Donations Fund Nine Most Promising Preliminary Research Projects at Roswell Park

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Donations have recently funded the nine most promising preliminary research projects at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Following a peer-reviewed competition, nine clinicians and researchers have received a total of $718,506 from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, the not-for-profit that raises funds and manages all donations made to Roswell Park.

The researchers applied for the funds as part of a competitive review process led by the Alliance Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), which is made up of objective Roswell Park staff and donor representatives. The SAC reviews internal grant proposals twice annually and is led by Candace Johnson, PhD, President and CEO. The committee follows guidelines similar to those established by the National Institutes of Health, and it prioritizes initiatives that involve collaboration and translational research. Based on the committee’s scores, final recommendations are given to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Board.

“The Scientific Advisory Committee ensures that donations are put to the best possible use and that the most promising research projects receive funding,” Dr. Johnson said. “These projects, which have the potential to find cancer cures and save lives, may not have received funding without support from our generous donors.”

During the fall/winter 2014 cycle, the SAC received 39 applications for funding. The committee assessed the proposals and sent its scores to the Alliance Foundation Board. The board then allocated $718,506 of donated funds to support nine of the projects. These innovative and preliminary studies often lead to long-term funding from national organizations, as well as new treatments.

Projects previously funded through this SAC process have resulted in the development of cancer vaccines and groundbreaking advancements in ovarian cancer spearheaded by Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, whose team recently received a $12 million grant to fast-track his innovative research.

“The Alliance Foundation grants are necessary to build up the necessary data so that we can receive funding for follow-up projects from places like the National Institutes of Health,” Mukund Seshadri, DDS, PhD, who, along with his colleague Pamela Hershberger, PhD, received one of the nine Alliance-funded grants, said. “We call this ‘seed funding’ —and it’s true; these funds really allow the novel ideas we have to germinate into discoveries that can make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.”

Through this collaborative grant, Drs. Hershberger and Seshadri will explore whether dietary vitamin D can help prevent oral cancer or reverse the growth of pre-cancerous lesions that have already developed. Like the other funded projects, this study could lead to new preventive and life-saving treatments, and it has been made possible by donor contributions and fundraising events like The Ride For Roswell and Goin’ Bald for Bucks.

The nine funded studies are listed below:

  1. Pamela Hershberger, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received $99,000 to support her project titled “Impact of Dietary Vitamin D on the chemopreventive efficacy of erlotinib.” 
  2. Michael Higgins, PhD, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, received a grant of $67,220 to support his grant “Development of a cell-based reporter system to identify small molecules that inhibit Lin28 function.”
  3. Eric Kauffman, MD, Department of Urology, received $99,916 for his project on “The prognostic role of circulating tumor cells in clinically localized clear cell carcinoma patients.”
  4. Elena Komarova, PhD, Department of Cell Stress Biology, received $75,000 to support her project “Novel anticancer immunotherapy based on TLR-5 expressing and PDL1-inhibiting adenovirus.”
  5. Boris Kuvshinoff, MD, Department of Surgical Oncology, received $63,935 for his project on “Liver surgery preplanning using simulation system with risk assessment.”
  6. Yingyu Ma, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received $52,738 to support her project “Role of miR-101-3p in 1,25D3 regulation of bladder cancer cell migration and invasion.”
  7. Sara Pokharel, MD, Department of Pathology, received $60,697 to support her project “Protective effects of a novel peptide Ac-SDKP for cancer radiotherapy-induced cardiac damage.”
  8. Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, Department of Immunology, received $100,000 to support her research on “Overcoming stress hormone signaling to improve immunotherapy for cancer.
  9. Thomas Schwaab, MD, PhD, Department of Urology, received a grant of $100,000 to support his research on “Status of circulating monocyte subsets determines quality and efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines.” 

Two other promising studies that the Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed and recommended for funding were funded through a separate Institute allocation:

  1. Maciej Goniewicz, PharmD, PhD, Department of Health Behavior, received $98,656 from the Cancer Center Support Grant Developmental Funds allocation to support his research project titled “Effect of novel electronic nicotine delivery devices on respiratory cells."
  2. Rodney Haring, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention, received $86,550 from the Cancer Center Support Grant Developmental Funds allocation to support his project on “Developing an obesity cancer module for use in the workplace with a high-risk population, Native Americans.”

The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation raises funds for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in support of research and patient-care programs. The Alliance Foundation is consistently ranked among the top charitable organizations in the United States for fiscal responsibility by Charity Navigator and has met the Better Business Bureau’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.


The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, Roswell Park is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or email Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

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