American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant Awardees

2021 Awardees

Thomas Curran, M.D. 

Thomas Curran, M.D., MPH

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

“Anti-neoplastic Effect of Low Molecular Weight Heparin after Major Gastrointestinal Oncology Surgery and Disparities in the Utilization of Extended Venous Thromboembolism Prophylaxis”

We aim to study the anti-cancer effect of low dose blood thinners after major gastrointestinal cancer surgery and disparities in the use of these blood thinners. Patients undergoing surgery for gastrointestinal cancers are at increased risk of blood clots (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli) which may cause serious health consequences. As a result, cancer organizations such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommend consideration of preventative dose blood thinners for 30 days after major cancer surgery.

While these medications have been shown to decrease the occurrence of blood clots in clinical trials, basic laboratory research suggests that certain blood thinners such as enoxaparin may also have an anti-cancer effect with potential impact on cancer-related survival. However, our understanding of the association between enoxaparin use and cancer-related survival in humans is limited. Our team will use a national cancer registry to evaluate whether patients receiving enoxaparin have improved cancer-related survival. We will also evaluate the association of social determinants of health such as race and geography on the usage of enoxaparin. This study has the potential to improve the care of our cancer patients and mitigate disparities in the delivery of cancer care.

 

Dr. Carsten Krieg 

Carsten Krieg, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

“A Lipid Metabolic Switch to Enhance Immunotherapy of Cancer”

Monocytes are members of our inherited immune system and significant initiators of anti-tumor immune responses. As such, they are reported to support tumor growth by suppressing the adaptive immune system. When omitted, they are potent initiators of anti-tumor immunity. Thus studying the impact of monocytes on cancer immunity is of great value. We tracked individual immune cells during anti-tumor immunotherapy in patients. We observed that increased circulating monocytes correlate with response. A deeper investigation of monocytes in patients responding to therapy revealed an enhanced fat metabolism. The focus of this ACS-IRG pilot study is how altered fat metabolism in monocytes affects their function in inducing anti-tumor immunity.

 

Dr. Jessica Hartman 

Jessica Hartman, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

“The Effects of Tetraploidy on Sphingolipid Metabolism and Chemosensitivity in C. elegans”

Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are effective for destroying most cells within a tumor, but in many cases, a small number of resistant cells remain. Those resistant cells have unique properties: they are initially non-dividing, stress-resistant, giant cells that have extra copies of their genomes (called polyploidy).

When they eventually do divide, the recurring cancer is often more aggressive than the initial tumor. To better understand how those stress-resistant cells work, we are using roundworms called Caenorhabditis elegans that, when stressed, form larger animals that are stress-resistant and also carry extra copies of their genomes. Using innovative tools available to study these worms, we hope to find new ways to identify and target resistant polyploid cancer cells and improve cancer treatments.

 

Dr. Aaron Hobbs 

Aaron Hobbs, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell & Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

“Defining the Role of Overexpressed PI3K Isoforms in Compensating for the Atypical KRASG12R Mutation in Pancreas Cancer”

Pancreatic cancer will become the 2nd most deadly cancer in the U.S. by 2030. Pancreatic cancer is defined by the presence of a KRAS mutation, which is mutated in 95% of pancreatic cancer patients. Of these, nearly 20% have the KRASG12R mutation. KRASG12R uniquely fails to regulate several metabolic programs previously assigned to mutant KRAS function. I have shown that KRASG12R cannot activate PI3Kα. Further, I showed that multiple PI3K isoforms are overexpressed in pancreas cancer.

This proposal seeks to define the role of the many PI3K isoforms in the pancreas. In addition, I have observed that KRASG12R cell lines are sensitive to the loss of the RALA and RALB small GTPases. RAL GTPases have been understudied in pancreatic cancer. Therefore, RAL signaling, in the context of KRASG12R, will be determined. This proposal uses KRASG12R to define the role of KRAS in the promoting of pancreas cancer. My research has shown that all KRAS mutations are not created equal. This proposal seeks to expand on that observation by defining KRASG12R-specific signaling. Data from these studies will be used to develop new targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer. 

 

Haizhen (Jen) Wang 

Haizhen (Jen) Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell & Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

“CDK6 in T Cell Leukemia Infiltration”

An enzyme known as phosphofructokinase, platelet (or PFKP), which plays an important role in breaking down glucose to create energy, is important in clinical cancer research because its cellular expression level is associated with decreased survival rates in cancer patients. Preliminary data and analyses from Dr. Wang’s lab suggest that PFKP moves into the nucleus, which is the part of a cancer cell that contains its genes and controls its growth and production, to regulate leukemia, allowing it to spread throughout multiple organs and preventing the body’s immune system from recognizing and killing the cancer cells.

In this study, Dr. Wang’s lab will test how preventing the movement of PFKP into the nucleus affects the treatment of leukemia outside of humans. The study will also look at whether PFKP that is found in the nucleus can help predict whether a patient may develop an aggressive form of T cell leukemia.

 

2020 Awardees

Jezabel Rodriguez-Blanco 

Jezabel Rodriguez-Blanco, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics

"Identification of Novel Regulators of Tumor Propogation in SHH Subgroup Medulloblastoma"

Silvia Guglietta 

Silvia Guglietta, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

"Gut Vascular Barrier Disruption as a New Biomarker for Hematogenous Dissemination of Colorectal Cancer Liver Metastases"

Subramanya Pandruvada, Ph.D. 

Subramanya Pandruvada, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Health Sciences

"Targeting SHP2-dependent Tumor Immune Cell Infiltration in Head and Neck Cancer"

Haizhen (Jen) Wang 

Haizhen (Jen) Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell & Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

“CDK6 in T Cell Leukemia Infiltration”

Jie Zhang 

Jie Zhang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Cell & Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

"Role of Microsomal Glutathione Transferase 1 in Melanoma Melanogenesis and Metastasis"

2019 Awardees

Peggi Angel, Ph.D. 

Peggi Angel, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology

"2D Typing of Collagen Stroma as a Novel Tissue Marker for ER-Negative/ER-Positive Breast Cancer"

Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D. 

Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

"Development and Evaluation of a Low-Cost, Remote Method to Biochemically Verify Smoking Status"

Barry Gibney, DO 

Barry Gibney, D.O.

Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery

"Non-small Cell Lung Cancer: The Role of the MHC Class I in Gender-Specific Survival"

Breege Howley, Ph.D. 

Breege Howley, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

"Characterizing the Role of Interleukin-like EMT Inducer (ILEI) in Breast Cancer Recurrence"

Wei Jiang 

Wei Jiang, M.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology

"The Role of Microbiome in Prostate Cancer Progression"

Jorge Munera 

Jorge Munera, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Regenerative Medicine & Cell Biology

"An In Vitro Model of Juvenile Polyposis Syndrome Using Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Derived Colonic Organoids"

Subramanya Pandruvada, Ph.D. 

Subramanya Pandruvada, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Health Sciences

"Targeting SHP2-dependent Tumor-immune Cell Infiltration in Head and Neck Cancer"