American Association for Cancer Research

AACR in the News

Stand Up To Cancer Awards Next Round of Innovative Research Grants; 13 New Recipients' Projects are High-Risk/High-Reward


April 4, 2011

ORLANDO –April 4, 2011- 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, 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 under way 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

Hui Li, Ph.D., University of Virginia: Chimeric RNAs Generated by Trans-splicing and Their Implications in Cancer

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. SU2C is implementing ongoing grassroots efforts, and is participating in national and regional events to raise awareness and funds.

Keep up with SU2C on Twitter (@SU2C) and facebook (https://www.facebook.com/su2c).

For additional information on Stand Up To Cancer, visit www.su2c.org.

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About Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) was established by leaders from the film and media industries who utilize the resources of those businesses in unique ways to get the public involved in supporting a new model of cancer research. The group produced two major televised events, in 2008 and 2010, that raised funds for teams of scientists collaborating on research that will get new therapies to patients quickly in order to save lives now. More than 100 celebrities participated in each program, conveying how cancer connects us all, and telling the stories both of people who survived the disease, as well as those taken by it. All of the major U.S. TV networks donated airtime for the broadcasts, which ran in more than 195 countries and raised millions of dollars for research.

The Executive Leadership Council of SU2C, which was formally launched on May 27, 2008, includes: Laura Ziskin, executive producer of the 2008 and 2010 SU2C telecasts, who is a cancer survivor; Sherry Lansing, chairperson of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s (EIF) Board of Directors and founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation; EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen; Katie Couric; EIF Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pam Williams, partner at Laura Ziskin Productions; and nonprofit executive Ellen Ziffren.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., select the researchers to be funded with SU2C monies through a rigorous, competitive process. More than 200 scientists from 50 institutions around the world are currently involved in SU2C research projects.

Major League Baseball is Stand Up To Cancer’s founding donor, and Sidney Kimmel, the country’s largest individual supporter of cancer research, pledged $25 million during the 2008 telecast. Other major SU2C supporters include Amgen, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), Comcast, GlaxoSmithKline, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Wallis Annenberg & The Annenberg Foundation, Alliance for Global Good, MasterCard, Milken Family Foundation, Philips Electronics, Pfizer, Steve Tisch, The Island Def Jam Music Group, and many others. In addition to ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, SU2C major media partners include AOL, Condé Nast Media Group, eBay Inc., Facebook, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., Hearst Corporation, Los Angeles Times, Meredith Corporation, The New York Times Company, Time Inc., and WebMD.

About the AACR

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which consists of over 33,000 scientists engaged in the fight against cancer, is the oldest and largest scientific organization in the world focusing on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research from the bench to the bedside. Lauded internationally for its scientific breadth, innovation and spread of new knowledge about cancer, the AACR is on the front lines in the quest for the prevention and cure of cancer. The AACR holds meetings on critical cancer research topics around the world and publishes seven major cancer research journals.

As Stand Up To Cancer’s scientific partner, the AACR is responsible for administering the grants, and — in conjunction with the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and David H. Koch Institute at MIT — providing scientific leadership and oversight.

About the Entertainment Industry Foundation

Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that serves as the collective philanthropy for the television and film businesses. EIF has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars to support programs addressing critical health, education, and social issues.

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Media Contact:
Kristen Bothwell
Rubenstein Communications, Inc.
(212) 843-9227
kbothwell@rubenstein.com

Stand Up To Cancer and Innovative Grant B-Roll – FTP Site for Download
Available Monday, April 4

Supplemental press materials, including photos of the recipients, broadcast quality video footage of the recipients explaining their work, and a Stand Up To Cancer video highlight reel, are available for media download via an FTP server. Log-in details are as follows:

Web Address: file.eifoundation.org

Username: irg

Password: tr@nslati0nal

Innovative Research Grant Recipient Project Descriptions