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​AACR-Amgen Inc. Clinical/Translational Cancer Research Fellowships

The AACR-Amgen Inc. Fellowships in Clinical/Translational Cancer Research represent a joint effort to encourage and support mentored young investigators to conduct clinical and/or translational cancer research. Eligibility is limited to postdoctoral and clinical research fellows who have completed their most recent doctoral degree within the past five years. Proposed research projects may be in any area of clinical and/or translational cancer research. 

2018 Grantee

Marco Bezzi, PhDMarco Bezzi, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts
Marco Bezzi, PhD 1-line spacerA novel murine platform for genetic driven translational cancer research

Scientific Statement of Research
Next generation sequencing, personalized targeted therapy and immunotherapy have promised to revolutionize cancer therapy. Nevertheless, major hurdles have yet to be overcome in translating this knowledge to the clinic for the majority of patients. Key to evaluating personalized therapeutic approaches is the availability of relevant models that can faithfully mimic the complex nature of patient tumors, its evolution and its microenvironment in an immunocompetent setting. Dr Bezzi proposes the development of a novel platform incorporating an “off-the-shelf” approach that enables a rapid and relatively inexpensive route to modeling the complex heterogeneity of human tumors in mice, which is readily exportable to multiple cancer types. Using a biobank of organoids derived from multiple genetically engineered mouse models, Dr. Bezzi aims to generate a series of combinatorial orthotopic grafts in syngeneic recipients to be used for the simulation of co-clinical trials that will greatly facilitate the realization of precision based approaches in the clinic.

Dr. Marco Bezzi obtained his BSc and MSc degrees in molecular biotechnologies at the University of Bologna, Italy. In 2010 he was awarded the SINGA scholarship and joined the School of Medicine of the National University of Singapore. During his PhD training Marco studied the role of PRMT5 in development and cancer mentored by Dr. Ernesto Guccione. In 2014 he joined the lab of Dr. Pandolfi at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Harvard Medical School) to study prostate cancer genetics and it’s microenvironment. In 2015 he secured a postdoctoral fellowship from the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research and he is currently working on novel models for translational cancer research.

Acknowledgement of Support
One of the biggest challenges for precision medicine in cancer is the ability to rapidly evaluate patient specific therapies. The AACR Clinical and Translational Cancer Research Fellowship represents an invaluable opportunity to accomplish my research goals successfully by developing novel models to facilitate fast-tracking of personalized treatments from the lab to the clinic.

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2017 Grantee

Dunbar-Photo_90x110.jpgAndrew Dunbar, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
EZH2 as a therapeutic target in ASXL1-mutant myelofibrosis

Scientific Statement of Research
Recently, loss of function mutations of ASXL1 (Additional sex combs-like 1) and other epigenetic modifying proteins have been found to occur in a significant number of patients with JAK2-mutant myelofibrosis and other myeloid diseases. Clinically, these mutations confer decreased responsiveness to JAK2 inhibitor therapy, increased risk of transformation to acute leukemia, and worsened overall survival in affected patients. ASXL1 cooperates with the methyltransferase EZH2 (enhancer of zeste homolog 2) to epigenetically regulate downstream target gene expression and influence normal and malignant hematopoiesis. Dr. Dunbar and the Levine lab have hypothesized that EZH2 inhibition might further enhance chromatin dysregulation beyond that of ASXL1 loss alone and drive genotype-specific cell death in ASXL1-mutant MPN cells. Dr. Dunbar's project aims to delineate the functional and mechanistic role of EZH2 inhibitors in ASXL1-mutant MPNs in order to leverage this therapy for potential use in this high-risk patient population.

Dr. Dunbar is currently a second year hematology/oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York. Dr. Dunbar attended medical school at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, and completed his internal medicine residency training at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He currently works in the laboratory of Dr. Ross Levine, an international leader in the study of the genomics and epigenomics of myeloid malignancies. Following fellowship training, Dr. Dunbar hopes to continue his translational work exploring the role of epigenetic dysregulation in malignant myeloid diseases and ultimately one day have his own lab.

Acknowledgement of Support
I hope to one day have my own lab and contribute to finding newer and smarter ways to treat cancer. The AACR-Amgen Inc. Clinical/Translational Cancer Research Fellowship is a prestigious and influential award that provides a strong foundation upon which to build my career. It is an honor to be given this opportunity.

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