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AACR-Loxo Oncology Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship

The AACR-Loxo Oncology Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship represents a joint effort to encourage and support a postdoctoral or clinical research fellow to conduct pediatric cancer research and to establish a successful career path in this field. The research proposed for funding may be basic, translational, clinical, or epidemiological in nature and must have direct applicability and relevance to pediatric cancer.

2019 Grantee

Meenal Datta, PhD

Meenal Datta, PhD

Research Fellow
Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts
Reprogramming the medulloblastoma microenvironment to improve treatment

Scientific Statement of Research
Medulloblastoma (MB) is one of the most common and devastating brain tumors in children. Currently available treatments – surgical resection, chemotherapy, and radiation – do not cure all patients and can affect brain development, leading to reduced cognitive function. Long-term survivors are afflicted by neurological deficits that severely compromise their quality of life. Therefore, safer and more effective treatments for MB are urgently needed. Here, it is proposed to reveal the underlying abnormalities in the MB tumor microenvironment that drive tumor progression and treatment resistance. Targeting these resistance mechanisms, including immunosuppressive signaling pathways, in combination with rapidly translatable low-dose radiotherapy, will boost anti-tumor immunity and response to novel immunotherapies. Successful completion of this research will lay the foundation for new treatment paradigms not only in MB but in other pediatric brain tumors, with the ultimate goal of improving survival rates in children afflicted by these intractable cancers.

Biography
Dr. Datta is a postdoctoral researcher in the Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She received her PhD in chemical and biological engineering from Tufts University in 2018. Leveraging her multidisciplinary training and experience with tissue abnormalities in a variety of diseases, Dr. Datta is currently working on reprogramming the tumor microenvironment to improve response to immunotherapy. By applying cutting-edge mechanism-based approaches to preclinical research, she hopes to rapidly translate her work to the clinic. Prior to this AACR-Loxo Oncology fellowship, Dr. Datta received numerous training awards including the AACR Scholar-in-Training Award, the Helmsley Charitable Trust Fellowship, and the NIH F31 Predoctoral Fellowship.

Acknowledgement of Support
I am humbly honored to be awarded the AACR-Loxo Oncology Pediatric Cancer Research Fellowship. With the support of this prestigious award, I will be able to successfully complete my postdoctoral training and lay the foundation for my future career as an independent academic researcher dedicated to discovering new and translatable approaches for cancer treatment.