Grants News

  • KorkyaHasan Korkaya, DVM, PhD, brings to the GRU Cancer Center the remainder of his 3-year Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Career Catalyst Research grant “Targeting breast cancer stem cells by blocking both intrinsic (Akt) and extrinsic (IL-6) signaling pathways in metastatic mouse xenograft models” that was awarded $450K during his tenure at the University of Michigan.This research will investigate the role of signals from the tumor microenvironment in regulating breast cancer stem cells (CSCs) and will determine whether inhibition of both intrinsic (PI3-K/Akt) and extrinsic (IL-6) signals will effectively target aggressive breast CSCs in mouse xenograft models of aggressive metastatic breast cancer, developed by the Korkaya laboratory. This unique approach simultaneously targets two most important signals believed to contribute to the aggressive/metastatic breast cancer phenotype.  Since an IL-6 inhibitor is already FDA-approved for rheumatoid arthritis and has been under preclinical studies for number of human malignancies as a single agent, the present study has the potential of rapidly translating into the clinic.


  • CelisEsteban Celis, MD, PhD, brings to the GRU Cancer Center the remainder of his NCI/NIH R01 grant, “Treatment of Melanoma with Optimized Peptide Vaccines” that was awarded $1.7M during his tenure at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL.Using a mouse model of malignant melanoma, this research will optimize a novel, 3-component vaccine developed by the Celis laboratory to generate preclinical data that will allow this approach to be explored in the clinic to treat human patients with melanoma and other types of cancers.


  • HeYukai He, MD, PhD, received a 5-year, $1.6M R01 grant from NIH/NCI for “Engineering alpha fetoprotein and glypican-3 to develop hepatoma (HCC) vaccines.” This project is proposed to develop an effective hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) vaccine through innovative antigen engineering to prevent autochthonous HCC in an animal model. The study will generate critical preclinical data that can help the development of a human HCC vaccine, which eventually lead to novel adjuvant therapy to prevent HCC post-surgery relapse. An HCC vaccine also offers an attractive approach to prevent HCC de novo development in high risk populations, shifting the focus of HCC management from therapy to prevention, which is what a vaccine does best.


  • KongFeng-Ming (Spring) Kong, MD, PhD, brings to the GRU Cancer Center the remaining 2 years  of her 5-year NCI/NIH R01 grant, “Functional Image and Molecular Marker to Individualize Adaptive Radiation Dose Escalation” that was awarded $2.0M during her tenure at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The goal of this research is to identify markers to predict treatment outcome for lung cancer patients and to study the potential for personalized care to improve treatment outcome.


  • khleifSamir Khleif, MD, received a 1-year, $187.5K grant from NewLink Genetics Corporation for “Elucidation of biomarkers associated with administration of IDO-inhibitors.”­­­ Research in the Khleif laboratory focuses on understanding interactions between the immune system and tumors to then develop novel immunotherapies against cancer.  Support from NewLink Genetics will fund research designed to identify unique genetic signatures associated with successful immunotherapy against IDO protein signaling – signaling that is used by tumors to escape immune-mediated rejection.  The group has established a technique for taking pre- and post-treatment biopsies that will facilitate this biomarker discovery.
Written by
Allison Brown
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Written by Allison Brown

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