ORLANDO, Fla. April 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced today the second round of awards for its Innovative Research Grants Program (IRG), and named the 13 young scientists that will receive a combined total of $9.74 million over the grants' three-year term to conduct high-risk/high-reward translational cancer research.
The grants were announced during an event at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 102nd Annual Meeting 2011. These grants serve to provide much needed financial support to the next generation of research leaders, and continue SU2C's overarching commitment to cutting-edge translational research.
"The Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grants are special in that they allow some of the best and brightest young researchers across various disciplines to step out of their comfort zones and attempt to make major breakthroughs in the field with bold research projects," said Richard D. Kolodner, Ph.D., senior researcher at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in La Jolla, Calif., professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and chairman of the committee for the SU2C Innovative Research Grants Program.
"The array of novel approaches that these investigators are utilizing to attack cancer is extraordinary. We have cell biologists looking at cancer metabolism, and new ways to disrupt how cancer cells obtain nutrients to grow; and a computer scientist analyzing data to predict how a tumor will respond to a drug before it's given to a patient. In this era of interdisciplinary cancer research, these cutting-edge approaches have enormous potential for rapid improvements in patient care," explained Scientific Advisory Committee Member and Innovative Research Grants Committee vice chairperson William G. Nelson, V., M.D., Ph.D., professor of oncology and director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.
Over a three-year period, each of the 13 recipients will receive a total of up to $750,000 as part of SU2C's Innovative Research Grants Program, which made its first round of 13 grants in December 2009, and was designed specifically to support work that incorporates new ideas and new approaches to solve critical problems in cancer research.
These innovative projects are characterized as "high-risk" because they challenge existing paradigms, and because in order to receive a grant, the applicants were not required -- as they would be by most conventional funding mechanisms -- to have already conducted a portion of the research resulting in an established base of evidence. If successful, the projects have the potential for "high-reward" in terms of saving lives.
One of the 13 grants is named in honor of Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig and his wife Sue for melanoma research. MLB is Stand Up To Cancer's founding donor, and Commissioner Selig is a melanoma cancer survivor. The incidence of melanoma is rising, and the survival rate for those with advanced disease has been static at 15 percent.
The Innovative Research Grants Program is one of two initial funding models created by SU2C. In 2009, SU2C awarded a total of $73.6 million to five interdisciplinary, multi-institutional Dream Teams, which are comprised of more than 200 researchers from more than 50 institutions. Current research underway by the Dream Teams has the potential to impact the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of cancers that are responsible for two thirds of the cancer deaths in the United States. Both the Innovative Research Grants Program and the Dream Teams focus on groundbreaking translational research, aimed at getting new therapies to patients quickly.
Since its launch in May 2008, more than $180 million has been pledged to Stand Up To Cancer from a wide range of philanthropic, corporate, and organizational donors, as well as the general public, much of it in connection with two live "roadblock" telecasts - on Sept. 5, 2008 and Sept. 10, 2010. Together, these live telecasts featured nearly 200 celebrities, aired simultaneously on the major networks and a dozen cable stations, and were seen in 195 countries.
"Four decades after President Nixon's declaration of the war on cancer, we stand at a tipping point in the field of cancer research," said Laura Ziskin, one of SU2C's founding members and the executive producer of the SU2C broadcasts, who is also a cancer survivor. "We are proud to stand up for these young scientists who take on the challenge of defeating cancer as their life's work. They are the generation that will lead us to a day when cancer is toppled from the list of leading killers…to the moment when cancer is moved from a disease that takes far too many lives to one people survive and triumph over to lead long, robust lives."
The American Association for Cancer Research, SU2C's scientific partner, assembled the expert SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee as well as the Innovative Research Grants Committee. These committees administered the scientific review process and will provide ongoing scientific oversight of the grants.
Stand Up To Cancer 2011 Innovative Research Grant Recipients
The projects funded represent innovative approaches to the most important and challenging problems facing cancer researchers today. They address a wide range of cancer types and organ sites, including lung, leukemia, lymphomas and sarcomas. Some projects involve research on cancers that affect virtually all age groups, and most of the projects have implications across multiple cancer types. All the projects have the potential to significantly advance the identification of the complex mechanisms that cause cancers to occur and spread; to lead to the development of a new generation of targeted treatments; and to improve the methods of diagnosing cancers and monitoring the effects of treatment.
The 13 Stand Up To Cancer Innovative Research Grant recipients for 2011 are:
Yali Dou, Ph.D., University of Michigan: Targeting MLL in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Adolfo A. Ferrando, M.D., Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center: Targeting Genetic and Metabolic Networks in T-ALL
Estela Jacinto, Ph.D., University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey – Robert Wood Johnson Medical School: Targeting Protein Quality Control for Cancer Therapy
Mei Kong, Ph.D., Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope: Targeting PP2A and the Glutamine-Sensing Pathway as Cancer Treatment
Dr. Hui Li, Ph.D., University of Virginia: Chimeric RNAs Generated by Trans-splicing and Their Implications in Cancer
Dr. Roger S. Lo,* M.D., Ph.D., UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center: Exome Sequencing of Melanomas with Acquired Resistance to BRAF Inhibitors
*recipient of the Allan H. (Bud) and Sue Selig Stand Up To Cancer Melanoma Innovative Research Grant
Charles G. Mullighan, M.D., St. Jude Children's Research Hospital: Identification and Targeting of Novel Rearrangements in High-risk ALL
Dana Pe'er, Ph.D., Columbia University: A Systems Approach to Understanding Tumor Specific Drug Response
Sridhar Ramaswamy, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital: Targeting Sleeping Cancer Cells
Eric Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, M.D., Stanford University: Inhibiting Innate Resistance to Chemotherapy in Lung Cancer Stem Cells
Amy J. Wagers, Ph.D., Joslin Diabetes Center: Developing New Therapeutic Strategies for Soft-tissue Sarcoma
Angelique W. Whitehurst, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Framing Therapeutic Opportunities in Tumor-activated Gametogenic Programs
Catherine J. Wu, M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: Coupled Genetic and Functional Dissection of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Distinctive Review and Selection Process
The grant process began in October 2010, with a call for Letters of Intent from young researchers in the early stages of their careers. The 38-member Innovative Research Grants Committee considered 188 eligible letters in an intense, multi-step evaluation process that began in January 2011. Based on the initial review of each proposal by committee members, the group was narrowed to 43 semi-finalists who were invited to submit full research proposals, which were then reviewed late in January. The list was narrowed again, to 18 finalists who made in-person presentations to the grants committee during an intensive two-day meeting in February. From that group, the committee selected the 13 recipients.
The committee evaluated the submissions using these criteria: potential for high-risk/high-reward; innovation in method or approach; potential for significant translation to clinical application; promise to improve and save the lives of patients with cancer; and potential to develop into a Dream Team project at a later time.
Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, who chairs SU2C's overarching Scientific Advisory Committee, noted that "Drs. Kolodner and Nelson have put together the best, most thorough review process to be found anywhere for this category of grants."
"The review process was highly interactive -- a rare experience for young investigators to present their proposals to a group of senior scientists in face-to-face meetings," Dr. Sharp continued. "We are grateful to the exceptional committee members who provided valuable insights on the translational potential of each proposal, and who will help oversee the grantees' progress."
Grants Are Living Legacy to Research Pioneer Judah Folkman
The Innovative Research Grants Program was established in honor of the late Judah Folkman, M.D., to recognize him as one of the great innovators in cancer research, an outstanding teacher of young investigators and an early contributor to the SU2C project. Folkman's pioneering work led to a new understanding of angiogenesis in cancer and the development of important new treatments based on his discoveries.
"Dr. Folkman believed passionately in the importance of funding young investigators," said Sherry Lansing, a SU2C founding member and board chair of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the underlying 501(c)(3) charitable organization that serves as the initiative's fiduciary. "We honor Dr. Folkman by funding this new group of young scientists. Their work will be a tribute to his legacy and his dream of one day defeating cancer."
Funded Projects Address Wide Range of Challenges
"The AACR is proud of its scientific partnership with SU2C and we are very excited by the excellence and scope of the research projects selected by the SU2C committee," said Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.), Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for Cancer Research. "The 2011 Innovative Research Grant recipients come from a wide range of disciplines and from formidable institutions. Their success will enhance the speed at which we can move new discoveries from bench to bedside. Support for these remarkable young scientists is critical to ensuring that we continue to accelerate the pace of cancer research, especially at this time of federal cutbacks on cancer and biomedical research."
Collaboration and Transparency in the SU2C Funding Model
Fostering increased collaboration among cancer researchers at different institutions is a key SU2C goal. All SU2C-funded scientists are required to share ideas and progress among their teams and across institutions in formal and informal settings. These interactions among and between Innovative Research Grant recipients and Dream Team members have already led to new synergies and potential collaborations.
The AACR, through the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee and Innovative Research Grants Committee, conducts regular reviews of grant recipients to ensure accountability and that objectives are being satisfactorily achieved. Stand Up To Cancer is committed to transparency in both the funding process and the outcomes of the projects. Progress reports are made available to the public at: www.su2c.org and www.aacr.org.
The SU2C Movement's Online Community
SU2C's robust online community (www.su2c.org) offers various ways for people to share opinions and support, view video updates, contribute, and learn of ongoing initiatives and progress in the fight against cancer. The scope of donation opportunities on the SU2C website ranges from naming a star in honor of a loved one to web team challenges that encourage collaborative fundraising efforts by groups of various sizes all over the country. The online community provides ample opportunity to share SU2C's efforts via a variety of social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook, AOL, MySpace, YouTube, flickr, and several other sites that are accessible through the SU2C website.
SOURCE Stand Up To Cancer