in vivo and in vitro experiments should offer novel immunological and molecular targets for the treatment of colorectal cancer.
• James A. Harker, Ph.D., with his sponsor Elina I. Zuniga, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, will explore a new compartment that Dr. Harker hypothesizes plays a major role in defense during chronic infection and is essential for viral control and resolution. His project will include identifying the key components of the compartment, the factors that lead to its activation, and its therapeutic potential. This work could lead to treatment strategies that significantly reduce the incidence of chronic infectious diseases and their associated cancers.
• Chunyu Jin, Ph.D., with sponsor Michael G. Rosenfeld, M.D., at the University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, aims to elucidate the role of GPS2 in macrophages, immune cells that can drive pro-cancer inflammatory reactions in hormone-resistant prostate cancer. Initial results suggest that GPS2 plays a role in preventing activation of inflammatory signaling pathways. By further elucidating the role of GPS2, Dr. Jin’s studies will help shed light on macrophage-related inflammation in hormone-resistant prostate cancer, with implications for the effectiveness of selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) in prostate cancer treatment and the appearance of clinical resistance in prostate cancer patients.
• Lingfeng Liu, Ph.D., with sponsor Wendell A. Lim, Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, aims to optimize T cells for adoptive therapy by using synthetic biology to reengineer transgenic T cells to respond selectively to high antigen density on tumor cells and not to low antigen density on normal tissue cells. This study can potentially provide a general strategy to improve cell-based cancer therapy.
• Boryana N. Manz, Ph.D., with sponsor Arthur A. Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, aims to study how the Dok1 tumor suppressor regulates signaling proteins in immune cells. This project will elucidate the Dok1-dependent processes that control the aberrant activation of immune cells and provide insight into the mechanisms of cancer initiation in multiple tissues. Dok1, or genetic variants identified in this study, can then be delivered to tumors to suppress their hyper-activation, or included in cell-based cancer immunotherapies, as a safety regulator against hyper-activation.
• James B. Munro, Ph.D., with his sponsor Walther Mothes, Ph.D., at Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, will utilize state-of-the-art imaging technologies to visualize HIV envelope protein (Env) molecules—the primary target for anti-HIV antibodies generated by the immune system—to elucidate how Env is capable of escaping the activity of the vast majority of anti-HIV antibodies. These insights will assist the development of an HIV vaccine.
• Vanja Sisirak, Ph.D., with sponsor Boris V. Reizis, Ph.D., at Columbia University, New York, NY, aims to study the role of a novel DNA-digesting enzyme in recognition of microbial DNA and self-DNA by immune cells called dendritic cells. This work will allow for a better understanding of how dendritic cells sense DNA and will help identify new targets for future therapy development for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, as well as offer new perspectives on cancer immunotherapy.
• Beth M. Stadtmueller, Ph.D., with her sponsor Pamela J. Bjorkman, Ph.D., at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, will investigate the molecular mechanisms and architecture of immunoglobulin alpha (IgA) in mucosal surfaces, where many epithelial cancers arise. Using x-ray crystallography, complimentary biochemical experiments, and electron microscopy, Dr. Stadtmuller will characterize IgA and its related complexes, providing fundamental insights into the mechanisms of IgA processes, which are necessary not only to better understand mucosal immunity and disease pathology, but also to develop existing and novel cancer immunotherapies.
• Leng-Siew Yeap, Ph.D., with sponsor Frederick W. Alt, Ph.D., at Immune Disease Institute, Inc., Boston, MA, aims to understand how the enzyme Activation Induced Deaminase (AID) is attracted to specific DNA sequences in the generation of antibody diversity, dysregulation of which can lead to B cell lymphomas. This study will shed light on the mechanisms by which DNA sequence influences AID targeting in antibody diversity, as well as on potential strategies to prevent the adverse consequences of AID and the development of cancer.
The Cancer Research Institute extends its congratulations to this latest group of postdoctoral fellows. The next deadline for applications to the Institute’s fellowship program is April 2, 2012.
About the Cancer Research Institute
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI), established in 1953, is the world’s only nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to transforming cancer patient care by advancing scientific efforts to develop new and effective immune system-based strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure cancer. Guided by a world-renowned Scientific Advisory Council that includes three Nobel laureates and thirty members of the National Academy of Sciences, CRI has invested more than $200 million in support of research conducted by immunologists and tumor immunologists at the world’s leading medical centers and universities, and has contributed to many of the key scientific advances that demonstrate the potential for immunotherapy to change the face of cancer treatment.
To accelerate the pace of progress in the field, CRI convenes and coordinates global collaborations among academics, industry scientists and decision makers, regulatory representatives, and health research associations focused on discovery, development, and refinement of new cancer immunotherapies. A founding visionary and scientific leader in tumor immunology, CRI is helping to shape the emerging field of immuno-oncology, and is ushering in a new era of medical progress to bring more treatment options to cancer patients sooner.
For more information, visit http://www.cancerresearch.org.