Roswell Park Alliance Foundation awards grants to scientists and clinicians searching for ways to understand, prevent and cure cancer
BUFFALO — The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, a not-for-profit that manages all donations made to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center (Roswell Park), recently awarded scientific research grants totaling nearly $800,000 to Roswell Park scientists and clinicians. The grants range from $10,000 to $100,000 and provide seed funding for 20 projects showing the greatest potential to save lives. Throughout the course of a year, the Alliance Foundation awards nearly $1.5 million towards cancer research projects carried out by Roswell Park researchers. Roswell Park has more than 200 researchers on staff and grants are funded by donors to the Alliance Foundation and the revenue generated by fundraising special events such as The Ride for Roswell and Goin’ Bald for Bucks.
“Every day, our researchers and physicians are discovering innovative ways of understanding and treating cancer,” said Candace Johnson, PhD, Deputy Director. “More than half of the donations we receive turn into grants for Roswell Park’s scientists to fund the early stages of research that eventually may lead to new clinical trials, drugs and improved therapies.”
The Alliance Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation reviews internal grant applications for pilot projects, with an emphasis on promoting programs, collaborations and translational research. Led by Dr. Johnson, the committee includes Roswell Park basic scientists, physicians, Alliance Foundation representatives and donor representatives. The review process follows guidelines similar to those established by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Donald Trump, Roswell Park’s President and CEO, makes funding recommendations to the Alliance Foundation Board based on the committee’s scores and reviews. Grants are awarded twice a year.
“Donations from our community fund these grants, which often are the difference needed to keep a lab’s research effort going for an entire year. These efforts can lead to national grants of millions of dollars,” said Dr. Johnson. “That’s how we move lab ideas to the clinical trial stage, directly benefiting patients with all types of cancers.”
Roswell Park researcher and past grant recipient Ben Seon, PhD, went on to secure a national grant for $3.1 million to continue his research related to monoclonal antibodies that starve cancer tumors and eradicate cancer cells. Today, he can take credit for the invention and patent of two cancer therapy approaches that are currently in clinical trials, a significant achievement in the cancer-drug development process.
“Roswell Park is one of the several clinical trial sites of these novel anticancer antibodies and cancer patients here in Western New York can benefit from these breakthrough discoveries,” said Seon, a longtime resident of Williamsville and a researcher at Roswell Park since 1967. “Additionally, the results of trials like these may eventually have an impact on how we treat cancer worldwide.”
For this most recent cycle, the Alliance Foundation Board approved funding of 20 applications for a total of $767,410. Each of Roswell Park’s six major research programs received grants to support their important work. Two grants fell into the pediatric research category while one grant supports the next phase of a clinical trial related to head and neck cancers.
“The studies that have received funding represent the best and most promising efforts of Roswell Park’s scientists as they search for new ways of fighting many kinds of cancer,” said the Alliance Foundation’s Executive Director, Cindy Eller. “The selection process is a fierce competition and one that is taken very seriously by our Scientific Advisory Committee and the scientists vying for grants.”
Grouped by research program, the grants awarded include:
Cancer Control, Prevention and Disparities
- Andrew Hyland, PhD, Department of Health Behavior, received a grant for his project, “Exploring the Link Between Tobacco Use and the Effectiveness of Cancer Treatment.”
- Li Tang, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, received a grant for her project, “Targeting Androgen Regulators to Fight Therapy Resistant Prostate Cancer.”
- Song Yao, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, received a grant for his project, “Unlocking the Cause of Cancer Treatment Related Leukemia Through the Next-Generation Sequencing Technology.”
Cell Stress and Biophysical Therapies
- Marina Antoch, PhD, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received a grant for her research project, “Exploring Genetic Pathways to Slow Down Aging and Reduce the Risk of Age-Related Cancers.”
- David Bellnier, PhD, and Sandra Gollnick, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology, received a grant for their research, “Using Photodynamic Therapy with Surgery to More Effectively Destroy Cancer Cells.”
- Gal Shafirstein, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology, and Nestor Rigual MD, Department of Head and Neck Surgery, received a grant for their research, “Photodynamic Therapy for Patients with Recurred Head and Neck Cancer.”
- Gokul Das, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a grant for his project, “Exploring Drug Resistance in Estrogen Receptor-positive Breast Cancer.”
- Pam Hershberger, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a grant for her project, “The Anti-Cancer Effects of Vitamin D on Certain Types of Lung Cancer.”
- Fengzhi Li, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, for his project, “Exploring How an Antitumor Drug Selectively Kills Invasive Colorectal Cancer Cells.”
- Peter Demant, MD, PhD, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, received a grant for his research “Genetics of Adverse Drug Reactions in Patients with Advanced Cancer of the Colon and Other Organs.”
- Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, Department of Cancer Genetics, received a grant for his research on “Determining the Genetic Mutations that Contribute to the Development of Pancreatic Cancer and Those that Cause It to Spread.”
- Eugene Yu, PhD, Department of Cancer Genetics, received a grant for his project, “Exploring the Down Syndrome Gene or Genes that Suppress the Growth of Solid Tumors.”
- John Ebos, PhD, Department of Medicine, received a grant for his project, “Exploring Kidney Cancer’s Resistance to Certain Cancer Therapies.”
- Barbara Foster, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was awarded a grant for her project, “Exploring the Potential of a New Biomarker to Predict Aggressiveness of Prostate Cancer.”
Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy
- Aimin Jiang, PhD, Department of Immunology, received a grant for his project, “Uncovering New Ways to Harness the Power of the Body’s Immune System to Fight Cancer.”
- Danuta Kozbor, PhD, Department of Immunology, received a grant for her research project, “Exploring the Use of Virally-delivered Therapeutic Genes to Inhibit Breast Cancer Tumor Growth and Unleash Immune Responses.”
- Brahm Segal, MD, Department of Medicine, received a grant for his project, “Examining New Ways to Delay Tumor Progression and Enhance Vaccine Efficiency in the Treatment of Ovarian Cancer.”
- Scott Abrams, PhD, Department of Immunology, received a grant for his research “Defining a Unique Role of a Tumor Suppressing Gene in Childhood Leukemia.”
- Barbara Foster, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a grant for her research project “Exploring the Role Genes Play in the Development of Tumors of the Central Nervous System in Children.”
- Nestor Rigual, MD, Department of Head and Neck Surgery and Barbara Henderson, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology, received a grant to move into phase II of a study that is testing a new drug in the photodynamic therapy center clinical trial for use in treating head and neck cancers.
“The support of our community is critical to funding these important projects,” said Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior. “I know I speak for all researchers when I say we are extremely grateful to event participants and donors for making it possible for us to continue discovering new ways of battling cancer.”
The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports scientific and clinical research, state-of-the-art medical care and activities that address the psychosocial needs of patients and families touched by cancer at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Located in Buffalo, New York, Roswell Park is one of the nation’s leading research and clinical institutions specializing in cancer care. Descriptions of the research projects listed above can be found in the giving section of the Roswell Park website at https://www.roswellpark.org/giving/impact/research.
A source of scientific innovation and achievement, groundbreaking research by Roswell Park scientists has led to greater understanding of the nature of cancer and to major advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment that are in use worldwide. Roswell Park instituted the nation’s first chemotherapy program, pioneered studies on the relationship between smoking and lung cancer and developed photodynamic therapy (PDT) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, the centerpiece in the early warning system for prostate cancer.
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