Stephanie Correa, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Tamoxifen is an extremely effective drug for patients with estrogen sensitive breast cancer but it comes with a variety of side effects, including hot flashes. We use mice to test if symptoms similar to hot flashes are mediated by the effects of tamoxifen on the brain. We study a region of the brain that is very sensitive to estrogen and controls body temperature. We have identified differences in this region that are associated with changes in body temperature during tamoxifen treatment. Our immediate goal is to test if we can use this knowledge to block temperature changes in mice receiving tamoxifen. Our hope is that these studies could one day help us reduce hot flashes and improve the lives of breast cancer patients and survivors.

Hanlee Ji, M.D.

Funded by Gastric Cancer Foundation

My research interest is cancer genetics with an emphasis on clinically relevant questions that will improve our understanding of the cancer genetics of clinical phenotype and simultaneously improve patient care in oncology.  I have extensive bench research experience in the fields of genome sequencing technology development, human genetic analysis through human genome sequencing and molecular assay development.  My research benefits from the various innovations in genomic and genetic technologies that my group has developed. 

James Ford, M.D.

Funded in partnership with the Goldberg Family Foundation

We need better tools to screen for and diagnose cancer earlier and at a curable stage in individuals that carry inherited mutations such as BRCA1/2 and other cancer susceptibility genes that put them at high risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and other cancersWe propose to use powerful new approaches for “next-generation” DNA sequencing from standard blood samples to identify circulating tumor DNA mutations as a very sensitive marker of early cancers in high-risk individuals.  These “liquid biopsies may prove to be a far easier and more sensitive way to screen for cancer than our current imaging based approaches using mammograms, MRI’s, etc.  To this end, we have been collecting blood samples from our genetically high-risk patients with and without cancer, and before and after prophylactic or cancer surgeries, for liquid-biopsy analyses using technology developed at Stanford.   

Judith Villablanca, M.D.

Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

Only half of children with neuroblastoma that is found to be “high-risk” (HR-NB) live after getting the best known treatments. To change this, we need to know what makes HR-NB grow, and find new targets to attack. The New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) (www.nant.org) is a team of doctors working with patients and/or in labs to find new treatment ideas and test them in children whose tumor didn’t go away after getting the best known treatments. If NANT’s new treatments are safe and make some tumors get smaller, they are then tested in more children to see if the new treatment is better than the best-known treatments. A little blood, bone marrow, and tumor are also taken from patients on NANT treatments to study in labs to see why our new idea did or didn’t work, and how we can make them better. There are 18 NANT hospitals in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe. NANT is the only group working only on new/better HR-NB treatments.  This grant will support NANT doctors, labs, and the people who work in the NANT office to quickly take new ideas from labs and turn them into treatments being given to children with HR-NB. It also helps us to store patient samples so they can be used to keep finding new and better ideas. Our goal is to find safe treatments that will help more children with HR-NB to live.

Hanlee Ji, M.D.

Funded by the Gastric Cancer Foundation

Project 1: My research interest is cancer genetics with an emphasis on clinically relevant questions that will improve our understanding of the cancer genetics of clinical phenotype and simultaneously improve patient care in oncology.  I have extensive bench research experience in the fields of genome sequencing technology development, human genetic analysis through human genome sequencing and molecular assay development.  My research benefits from the various innovations in genomic and genetic technologies that my group has developed.

Project 2: Based on a series of recent discoveries using cutting edge tools in genomics, we have (1) identified a new targeted way of treating metastatic gastric cancer and (2) pioneered a new way of determining how gastric cancer cells control normal cells in the surrounding stomach tissue.

Our overall goal for this project is to use single cell genomic sequencing to identify new drug targets by analyzing primary gastric cancers from metastatic patients.

Project 3: Based on a series of recent discoveries using cutting edge tools in genomics, we have (1) identified a new targeted way of treating metastatic gastric cancer and (2) pioneered a new way of determining how gastric cancer cells control normal cells in the surrounding stomach tissue.

Our overall goal for this project is to determine if our new discovery of a drug combination will improve the treatment of metastatic gastric cancers with the FGFR2 defect.

Aniruddha Deshpande, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Cure rates for childhood leukemia have considerably improved in the last few years. Despite this, there are certain sub-sets of leukemia that do not respond well to current therapies. Currently used treatments are often extremely aggressive and non-specific, leading to significant debilitating effects in these patients. The overall objective of this application is to validate exciting new therapeutic targets that we have identified in high-risk subsets of AML using genetic and chemical approaches. 

Yong Zhang, Ph.D.

V Scholar Plus Award – extended funding for exceptional V Scholars

Cancer cells contain a set of highly active proteins. They can add small groups to a series of target proteins. These uncommon additions are often linked with tumors found in breast, liver, and other tissues. To date, it is still unclear how those aberrant additions cause cancer. To answer this question, it is crucial to know all the interaction targets for the additions in cancer cells. But no method has been made available to resolve this key issueIn this project we are aimed to create an innovative platform to achieve this goalOur research plan will use chemistry and biotechnology to make new tools for target identification. A particular member in this group will be chosen for this work. Because it shows much higher activities in diverse types of cancerThe full range of interacting targets for this protein will be clearly determinedMoreover, the patterns and levels of such interactions in cancer cells can be precisely measured by our creative approach. These findings will unveil the interaction networks of this cancerous protein to guide our further studies. The fundamental knowledge obtained from this work will advance our understanding of cancerImportantly, it will foster the development of new approaches for cancer detection and treatment. 

Sabine Mueller, M.D., Ph.D.

Vintner Grant in Memory of Shunsuke Yamamoto

Children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma– a specific brain tumor type- continue to have a dismal prognosis and most children die from this disease within months from diagnosis.  Despite multiple national clinical trials, no change in outcome has been achieved over the last several decades. Two potential reasons why we have not made any progress in this disease are a) treatment is not matched to each child’s individual tumor characteristics and b) due to the presence of a tight blood-brain barrier medications given either by mouth or vein are not getting in sufficient enough concentrations to the tumor. To address these issues we are currently conducting a clinical trial through the Pacific Neuro-Oncology Consortium (www.pnoc.us, PNOC003). In this trial we will profile each child’s tumor with state of the art next generation sequencing and determine a treatment plan based on the specific characteristics of the tumor. A specialized tumor board that consists of several neuro-oncologist, pharmacologists and researches with an expertise in next generation sequencing meet and discuss the results and determine a specialized treatment plan, which consists of up to four FDA approved drugs. Specific attention is being paid to the drug brain penetration of recommended drugs. Correlative aims of this feasibility study is to develop patient derived mouse models as well as to test if tumor specific DNA can be detected in blood and be used as a marker for clinical response.

Roger Lo, M.D., Ph.D.

RAS is a gene when mutated causes a wide variety of human cancers. However, there is no specific therapy against cancers driven by RAS mutations. Metastatic melanoma is an aggressive skin cancer, and up to a third of cases are caused by RAS mutations. In this study, we propose to develop a specific therapy against RAS mutated melanoma. This therapy involves starting with one drug that optimizes the patient’s own immune system against the cancer followed by adding on a second drug that blocks an overactive cancer-causing pathway driven by mutated RAS. We will first test this therapy in animal models in order to understand the mechanisms. We will then begin to design and initiate a clinical trial to test this regimen in patients whose melanoma harbor RAS mutations. Thus, we will test the hypothesis that distinct drugs when combined in a specific sequence may have dramatic anti-cancer effects not expected of individual drugs.

Hanlee Ji, M.D.

Funded by the Gastric Research Foundation

My research interest is cancer genetics with an emphasis on clinically relevant questions that will improve our understanding of the cancer genetics of clinical phenotype and simultaneously improve patient care in oncology. I have extensive bench research experience in the fields of genome sequencing technology development, human genetic analysis through human genome sequencing and molecular assay development. My research benefits from the various innovations in genomic and genetic technologies that my group has developed.

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