List includes eight prestigious “R01” grants from the National Cancer Institute
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists successfully competed for more than $36 million in grants from government agencies and private funders awarded in the second half of 2021 — including two prestigious “R01” Research Project awards from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for more than $3 million each.
“Roswell Park has been a leader in groundbreaking cancer research for over 120 years, vastly improving treatment options and health outcomes for cancer patients in Western New York and around the world,” says Congressman Brian Higgins, Co-Chair of the Cancer Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. “In 2021, which marked the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act, Roswell Park acquired millions in competitive federal resources. Over $36 million received in prestigious grant awards, in the last six months alone, will allow Roswell to continue its historic work developing innovative, life-saving treatments that make a difference for patients young and old receiving care for a wide range of cancers.”
A five-year, $3.2 million R01 grant from the NCI will enable research into a new strategy for supporting families of kids with cancer, a project led by Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Senior Vice President and Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement and Professor in the Department of Cancer Prevention & Control; Kara Kelly, MD, Chair of Department of Pediatric Oncology; Elisa Rodriguez, PhD, Director of Community Engagement Resource in the Department of Cancer Prevention & Control; and Kristopher Attwood, PhD, Co-Director of the Biostatistics and Statistical Genomics Shared Resource. The funds will be used to develop CareMeds, a parenting skills-focused intervention strategy to improve adherence to home-based chemotherapy treatment in children with cancer.
“In pediatric health care, nonadherence to medications is a significant driver of avoidable suffering and death,” says Dr. Bouchard. “Our research to understand more about families’ experiences giving medicine to young children has identified that a child’s resistance to medication as a barrier to treatment adherence for some families. This study will develop and test an innovative intervention to teach pediatric cancer caregivers strategies to help children take their medicine quickly and calmly.”
A second team led by Sai Yendamuri, MD, FACS, Mary Reid, PhD, MSPH, and Joseph Barbi, PhD, earned a $3.1 million R01 award from the NCI to study the effectiveness of an anti-diabetic drug, metformin, for the prevention of lung cancer in obese patients at high risk. The funds will enable a clinical trial investigating how effective this drug may be in preventing lung cancer.
“Despite several groundbreaking advances in the treatment of lung cancer, the overall outlook remains dismal, necessitating the urgent development of preventive therapies,” says Dr. Yendamuri, Roswell Park’s Chair of Thoracic Surgery. “We have observed that metformin can improve lung cancer outcomes in patients who are overweight or obese, and we have linked this effect to immunological changes that we will now be further exploring.”
Other highlighted projects from Roswell Park teams who recently earned competitive awards supporting their novel research ideas:
- Matthew Buas, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention & Control, and Li Yan, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, were awarded a four-year $2.9 million R01 grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to study genetic susceptibility to Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous lesion that gives rise to esophageal adenocarcinoma, one of the most lethal of all cancers. “The goal of this project is to identify the causal variants, target genes and biological pathways that mediate inherited genetic risk of Barrett’s esophagus, through integration of statistical, computational, and experimental approaches and unique data resources,” says Dr. Buas. “Discoveries and insights from this study are expected to inform the development of novel strategies for prevention and treatment.”
- Prasenjit Dey, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Department of Immunology, received a five-year $2.1 million R01 grant from the NCI to study new therapies to treat pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, an aggressive cancer that remains largely incurable. “This study will test whether an antifungal treatment, when used in combination with an immune checkpoint inhibitor, can improve antitumor responses and therapy outcomes,” says Dr. Dey.
- Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, earned a five-year, $1.9 million R01 grant from the NIH to study how heat-shock protein 60 controls aggressive prostate cancer. “The study will look at the role of this protein in cancer growth and therapy resistance, as well as whether its inhibition can block cancer growth and prevent recurrence of prostate cancer,” says Dr. Chandra. “The successful completion this study will provide alternative treatment options for men with this lethal disease.”
- Gal Shafirstein, DSc, Director of PDT Clinical Research, and Nathaniel Ivanick, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Thoracic Surgery, received a two-year $1 million grant from the NCI, with support from Simphotek Inc., to study a new image-based treatment for interstitial photodynamic therapy (I-PDT) of inoperable malignant tumors with airway obstruction. “During I-PDT in the clinic, there is a need to adjust the irradiance (light dose rate) and fluence (light dose) to account for patient-specific tissue and tumor optical properties or changes in fiber placement that occur after an initial pretreatment plan is generated,” says Dr. Shafirstein, the co-Principal Investigator. “This can be accomplished with novel, near-real-time computational software that will be employed in this phase 2a trial to calculate the intratumoral fluence and irradiance, which will impact tumor response in I-PDT of locally advanced cancers.”
- Irwin Gelman, PhD, Director of Research Integration and Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Genetics and Genomics, received a three-year, $756,900 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to investigate the role of a particular protein, HBP1, in controlling reawakening of breast cancer in the bone. “Even with the advent of improved surgery, radiation and targeted chemotherapy for breast cancer, a significant number of cases recur after many cancer-free years,” says Dr. Gelman. “These lesions, often found in the bones, likely disseminated early from the original cancer but remained dormant.” The grant will enable Dr. Gelman to propose possible therapeutic interventions to increase patient survival by preventing this type of cancer recurrence.
- Michael Feigin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a four-year, $792,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to study how cancer-causing genes are activated in the development of pancreatic cancer. “Our work will lead to a deeper understanding of cancer progression and has the potential to lead to new treatments for pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Feigin.
- Pamela Sung, MD, PhD, a leukemia specialist who is Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Medicine and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, received a four-year, $774,414 grant from the NCI to take a closer look at a protein that is frequently mutated in acute myeloid leukemia and causes an aggressive form of this blood cancer. “While drugs blocking this protein, FLT3, are effective, they are not curative,” says Dr. Sung. “I have found a new function of FLT3 that keeps leukemia cells from becoming healthy blood cells and will investigate potential ways to use this to develop new therapies.”
- Eric Kauffman, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Urology and Cancer Genetics, received a one-year, $75,000 grant from the Kidney Cancer Foundation to study the biology of spontaneously regressing kidney cancer primary tumors.
- Ethan Abel, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received a one-year, $40,000 grant from the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer to decipher the role of the HNF1A-SKP2 AXIS in the therapeutic response in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Three other important recent grants awarded to Roswell Park teams have been previously announced:
- An $8.9 million Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the NCI to Kirsten Moysich, PhD, MS, Distinguished Member and Professor of Oncology in the Departments of Immunology and Cancer Prevention and Control, to develop new and better treatments for ovarian cancer.
- A $3.2 million R01 NCI grant to Theresa Hahn, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, and Qianqian Zhu, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Roswell Park to expand their investigation of genetic factors that contribute to the success of blood and marrow transplant (BMT) in cancer patients.
- Two grants from outside funders to advance testing and treatments for prostate cancer in African American men: a $613,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Anna Woloszynska, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and a $240,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to Dhyan Chandra, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics.