The V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded in 1993 by ESPN and legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano to fund cancer research, has awarded three Dana-Farber scientists grants totaling $1 million to study various aspects of cancer development.
With a V Foundation Translational Grant, Irene Ghobrial, MD, director of the Clinical Investigator Research Program and a Lavine Family Chair for Preventative Cancer Therapies at Dana-Farber, is defining the role of the immune microenvironment in multiple myeloma precursor conditions.
Multiple myeloma is often preceded by asymptomatic precursor conditions that can progress into overt disease; however, there are no effective therapies to prevent disease progression, and most patients do not receive treatment until they actually develop cancer.
In order to treat patients before they become symptomatic, Ghobrial’s study aims to reveal immune biomarkers that predict disease progression and identify patients who will likely progress early. She and her colleagues are examining how patients’ immune systems change in response to treatments that target immune cells. These studies will support the development of new treatments that may slow or altogether stop progression of precursor conditions.
“The current standard of care for patients with myeloma precursors is to ‘watch and wait’ until they progress to advanced-stage disease, at which point they may already suffer irreversible effects from the disease,” said Ghobrial. “I am grateful for the V Foundation’s support of our efforts to develop novel immunotherapies to stop these precursors from ever becoming active myeloma.”
In addition, Volker Hovestadt, PhD, and Amy Si-Ying Lee, PhD, each received V Scholar Grants from the foundation, which support young faculty early in their research careers.
Hovestadt is using genomic and computational techniques to study microRNAs—small molecules that bind to messenger RNA and block it from making proteins—across different types of childhood brain cancers. His research may result in a better understanding of how microRNAs cause brain cancers and lead to better treatments for children with these tumors.
Lee’s work focuses on how translation, the process by which genetic material is converted from RNA into proteins, is regulated in cancer cells. She is studying a protein complex known as eIF3, which is overexpressed in several cancers and leads to poor prognosis, to determine whether it contributes to the translation of cancer-causing proteins and evaluate its potential as a therapeutic target.
“From increasing our understanding of cancer biology to targeted therapies, these projects show immense potential to make a significant impact in the cancer space. We applaud these scientists at Dana-Farber and are proud to work with them to save lives and create hope for patients,” said V Foundation CEO Shane Jacobson.