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17 Graduate School faculty members awarded over $17 million from CPRIT

February 27, 2020
Tracey Barnett

Seventeen faculty members from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences were awarded funding totaling $17,298,283 from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

CPRIT awards to Graduate School faculty include:

Melissa B. Aldrich, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for her project, Can microsurgeries cure lymphedema? An objective assessment. Aldrich is affiliated with the GSBS Programs Cancer Biology and Immunology. She is an assistant professor with the Center for Molecular Imaging in the Institute of Molecular Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Aldrich is also a GSBS alumna and graduated with a PhD in Immunology in 2003. Her advisor was Rodney Kellems, PhD.

Laurence E. Court, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Artificial intelligence for the peer review of radiation therapy treatments. Court is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Medical Physics. He is an associate professor in the Department of Radiation Physics at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Zhen Fan, MD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Development of a novel strategy for tumor delivery of MHC-I-compatible peptides for cancer immunotherapy. Fan is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Immunology and Therapeutics & Pharmacology. He is a professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at MD Anderson.

Don L. Gibbons, MD, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Investigating the role of CD38 as a mechanism of acquired resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in lung cancer. Gibbons is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Genetics and Epigenetics. He is an associate professor in the Departments of Thoracic /Head & Neck Medical Oncology and Molecular and Cellular Oncology at MD Anderson.

John F. Hancock, MB, BChir, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, KRAS spatiotemporal dynamics: novel therapeutic targets. Hancock is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Biochemistry & Cell Biology and Cancer Biology. He is a professor and chair in the Department of Integrative Biology & Pharmacology at McGovern Medical School.

John V. Heymach, MD, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Molecular features impacting drug resistance in atypical EGFR exon 18 and exon 20 mutant NSCLC and the development of novel mutant- selective inhibitors. Heymach is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Immunology. He is a professor and chair in the Department of Thoracic /Head & Neck Medical Oncology, and a professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at MD Anderson.

Jin Seon Im, MD, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for her project, Off the shelf, cord-derived NK T cells engineered to prevent GVHD and relapse after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Im is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology and Immunology. She an assistant professor in the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy at MD Anderson.

Faye M. Johnson, MD, PhD, was awarded $1,200,000 for her project, Targeting alterations of the NOTCH1 pathway in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Johnson is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Therapeutics and Pharmacology. She is an associate professor in the Department of Thoracic /Head & Neck Medical Oncology at MD Anderson. She is also a GSBS alumna and graduated with an MD, PhD in Cancer Biology in 1996. Her advisor was Barry Shur, PhD.

Eugenie S. Kleinerman, MD, was awarded $1,444,593 for her project, Doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity: Defining blood and echocardiogram biomarkers in a mouse model and AYA sarcoma patients for evaluating exercise interventions. Kleinerman is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Immunology. She is a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Cancer Biology at MD Anderson.

Florencia McAllister, MD, was awarded $2,067,105 for her project, Modulating the gut tumor microbial axis to reverse pancreatic cancer immunosuppression. McAllister is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology and Immunology. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention at MD Anderson.

Nami McCarty, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for her project, Targeting multiple myeloma stem cell niche. McCarty is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology, and Therapeutics and Pharmacology. She is an associate professor at the Center for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine in the Institute of Molecular Medicine at McGovern Medical School.

Jae-il Park, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, CRAD tumor suppressor and mucinous adenocarcinoma. Park is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Genetics and Epigenetics, and is an associate professor in the Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson. He is also a GSBS alumnus and graduated with a PhD in Genes and Development in 2006. His advisor was Pierre McCrea, PhD.

Helen Piwnica-Worms, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for her project, Single-cell evaluation to identify tumor-stroma niches driving the transition from in situ to invasive breast cancer. Piwnica-Worms is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Cancer Biology. She is a professor in the Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson.

Kunal Rai, PhD, was awarded $898,872 for his project, Heterogeneity of enhancer patterns in colorectal cancers – mechanisms and therapy. Rai is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Genetics & Epigenetics and Quantitative Sciences. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Genomic Medicine at MD Anderson.

Ferdinandos Skoulidis, MD, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Elucidating aberrant splicing-induced immune pathway activation in RBMIO-deficient KRAS-mutant NSCLC and harnessing its potential for precision immunotherapy. Skoulidis is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Cancer Biology and Immunology. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Thoracic /Head & Neck Medical Oncology at MD Anderson.

Konstantin Sokolov, PhD, was awarded $887,713 for his project, High-sensitivity 19F MRI for clinically translatable imaging of adoptive NK cell brain tumor therapy. Sokolov is affiliated with the GSBS Program in Medical Physics. He is a professor in the Department of Imaging Physics.

Liuqing Yang, PhD, was awarded $900,000 for his project, Adipocyte-producing non-coding RNA promotes liver cancer immunoresistance. Yang is affiliated with the GSBS Programs in Biochemistry and Cell Biology, and Cancer Biology. He is an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology at MD Anderson. 

To date, CPRIT has awarded $2.49 billion in grants to Texas research institutions and organizations through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. CPRIT funding has advanced scientific and clinical knowledge and provided 6.2 million life-saving cancer prevention and early detection services reaching Texans from all 254 counties. On Nov. 5, 2019, Texas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to provide an additional $3 billion to CPRIT for a total $6 billion investment in cancer research and prevention.

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