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​AACR Anna D. Barker Basic Cancer Research Fellowships

The AACR Anna D. Barker Fellowships in Basic Cancer Research represents a joint effort to encourage and support mentored young investigators to conduct basic cancer research and to establish successful career paths in this field. Eligibility is limited to postdoctoral and clinical research fellows who will have completed their most recent doctoral degree within the past three years. The research proposed for funding may be in any area of basic cancer research. 

2018 Grantee

Aleksandra Ozga, PhDAleksandra Ozga, PhD
Research Fellow
Massachusetts General Hospital
Charlestown, Massachusetts
Aleksandra Ozga, PhDThe Role of the CCR8 Chemokine System in Melanoma

Scientific Statement of Research
The breakthrough in checkpoint blockade therapy has led to major improvements in the ability to treat and control melanoma. Yet, the resistance of majority of melanoma patients to checkpoint blockade therapy remains a real challenge in melanoma treatment. The in-depth understanding of the mechanism that renders tumors refractory to the treatment is required to extend therapeutic usefulness of cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Ozga’s preliminary data show that small signaling molecule - CCR8, which regulates immune cell positioning, contributes to the growth of murine melanoma. Dr. Ozga hypothesize that the CCR8 chemokine system is important to maintain phenotype and functions of intratumoral regulatory T cells. She proposes to dissect the mechanisms by which CCR8 regulates the responses of intratumoral regulatory T cells and determine if targeting of CCR8 expressing regulatory T cells might enhance the efficacy of checkpoint blockade therapy.

Biography
Dr. Ozga obtained Master Degree in Biotechnology from the Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland). She completed her PhD in Immunology under the supervision of Professor Jens V. Stein at the Theodor Kocher Institute (Bern, Switzerland). During her thesis work, she contributed to better understanding of the mechanisms regulating adaptive immune responses by publishing five peer-reviewed papers in this field. Dr. Ozga is currently a research fellow in the laboratory of Professor Andrew Luster at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, USA). Her major scientific goal is to understand how to manipulate the immune system to fight chronic infections and cancer.

Acknowledgement of Support
It is a great honor to receive the 2017 AACR Basic Cancer Fellowship for studying the role of the CCR8 chemokine system in melanoma. This prestigious award is an important step in my academic career which enables me to pursue research in the scope of my scientific interests. I believe that results of my research might provide important insights into the biology of melanoma.

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2017 Grantee

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Amanda Haltom, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas
Elucidating the exosome “road map” in normal physiology and cancer

Scientific Statement of Research
Exosomes, physiologic membrane nanovesicles, are instrumental for cross-tissue communication. Exosomes produced by distinct cell types differ in size, cargo and surface proteins, of which tetraspanins are the most studied, with potential capacity to define exosome homing (target tissues/cells). In tumors, exosome homing is altered via changes in exosome abundance, contents and surface proteins, resulting in a pro-tumorigenic environment. To date, all functional studies use ectopic administration of exosomes from cultured cells, and may not reflect the endogenous routes of exosome subpopulations. To study endogenous exosome targeting, we generated novel mouse models with tagged tetraspanins for in vivo tracking. We hypothesize that this model has the capacity to reveal physiologic communication through exosomes, and the alterations due to cancer and chemotherapy. These studies are the first to use endogenous exosomes and expand our understanding of exosome intercellular communication in cancer progression and therapy response on the organismal level.

Biography
Dr. Haltom obtained her bachelor’s degree in three years from 2007-2010 at Texas A&M University, where she investigated bacterial endosymbionts of Drosophila melanogaster. In 2010, she joined the graduate school at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, trained in Dr. Hamed Jafar-Nejad’s lab, and received her doctoral degree for the study of post-translational modifications in Drosophila eye development. Seeking a more translational project, she secured the TRIUMPH postdoctoral fellowship from MD Anderson Cancer Center and joined Dr. Raghu Kalluri’s lab to study the role of exosomes in cancer development and progression.

Acknowledgement of Support
The AACR Basic Cancer Research Fellowship provides me with support not only financially, but professionally and personally. Receiving this fellowship further motivates me to achieve excellence in science knowing that my work and and its potential impact are appreciated by the experts in the field.

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