Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) has awarded a total of $1 million to five teams of cancer researchers to advance “innovation in collaboration” among SU2C-affiliated scientists. Each team, consisting of researchers from different SU2C-supported “Dream Teams” or research programs, will receive a grant of $200,000 to support new research projects stemming from previous advances in cancer research from the SU2C community. Four of the five teams are focused on immunotherapy and the fifth on DNA repair.
“From the beginning, Stand Up To Cancer has striven to break down silos, encourage collaboration, and bring together the best research that will benefit cancer patients,” said Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Chair of SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee and a Nobel Prize winner for his research in genetics. “These awards will help bring us closer to the day we defeat cancer.”
The award program was established in 2014 by SU2C to honor Sharp’s keen interest in team research, with a scientific review and oversight process managed by SU2C’s Scientific Partner, the American Association for Cancer Research. The Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards are intended to reward distinctive collaborations that propose to accelerate current research and development models, bringing therapeutic benefits for cancer patients. Brief, initial proposals were reviewed by a committee of senior scientists led by SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee Co-Vice Chairs Arnold J. Levine, PhD, professor emeritus of systems biology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, during the SU2C Scientific Summit in Santa Monica, California, in January.
“The research teams who submitted proposals for consideration are from quite diverse backgrounds and are innovating across a broad portfolio of projects,” said Nelson. “The 19 submissions we received spanned all important issues in improving cancer research for patients — DNA sequencing and the effects of the microbiome on immunotherapies; targeted genome sequencing; and organoid research, to name a few. Moreover, the teams are unusually diverse: physicists, computer scientists, computational mathematicians and engineers coming into the lab with oncologists, geneticists, and biologists to explore and test hypotheses emerging from the terabytes of new data we’re now producing.”
In announcing the awards, Dr. Levine invoked the memory of Laura Ziskin, the movie producer and one of the co-founders of SU2C and who lived with breast cancer for seven years before her death.
“This year’s Sharp Awards for Innovation in Collaboration are distinguished in several respects,” he said. “One, is that the awards represent novel collaborations between senior and junior researchers, which create synergistic mentoring opportunities. Second, the winning proposals arise directly from questions being explored by existing Teams, arising through the 2016 SU2C Scientific Summit. These five projects will be funded in a short timeframe uncharacteristic of most funding mechanisms, and questions will be under investigation quickly.”
“Third, is the issue of geography: the winners come from research institutions across the US, yet their research will be collaborative. And finally, we see a trend among early-career scientists who started out as physicists and mathematicians but have moved into biology and are joining multi-disciplinary teams,” he said, “I think it’s fair to say that the full integration of computational design is where cancer research is going.”
Following the Summit, each selected team submitted a more detailed, yet still streamlined, two-page proposal and budget to SU2C’s Scientific Advisory Committee.
Sharing the $1 million in Sharp Award funding in equal allocations of $200,000 to support research over a one- to two-year period are teams of senior scientists and early career researchers (denoted with *):
“Fingerprinting the systemic microbiome in plasma to predict immunotherapy outcomes in melanoma”
Muhammed Murtaza, MBBS, PhD*, SU2C-Melanoma Research Alliance Melanoma Dream Team
and Antoni Ribas, MD, SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team
“Defining the role of epigenetics in chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy for CLL”
Shelley Berger, PhD, Van Andel Research Institute – SU2C Epigenetics Dream Team reviewer
Carl June, MD, SU2C Joint Scientific Advisory Committee
and Junwei Shi, PhD*
“Towards Predictive Models of Immunotherapy Response”
Benjamin Greenbaum, PhD*, Pancreatic Cancer Convergence Team and Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, SU2C-American Cancer Society Lung Cancer Dream Team
“Checkpoint inhibition in children with ultra-mutated cancer due to biallelic mismatch repair deficiency (bMMRD)”
Crystal Mackall, MD, SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team and Patrick Forde, MD*, SU2C-Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team
“Functional verification of DNA repair mutations in prostate and ovary tumors”
Eliezer Van Allen, MD* SU2C-Prostate Cancer Foundation Prostate Cancer Dream Team and Maria Jasin, PhD, SU2C-Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance-National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Dream Team