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As the award cycle for the 2020 Young Investigator Awards (YIAs) and Advanced Discovery Awards (ADAs) opens, we’re reflecting on the 2019 grant recipients. These innovative researchers are helping to advance our understanding of kidney cancer and improve patients’ lives. 

Dr. Scott Haake is a medical oncologist and a PhD candidate in cancer biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Haake received a 2019 YIA grant for research that investigates endogenous retrovirus (ERV) in papillary renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and how ERV expressions impacts anti-tumor response in this understudied RCC subtype. 

Read our Q & A with Dr. Haake. 

“It’s really important for providers and patients to get as much information as they can about their cancer and what category it falls in because that could influence treatment choices.”

– Dr. Scott Haake

Dr. Akash Kaushik is a postdoctoral researcher at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, where he studies cancer cell metabolism, which includes all the processes that help cells take up nutrients and convert them to energy and other materials for growth. He was awarded a YIA grant for his research.

“This pathway is very important for growth of normal cells in the body…if you can target this pathway, you can target tumor cells and leave the normal cells.”

Read our Q & A with Dr. Kaushik.

A medical oncologist at the Duke Cancer Institute, Dr. Tian Zhang received a 2019 YIA for research that helps doctors and patients make better decisions when choosing first-line therapies for metastatic clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC). 

Dr. Zhang analyzes how the tumor microenvironment (TME) responds to immunotherapy and investigates a panel of five genes and its association with resistance to ipilimumab/nivolumab combination therapy.

Learn more about Zhang’s work by reading her Q & A.

“We’re trying to think about a real-world approach where you’re seeing a patient in front of you…how can we select patients for the treatments they would have the best outcome with?”

– Dr. Tian Zhang

Dr. Ed Reznik is a computational oncologist at Memorial Sloan Cancer Center (MSKCC) and a 2019 YIA awardee examining tumor metabolism as it relates to the tumor microenvironment (TME) of clear cell carcinoma (ccRCC).

“The reason the microenvironment is important is that it’s the interactions between cells that dictate whether or not you respond to therapy.”

Read our Q & A with Dr. Reznik.

Led by Dr. Kathleen Mahoney in collaboration with Dr. Rupal Bhatt, both clinicians and scientists, and Dr. Gordon Freeman, a virologist and immunologist, this team from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts received a 2019 Advanced Discovery Award for research on a novel immune checkpoint pathway – HHLA2/KIR3DL3 – that has been a key driver of advances in immunotherapy and improved outcomes for many cancer patients.

“With this team, we’re well to set up and to try to validate this pathway and help translate it as quickly as possible to help patients as soon as we can.”

To learn more about the team, read their Q & A.

Dr. Guang Peng
Dr. Eric Jonasch

Dr. Eric Jonasch, an oncologist, and Dr. Guang Peng, a scientist, both from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, received a 2019 ADA grant to investigate how the novel tumor suppressor gene NPRL2 functions by studying how it triggers innate immune response in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) by impairing S-phase DNA damage response (S-DDR).

To read more about their research project, read their Q & A.

“Witnessing [cancer’s] impact on the lives of patients and their families motivates us to work as scientists and clinical investigators”

Dr. Eric Jonasch and Dr. Guang Peng

For more information about applying for a KCA Advanced Discovery Award or Young Investigator Award, visit our grant application page.

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