Fox Chase Researcher Receives OCRA Grant
John Krais, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, recently received a 2-year, $75,000 grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) for his investigation into DNA repair processes in BRCA1 mutant cancers.
Krais works in the lab of Neil Johnson, PhD, Associate Professor at Fox Chase. His research will focus on the RNF168 protein, which is involved in repair of DNA damage. RNF168 recruits BRCA1 and another protein, 53BP1, to the site of DNA damage. 53BP1 blocks the BRCA1-dependent repair process, resulting in pathways that lead to more mutations in BRCA1 mutant cancers.
Preliminary research found reduced recruitment of 53BP1 to DNA damage in cases of BRCA1 mutation, allowing the cancer to grow. These same circumstances yielded a low presence of RNF168. By delving more into the role of RNF168, Krais will provide a better overall understanding of the DNA repair process in BRCA1 mutant cancers.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are the strongest known genetic risk factors for epithelial ovarian cancer.
“I am grateful to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance and Phil and Judy Messing for enabling me to generate information that we hope will ultimately lead to accurate predictions of therapy response and novel therapeutic approaches,” said Krais.
Researcher Honored With 2019 AACR Lectureship
Charles L. Sawyers, MD, FAACR, was recently honored with the AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship at the AACR Annual Meeting 2019.
Sawyers is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College. He is being recognized for his work on cancer drug resistance mechanisms, specifically those involving the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and in prostate cancer patients with resistance to hormone therapy.
This lectureship honors Sawyers' critical role in developing molecularly targeted cancer therapies for the treatment of two diseases: CML and metastatic prostate cancer. His pioneering research into identifying treatments for cancers that have become resistant to established therapies has led to the development of dasatinib for patients with imatinib-resistant CML and enzalutamide and apalutamide for metastatic prostate cancer.
“Dr. Sawyers is a highly esteemed physician-scientist, and we are delighted to recognize his exceptional body of translational and clinical research,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), Chief Executive Officer of the AACR. “His groundbreaking discoveries have provided deep insight into the mechanisms of drug resistance and have led to the development of new molecularly targeted therapies that are benefiting countless patients worldwide. He is greatly deserving of this prestigious accolade.”
The AACR Princess Takamatsu Memorial Lectureship, now in its 13th year, is awarded to a scientist whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer, and who embodies the dedication of the princess to multinational collaborations. Her Imperial Highness Princess Kikuko Takamatsu was instrumental in promoting cancer research and encouraging cancer scientists. She became a champion for these causes following her mother's death from bowel cancer in 1933 at the young age of 43.
Sawyers is a world-renowned researcher whose career has focused on developing molecularly targeted therapies, initially for the treatment of CML. Following the clinical success of imatinib, Sawyers discovered that patients develop resistance through mutations in the BCR-ABL kinase domain, then collaborated with scientists to develop dasatinib, a new cancer drug capable of overcoming imatinib resistance in select patients.
More recently, Sawyers has focused his effort on targeting the androgen receptor (AR) in prostate cancer based on preclinical work from his group showing that increased AR expression is the primary driver of castration resistance. He co-discovered two AR antagonists, enzalutamide and apalutamide, both of which received FDA approval based on clinical benefit demonstrated in randomized phase III clinical trials in men with castration-resistant prostate cancer.
An active AACR member since 1998, Sawyers is a Past President of the AACR, a Fellow of the AACR Academy, Chair of the AACR Project GENIE Steering Committee, and Co-Leader of the Stand Up To Cancer/Prostate Cancer Foundation Dream Team “Precision Therapy of Advanced Prostate Cancer.”
Sawyers' scientific accomplishments have been recognized with numerous additional honors throughout his career, including the AACR Team Science Award (2015), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013), the Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award (2011), the Dorothy P. Landon–AACR Prize for Translational Cancer Research (2009), the Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2009), the Emil J Freireich Award for Clinical Research (2007), the AACR David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award (2005), the AACR Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award (2005), the Freedom-to-Explore Research Award in Cancer (2003), the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award (2001), and the Stohlman Scholar Award (2000).
Additionally, he is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Medicine, and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Physician Executive to Lead Value-Based Care Initiatives at Roswell Park
Raghu Ram, MD, has joined Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as Vice President of Value-Based Care Optimization and Community Clinical Collaboration.
Bringing significant leadership experience in health systems and health plans, Ram most recently served as Regional Medical Director of Landmark Health, a medical group that provides care for the frail elderly. His duties at Roswell Park include developing strategy and negotiating contracts with health insurance companies. He will also support the cancer center's business development efforts and engagement with primary care physicians across Western New York.
Ram was previously the Senior Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of HealthNow New York Inc., Associate Medical Director of Univera Healthcare, and Chief of Family Medicine at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.
Ram believes it's critical to ensure that all patients have access to quality health care. With clinical experience as a family physician as well, he hopes to collaborate more with partners across the community.
“With all the advancements in cancer care, it's our role to get information out to both our colleagues and the public about the best options available to them,” said Ram. “Many of my patients over the years received great care at Roswell Park, so I'm especially pleased to have the opportunity to expand access to that world-class care and ensure good collaboration among providers in different clinical settings.”
“Our ability to offer the newest and best therapies hinges on how well we demonstrate both the clinical effectiveness and the overall value of these approaches,” added Candace S. Johnson, PhD, Roswell Park President and CEO. “Dr. Ram's rich insights on both managed care and family medicine will help Roswell Park to establish new relationships that support our commitment to comprehensive cancer care.”
UPMC Immunologist Receives Newly Established Endowment
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center immunologist, Greg Delgoffe, PhD, is the first recipient of the new Sy Holzer Endowed Immunotherapy Research Fund to advance innovative research in cancer immunotherapy.
The fund was established to honor Holzer's philanthropic work as the long-time President of PNC and his many years of service as Chair of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Council. The fund has been supported through leadership gifts made by many local and national individuals, foundations, and corporations, including Robert and Christina Pietrandrea, Jay Cleveland and Cleveland Brother Equipment, the Heinz Endowments, the Hillman Foundation, the Buncher Foundation, and the Stanley M. Marks, MD, Research Fund, among others.
Delgoffe, Assistant Professor of Immunology at the University of Pittsburgh, also is a research scientist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center's Tumor Microenvironment Center. His laboratory seeks to understand how cancer cells use fuel from their local environment, starving infiltrating immune cells and preventing them from attacking cancer cells. This research may lead to new therapies that will stimulate the immune system.
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