The AACR Announces the Recipient of the AACR-The Mark Foundation NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research


PHILADELPHIA—The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is pleased to announce the selection of Birgit Knoechel, MD, PhD, as the inaugural recipient of the AACR-The Mark Foundation NextGen Grant for Transformative Cancer Research. 

“We are extremely grateful to The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research for its support of this important grant, which will provide critical funding to an early-career researcher looking to make her groundbreaking ideas reality, and to solidify her independence as a cancer scientist,” said Mitch Stoller, executive director of the AACR Foundation. 

The AACR NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research program, now in its third year, represents the AACR’s flagship funding initiative to stimulate highly innovative research from young investigators. This grant mechanism provides $450,000 over a three-year term to support creative, paradigm-shifting cancer research that may not be funded through conventional channels.

Through this new partnership with The Mark Foundation, Knoechel, a physician-scientist and pediatric oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will receive crucial resources needed to execute a research project focused on developing new therapies for pediatric leukemia. 

Since the inception of the NextGen Grants program in 2015, the AACR has worked with a number of visionary partners who are committed to not only advancing scientific discoveries in cancer, but also to promoting the career development of the next generation of cancer scientists. The exciting new partnership with The Mark Foundation is expected to further enhance the innovative nature of this program, by funding work that integrates discoveries in biology and technology to advance the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. 

“We are thrilled to partner with AACR on this important NextGen grant,” said Michele Cleary, PhD, chief executive officer of The Mark Foundation. “The innovative spirit of this award, Dr. Knoechel’s accomplishments, and the potential impact of her research proposal are highly aligned with our mission to support scientists and projects well positioned to accelerate breakthroughs to patients.”  

Knoechel’s project is set to begin July 1, 2018, and will examine how variation in a population of cancer cells can contribute to resistance to a targeted therapy in leukemia patients. By understanding how and why these therapies fail to work, she hopes to develop strategies to overcome resistance and successfully treat children with acute T cell lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL).