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AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Fellowship

The AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Fellowship represents a joint effort to encourage and support a postdoctoral or clinical research fellow to conduct ocular/uveal melanoma research and establish a successful career path in ophthalmology, ocular oncology, uveal melanoma biology, or a similar field.

2020 Grantee

AACR-Ocular Melanoma Foundation Fellowship, in honor of Robert C. Allen, MD
Anna Han, PhD

Anna Han, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Targeting metabolism as a therapeutic approach in uveal melanoma

Research
Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common eye melanoma in adults. Although primary UM tumors can be efficaciously treated with radiation and enucleation, about 50% of patients eventually develop metastasis. Currently, there are no U.S. FDA-approved targeted therapeutic options for UM. Many previous pre-clinical studies in other cancer types revealed that targeting metabolism can be a promising strategy; however, this approach has remained largely unexplored in UM. Dr. Han will study the UM-specific metabolism aspect of UM-specific genetic mutations. She will identify distinctive metabolic characteristics of UM that might serve as therapeutic vulnerabilities, and study the metabolic changes correlated with BAP1 mutations in UM. Dr. Han expects to provide a new rationale and supporting pre-clinical evidence to further pursue promising metabolic targets that are involved in UM tumorigenesis and progression. Dr. Han’s ultimate aim is to translate the findings from these studies into new clinical trials for the patients.

Biography
Dr. Han received her PhD at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she built her research career in cancer metabolism. She commenced post-doctoral training in 2017 at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University under the supervision of Dr. Andrew Aplin. Her research interests include 1) understanding of specific metabolic characteristics of uveal melanoma (UM), 2) investigating the metabolic functions of BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) in UM, 3) the correlation between metabolism and dormancy in UM, and 4) targeting mechanisms of intrinsic resistance to targeted therapies in UM.

Acknowledgment of Support
By driving this proposal, I will directly benefit from my sponsor’s expertise in cancer metabolism, specifically in uveal melanoma. I will develop molecular skills, and critical thinking abilities, and learn to communicate my science. This will allow me to achieve my ultimate aspiration of becoming an independent researcher with my own laboratory.