Research at Roswell Park Gets 3rd Quarter Boost with More Than $12.7 Million in New Grant Funding

Awards support investigations into breast cancer, resistant prostate cancer and new immunotherapy approaches

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center was awarded more than $12.7 million in new grant funding during the third quarter of 2016, the majority of those funds from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). These recent awards include two large NCI grants to Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Senior Vice President for Population Sciences at the Institute, for her work in the area of breast cancer population research and more than $1.6 million in supplemental awards to the Institute’s five-year, $19 million NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), the coveted award that accompanied renewal of the Institute’s NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation in 2014.

Dr. Ambrosone and Lawrence Kushi, ScD, of Kaiser Permanente Northern California are principal investigators on a grant to maintain the Pathways study, a prospective study of lifestyle and genetic factors that may affect breast cancer outcomes. Roswell Park was awarded five-year funding of nearly $2.9 million to store and manage genomic samples and breast tumor tissue for future investigations. It is hoped that these efforts will provide an invaluable resource for research into predictors of breast cancer treatment outcomes. The second grant to Dr. Ambrosone, a five-year, $1.2 million subcontract award through Vanderbilt University, funds work on the Breast Cancer Genetic Study in African American Populations, a multi-institutional collaborative effort to sequence tumors and identify rare variants that may increase susceptibility to aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Christine Ambrosone
Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Senior Vice President for Population Sciences

“This community knows and loves Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center as a place of healing and hope,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “The federal investments reaffirm a national confidence in Roswell Park as a place where cutting-edge research brings us closer to a cure.”

“We are incredibly proud of the Roswell Park faculty members who successfully competed with applicants from all over the country to bring these funds to Western New York,” says Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, Deputy Director, Chair of Gynecologic Oncology and Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy at Roswell Park, who himself will help to lead three funded projects awarded a total of approximately $1.77 million.

Other recent Roswell Park grantees and their research projects are described below.

David Goodrich, PhD, Professor of Oncology, and Leigh Ellis, PhD, Assistant Professor of Oncology, both from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received a five-year, $2.5 million award from the NCI for their research on recurrent and resistant metastatic prostate cancer. Their project seeks to identify the mechanisms underlying resistant disease, which occurs after initially effective androgen-deprivation therapy, and to test new therapeutic approaches for blocking or reversing those mechanisms.

Dr. Odunsi, mentioned above, received a five-year, $1.16 million award renewing a grant from the NCI for a Roswell Park fellowship program that helps surgical oncologists develop skills and expertise in basic science and translational research to prepare them for successful independent research careers, balancing clinical and laboratory skills training.

Hans Minderman, PhD, Assistant Director of the Flow and Image Cytometry Facility, received a five-year, nearly $1.3 million NCI Research Specialist Award. These awards support exceptional scientists who pursue research within the context of an existing cancer research program and who are vital to sustaining the biomedical research enterprise.

Andrei Bakin, PhD, Assistant Member of the Department of Cancer Genetics, received a three-year, $642,124 grant from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program to investigate a novel pathway driving the development of metastatic breast cancer. His team exploits novel anticancer agents that can suppress breast cancer progression and enhance the anticancer activity of therapeutic agents.

Dr. Odunsi and Junko Matsuzaki, PhD, Director of the Immune Analysis Facility, received a one-year, $550,298 award from the NCI supplementing the previously awarded Roswell Park–UPCI Ovarian Cancer SPORE. They are working to develop predictive biomarkers aimed at improving outcomes in immunotherapy clinical trials.

Xuefang Cao, MD, PhD, Associate Member of the Department of Immunology, received a two-year, $435,234 NCI grant for an investigation into the way that adrenaline stress hormones affect immune response. The goal of this work is to manipulate adrenaline signaling to improve outcomes of bone marrow transplantation.

Maansi Bansal-Travers, PhD, MS, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior, received a two-year, $416,535 award from the NCI to assess the impact of different pharmacy tobacco retail displays on smokers’ awareness, perceptions and intentions to quit smoking.

Emese Zsiros, MD, PhD, FACOG, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology, received a one-year, $73,887 grant from X4 Pharmaceuticals Inc. to investigate the efficacy of a new pharmaceutical agent on ovarian cancer tumor growth.

Hayley Affronti, BS, a predoctoral student, received the NCI’s Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award, a new and highly competitive grant that includes support for two years of her predoctoral research at Roswell Park. With the sponsorship of Dominic Smiraglia, PhD, Director of Graduate Studies for the Cellular and Molecular Biology PhD Program, Affronti will receive $59,600 for her work to test new combination therapies that accentuate metabolic strain and block a stress relief pathway in order to treat prostate cancer.

The six one-year supplemental awards to the Institute’s 2014 CCSG grant, which are intended to support the leadership, administrative and research work, were awarded to the following Roswell Park faculty members:

  • Barbara Foster, PhD, Professor of Oncology in the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, received $749,842 for a project to enhance preclinical drug development for squamous non-small-cell lung cancer.
  • Richard Koya, MD, PhD, Associate Director of the Center for Immunotherapy, received $447,972 for his work in cancer immunotherapy based on new approaches for improving T cell recognition of cancer cells.
  • Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Associate Member of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, received $199,940 for her work examining opportunities and barriers related to cancer prevention and control.
  • Carl Morrison, MD, DVM, Executive Director of the Center for Personalized Medicine, received $100,000 supporting his contributions to the NCI’s repository of patient tumor samples, a resource that supports drug development.
  • Dr. Odunsi received a third award, a $62,500 grant to conduct an NCI-supported immunotherapy clinical trial through the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN). As a member site of the ETCTN, this trial will provide our patients with increased access to immunotherapy agents under NCI development.
  • Marc Ernstoff, MD, Senior Vice President for Clinical Investigation and Katherine Anne Gioia Chair of Medicine, received $50,000 for his work in recruiting participants to ETCTN studies.


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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