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AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowships

The AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowships represent a joint effort to encourage and support mentored young investigators to conduct 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 must be translational or clinical in nature.

2019 Grantee

AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Immuno-oncology Research Fellowship
Yuri Pritykin, PhD

Yuri Pritykin, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York
Systems biology of the T cell immune response in cancer and infection

Scientific Statement of Research
Dr. Pritykin will use innovative genomic technologies to study T cell function in cancer and infection. A systematic characterization of the requirements of immunotherapeutic rescue of dysfunctional T cells in the tumor microenvironment is critically needed to improve clinical results of existing T-cell-stimulatory therapies such as checkpoint blockade. Dr. Pritykin seeks to uncover the universal regulatory and epigenetic mechanisms driving different functional states of T cells. He will leverage the multitude of published data and generate new data using genome-wide chromatin state and gene expression assays, including at single-cell level, in mouse models of cancer and infection. He will develop and apply new algorithms for integrative analysis of these data in order compare the establishment of T cell dysfunctional state in tumors and in chronic infection and to characterize T cell subsets most responsive to immunotherapies.

Biography
Dr. Pritykin is a postdoctoral researcher in the Computational and Systems Biology Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He received his MSc and PhD in mathematics from Lomonosov Moscow State University and his PhD in computer science from Princeton University. His main interest and expertise is in using applied statistics, machine learning, and efficient computer algorithms to address fundamental biological questions by integrative analysis and interpretation of high-throughput data. His main goal is to better understand immune cell function by creating better computational methods for analysis of multi-dimensional data in immunology, especially in cancer.

Acknowledgment of Support
I am tremendously grateful to the AACR and Bristol-Myers Squibb for their support of my research program. I also greatly appreciate their recognizing that systems biology approaches based on functional genomics and computational data analysis are productive and in fact absolutely necessary for further progress in immuno-oncology.

2018 Grantees

AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowship for Young Investigators in Translational Immuno-oncology
Burles Avner Johnson, III, MD, PhD

Burles Avner Johnson, III, MD, PhD

Clinical Fellow
Johns Hopkins University-School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland
Targeting indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase to improve anti-tumor immunity

Scientific Statement of Research
Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer therapy by utilizing the unique ability of the immune system to survey the entire organism. Often, the immune system detects preclinical lesions and mounts a response to block tumor growth before they become clinically relevant. However, tumors can transmit immune signals to escape attack, in part by inducing immune suppression, or “tolerance.” Thus, the goal of immunotherapy is to “break tolerance.” One strategy is to target indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase-1 (IDO1), a tryptophan-catabolizing enzyme expressed by a subset of antigen presenting cells (APCs) and some tumors. IDO1 expressing APCs induce tolerance via regulatory T cell activation and T cell suppression. Thus, IDO1 inhibitors are being tested in clinical trials. IDO1 pathway inhibitors have had promising early results in combination with checkpoint immunotherapy in melanoma patients. Our goal is to further understand how IDO1 pathway inhibitors work to better inform future combination clinical trials involving these therapies.

Biography
Dr. Johnson is a third year medical oncology fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. He obtained his MD/PhD and completed a residency in internal medicine at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA. His PhD training was under Dr. Andrew Mellor, where he elucidated the developmental lineage of antigen presenting cells expressing indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase-1 (IDO1). Currently, he works in the laboratory of Dr. Linda Resar, where he is studying the role of IDO1 in the tumor microenvironment.

Acknowledgement of Support
I am extremely thankful for AACR’s support through its 2018 AACR Immuno-oncology Research Fellowship. It will fund experiments to better understand a promising cancer therapy, and will help me pursue a career in tumor immunology, to study potential cancer immunotherapies. This is a major honor, and I am very grateful.

AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Fellowship for Young Investigators in Translational Immuno-oncology
Rocio Vicario, PhD

Rocio Vicario, PhD

Research Fellow
Memorial Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research
New York, New York
Signaling pathways driving histiocytic neoplasms

Scientific Statement of Research
This proposal is aimed at understanding the cellular and molecular targets of somatic mutations in macrophages driving histiocytoses. Histiocytoses are myeloid neoplasms that result in granulomatous lesions in multiple organs with severe clinical consequences such as neurodegeneration. Recent works have reported somatic mutations in the RAS-RAF-ERK in ~60% of patients and PIK3CAH1047R activating mutation in ~10%. However, the role of PI3K activation in the pathogenesis of histiocytoses remains unexplored. In this proposal, we aim to characterize the consequences of PIK3CAH1047R mutation in macrophages in mice; to identify whether common signaling effectors are being activated in macrophages with BRAFV600E or PIK3CAH1047R and test targeted therapy and immunotherapy to improve the consequences of macrophage activation in particular of neurodegeneration. Additionally, using improved protocols we will identify mutations for patients without molecular diagnosis. Altogether, our project has basic and translational relevance and will identify therapeutic strategies to control macrophage activation in histiocytoses.

Biography
Dr. Vicario obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the National University of Mar del Plata in Argentina where she investigated the role of progesterone receptor in breast cancer. She pursued her PhD degree at the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain, where she focused on understanding therapy resistance to HER2 blockade and the development of novel immunotherapies for HER2+ breast cancers. In 2017 Rocio joined Dr. Geissmann’s lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering as a postdoctoral fellow to study the role of tissue resident macrophages in human diseases and unravel the mutations that drive their dysfunction in histiocytoses.

Acknowledgement of Support
The AACR Immuno-oncology Research Fellowship will provide me with extraordinary support for my research training and career development. Thanks to this award I will be able to continue my research towards better understating of the pathophysiology of histiocytoses, a rare but occasionally severe neoplasms affecting children and adults.