AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award
With generous support from GlaxoSmithKline, the AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award encourages and supports tenure-eligible junior faculty to conduct research in cancer etiology, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention.
The role of chromatin adaptor/scaffold proteins is largely unexplored. Additionally, a rapidly advancing area in chromatin biology aims to understand the non-enzymatic activities and potential structural roles of many chromatin-modifying enzymes. Dr. Soto-Feliciano aims to uncover how chromatin adaptors contribute to interpreting chemical modifications and their specific effects in different contexts, and to investigate how chromatin adaptors control gene activity in normal and disease conditions.
Dr. Soto-Feliciano earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez in 2008 and her doctorate in biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Rockefeller University supported by a Damon Runyon fellowship and K99/R00 award. Joining MIT’s faculty as an assistant professor in 2022, Dr. Soto-Feliciano’s work integrates cancer biology, functional genomics, and chromatin biology to uncover molecular mechanisms underlying transcriptional regulation. Her research focuses on chromatin scaffold-mediated transcriptional regulation in the effort to uncover new insights into cancer development and treatment.
Acknowledgement of Support
“The 2023 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award is important to me because it recognizes the immense value of fundamental biomedical research in combating cancer. This prestigious honor inspires me to continue my pursuit of groundbreaking discoveries, ultimately aiming to make a meaningful impact in the lives of cancer patients.”
Gaining insights into tumor relapse after immunotherapy treatment will be vital for advancing clinical outcomes. Recently, in squamous cell carcinomas of skin or head & neck, Dr. Miao and his colleagues identified a group of TGFb-responding tumor-initiating stem cells that appear to be the root of tumor relapse after adoptive T cell transfer-based immunotherapy treatment. This key finding raised the importance of identifying the critical molecular features of these tumor-initiating stem cells in driving cancer immune resistance. In this project, Dr. Miao is set to utilize genetic approaches to identify the essential master regulators orchestrating the stem cell-specific intrinsic and extrinsic immune evasion program that governs head and neck cancer recurrence after immunotherapy. The information derived from this study can potentially reveal new targets for overcoming tumor relapse.
Dr. Miao obtained his Ph.D. from Duke University, studying the immune responses against bacterial infections. He then completed his postdoctoral training as a Jane Coffin Childs fellow at Rockefeller University, focusing on cancer immunotherapy resistance. Currently, Dr. Miao is an Assistant Professor at the Ben May Department of Cancer Research at the University of Chicago and The UChicago Comprehensive Cancer Center. His research program aims to dissect the crosstalk between tissue stem cells and immunity, with a particular focus on immune resistance mechanisms specific to tumor-initiating stem cells.
Acknowledgment of Support
It is a special honor to receive the 2022 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award. This award will provide a valuable resource and critical support to establish my research program interrogating stem cell-specific immune resistance and build a solid foundation for my effort to design effective cancer immunotherapy.
Aneuploidy, including the gain or loss of whole chromosomes or chromosome arms, is a near-universal feature of cancer. However, the role of aneuploidy in tumor pathogenesis remains an unanswered question in cancer biology. To directly test the effects of cancer aneuploidy alterations in human cells, Dr. Taylor developed a genome engineering approach to delete chromosome arms in vitro. With this technology, the Taylor lab aims to uncover the function of specific aneuploidy alterations in tumorigenesis. With this award, the lab is set to focus on chromosome 3p deletion and chromosome 3q gain, alterations that occur at high frequency in lung squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and SCCs of other tissues.
Dr. Taylor obtained her BS in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her PhD in genetics at Harvard Medical School. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship focusing on cancer functional genomics at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Broad Institute. In January 2020, she joined Columbia University’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Pathology and Cell Biology as assistant professor. The goal of her research program is to understand the role of aneuploidy, whole chromosome or chromosome arm imbalance, in the development of cancer.
Acknowledgment of Support
I am very honored to be this year’s recipient of the AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award. With this award and with the AACR’s resources for all stages of research, the AACR and GlaxoSmithKline are providing critical support as I establish my independent career as a cancer researcher in the field of aneuploidy.
The clinical trials that led to U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of checkpoint inhibitors (CPI) have suboptimal representation of racial/ethnic minorities (<1-3% Blacks and Hispanics in some trials and failure to report race in the others). In a retrospective study of 44 patients with acral melanoma, Dr. Ludford and her research group showed that both non-White and White patients have low tumor mutation burden, which ordinarily would be anticipated to yield low responses to CPI. Surprisingly, however, non-White patients had high response rates of 58%, six-fold higher than White patients. Interestingly, this response was not associated with significant increase in overall survival. Thus, she is set to focus on dissecting this provocative observation of differential response.
Dr. Ludford obtained her MD from Yale University School of Medicine. She completed internal medicine training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a hematology-oncology fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She has joined the faculty of the General Oncology and Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology Departments at MD Anderson, where she aims to provide clinical oncological care to medically underserved populations and to contribute to the global mission of reducing cancer disparities through scientific inquiry.
Acknowledgement of Support
It is a distinct honor to have been selected to receive the 2020 AACR Gertrude B. Elion Cancer Research Award. This award will be invaluable in helping me establish my academic career, providing resources to carry out the biological studies to investigate how immune-biology and ethnicity impact response to immunotherapies.