In 2020, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) named Kenneth Kehl, MD, MPH, David Liu, MD, MPH, MS, and Srinivas Viswanathan, MD, PhD, as recipients of the Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development Award. The award provides grants to early career physician-scientists to facilitate their transition to independent clinical research careers. Since the beginning of the program in 1998, the foundation has awarded 339 Clinical Scientist Development Awards totaling over $152 million to junior investigators around the country working in a broad range of disease areas. Kehl, Liu, and Viswanathan received grants totaling more than $1.4 million to pursue their independent research studies into melanoma, lung cancer, and kidney cancer, respectively.
Kehl’s research focuses on training machine learning models to measure cancer outcomes based on data in patients’ electronic health records. Using “deep natural language processing” to replicate human curation, Kehl’s model generated outcomes that aligned with the actual overall patient outcomes in patients with lung cancer. With the funding from DDCF, Kehl will be able to improve upon and expand these techniques to other types of cancer and other types of treatment.
Liu is investigating the biological markers of tumor progression and resistance in metastatic melanoma. By using computational techniques from machine learning and statistical analyses on patient samples collected over time and treatment, he is tracing and analyzing the evolution of these tumors to create predictive models that can be used to advance precision medicine in melanoma.
Viswanathan is working to identify potential therapeutic targets for a rare, highly aggressive form of renal cell carcinoma called translocation renal cell carcinoma (tRCC). Previous studies into this disease have been limited in scale, though enough data exists to suggest that tRCC has a molecular profile that is distinct from more common types of kidney cancer. Fueled by the funding from DDCF, Viswanathan will analyze existing patient data to define tRCC’s distinct molecular profile, which will then be used to uncover novel therapeutic targets for the disease.
“We’re thrilled to support Kenneth Kehl, MD, MPH, David Liu, MD, MPH, and Srinivas Viswanathan, MD, PhD, and their important medical research through the 2020 Clinical Scientist Development Awards,” said Betsy Myers, program director for medical research at DDCF. “It is vital to support physician scientists at this crucial stage of their careers. We look forward to seeing the results of this clinical research and how they will continue to bring insights from their direct interactions with patients as their careers develop over the long term.”
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has been a valued partner to Dana-Farber for two decades, having awarded close to $15 million in grants.