The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has selected four early career scientists to receive a total of $275,000 in research awards, including one winner of the ASTRO Junior Faculty Career Research Training Award and three recipients of ASTRO Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Grants. All winners will be recognized at ASTRO’s 58th Annual Meeting, Sept. 25-28, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
“ASTRO awards and grants support work in the field of radiation and cancer biology, radiation physics and translational research,” said ASTRO Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO. “These grants have been given for over a decade. With these four grants this year, we are excited to continue to fund important research in radiation oncology as part of the society’s overall effort to prevent, treat and cure malignancies.”
The ASTRO Junior Faculty Career Research Training Award gives early career physicians and researchers the opportunity to develop careers and focus on research relevant to radiation oncology, biology or physics. Recipients must be board-eligible physicians, physicists in radiation oncology or radiobiologists within the first three years of their junior faculty appointment. One junior faculty member was selected for this award, which provides $100,000 annually for two years.
The 2016 JFA grant recipient is Stephanie Markovina, MD, PhD, of Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Markovina served as chief resident and participated in the Holman Research Pathway during her clinical residency in radiation oncology at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital. She joined the faculty there as a physician scientist in 2015, and she is building her lab to study molecular mechanisms of radiation resistance in solid tumors, with a clinical focus on treating patients with anal cancer. Markovina is interested in understanding molecular mechanisms of radiation resistance in cervical cancer and other solid and HPV-related tumors. She will be investigating the role of the lysosome, a subcellular structure involved in protein breakdown, in tumor cell response to radiation and how these signaling pathways might be modulated in cervical cancer to increase the effectiveness of radiation and other anti-cancer therapies.
The ASTRO Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Award supports residents or fellows who are planning a career in basic science or clinical research in radiation oncology. Three researchers were selected for this award, which provides $25,000 per recipient for one year. The three 2016 Resident/Fellows in Radiation Oncology Research Seed Award recipients are:
• John Floberg, MD, PhD, PGY-3 resident, Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis. With his ASTRO seed grant, Floberg aims to develop a predictive biomarker for cervical cancer. He will investigate the use of functional imaging methods, including positron emission tomography (PET) and MRI, to assess the state of cervical cancer cells and predict how tumors will respond to therapies designed to enhance radiation sensitivity.
• Chirayu G. Patel, MD, MPH, radiation oncology resident, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee. Patel will use his seed funding to investigate altered tumor metabolism, particularly tumor reliance on the amino acid glutamine, as a mechanism of radioresistance in non-small cell lung cancer. He will explore if this altered metabolism occurs by increased scavenging of reactive oxygen species and will employ small molecule inhibitors to disrupt glutamine metabolism.
• Cheng-Chia “Fred” Wu, MD, PhD, radiation oncology resident, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, New York. With his ASTRO grant, Wu will investigate if the integrity of the blood brain barrier limits communication between the central nervous system and the systemic immune systems, namely whether the disruption of the blood brain barrier with focused ultrasound can enhance the effects of checkpoint inhibitor-targeted therapy and the abscopal effect in the brain.
All awardees must submit a report to ASTRO at the midterm and the conclusion of their research, and they are strongly encouraged to submit their study as an abstract in a subsequent ASTRO Annual Meeting. The grant winners are selected by ASTRO’s Research Grants Evaluation Committee within the Science Council and approved by the ASTRO Board of Directors.