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.

2020 Grantee

Kaysia Ludford, MD

Kaysia Ludford, MD

Assistant Professor
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas
Interplay between ethnicity & biology in response to checkpoint inhibition

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.