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$1.6M in Fellowship Grants Awarded to Early-Career Investigators Mentored by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Princeton University Scientists

New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research supports basic science exploration
October 3, 2018

New Brunswick, N.J. - Mentored by scientists from Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at Princeton University and Rutgers University, early-career investigators received a combined $1,600,000 in funding to support basic science research that could impact breast, colorectal, lung and other cancers. The Pre- and Post-Doctoral Fellowship Grants were awarded by the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research (NJCCR).

“Investing in cancer research is vital, as seminal discoveries in the laboratory translate to cancer treatments of the future. As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute is committed to mentoring the next generation of investigators so that we may learn more about the underlying mechanisms of cancer. We thank the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research for its support and sharing in our mission,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute Deputy Director, Chief Scientific Officer and Associate Director for Basic Science Eileen White, PhD, who is also a distinguished professor of molecular biology and biochemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University.

“Collaboration between academic institutions, industry and other organizations is critical when it comes to elucidating the inner workings of cancer. This support from the New Jersey Commission on Cancer Research enables basic research programs at Rutgers Cancer Institute and Princeton and Rutgers Universities to work together to fuel innovative breakthroughs that will impact tomorrow’s patients. We are grateful to NJCCR for its support,” adds Rutgers Cancer Institute Associate Director for Consortium Research Yibin Kang, PhD, who is also the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Princeton University and Rutgers Cancer Institute have been partnering as a cancer research consortium for nearly a decade.

The following investigators received a Post-Doctoral Fellowship Award in the amount of $100,000 each:

  • Andreas Kourouklis, PhD, Princeton University – Project: YAP-Regulated Metastasis in Engineered Human Breast Tumors -  Mentor: Celeste M. Nelson, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; professor of chemical and biological engineering, Princeton University
  • Anshuman Panda, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Mechanisms and Biomarkers of Response to Immune Checkpoint Therapy - Mentor: Shridar Ganesan, MD, PhD, resident member, co-leader, Clinical Investigations and Precision Therapeutics Program and chief of molecular oncology, associate director for translational research at Rutgers Cancer Institute; associate professor of medicine and pharmacology, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and the Omar Boraie Chair in Genomic Science at Rutgers University
  • Khoosheh Khayati, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Targeting Creatine Kinase Metabolism to Improve Kras-driven Lung Cancer Treatment – Mentor: Yanxiang (Jessie) Guo, PhD, resident member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and assistant professor of medicine, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Akshada Sawant, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Identifying Mechanisms by which Tumors with High Mutation Burden Respond to Immunotherapy - Mentor: Eileen White, PhD, resident member, co-leader, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program, and deputy director, chief scientific officer, associate director for basic science at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and distinguished professor of molecular biology and biochemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University
  • Lei Chen, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Mechanisms Controlling Colorectal Oncogenesis by the Transcription Factor HNF4 – Mentor: Michael Verzi, PhD, member, Genomic Instability and Cancer Genetics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and associate professor of genetics in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University
  • Fenfang Chen, PhD, Princeton University – Project: Identification and Characterization of Novel Long-Non-Coding RNAs in TGFb Signaling – Mentor: Yibin Kang, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program and, associate director for consortium research at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and the Warner-Lambert/Parke-Davis Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University
  • Ning Ang Liu, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Role of 53BP1 in the development and therapy of BCCIP Deficient Breast Cancer – Mentor: Zhiyuan Shen, MD, PhD, resident member, co-leader, Genomic Instability and Cancer Genetics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and professor of radiation oncology and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Shashikala Sasidharan, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Regulation of Cadherin Trafficking to Apical Junctions Requires Branched Actin Regulator – Mentor: Martha Soto, PhD, researcher in the Graduate Programs in Molecular Biosciences in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University; and associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • LiFeng Yang, PhD, Princeton University – Project: Mitochondrial Serine Catabolism Regulates NADH Pool in an Arrest Mitochondrion – Mentor: Joshua D. Rabinowitz, MD, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program, and director of the Metabolomics Service Shared Resource at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and professor of chemistry at the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University
  • Gabriele Vincelli, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Understanding the Mechanisms of BRCA2 in DNA Replication and Cell Cycle Checkpoints – Mentor: Bing Xia, PhD, resident member, Genomic Instability and Cancer Genetics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and associate professor of radiation oncology and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Kubra Karagos, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: ADNP is an Essential Driver of High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer – Mentor: Michael L. Gatza, PhD, resident member, Genomic Instability and Cancer Genetics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and assistant professor of radiation oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Jennah Sontag, PhD, Rutgers University – Project: Using Digital Media to Increase Effectiveness of Communication about Tobacco Cessation and Harm-reduction Strategies for Adult Smokers Living with Children – Mentor: Cristine Delnevo, PhD, MPH, co-leader, Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and director, Center for Tobacco Studies and professor of social and behavioral health sciences at Rutgers School of Public Health (**This award is funded in the amount of $50,000.)

    The following investigators received a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award in the amount of $50,000 each:

  • Bahar Javdan, Princeton University – Project: Investigating the Impact of the Human Gut Microbiome on the Metabolism of Oral Cancer - Mentor: Mohamed S. Abou Donia, PhD, principal investigator, Donia Laboratory and assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton University
  • Carly Garrison, Princeton University – Project: Modulating the Alignment of Extracelluar Matrix Fibrils to Control Tumor Cell Invasion – Mentor: Jean E. Schwarzbauer, PhD,  member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and Eugene Higgins Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University
  • Marc Brillantes, Rutgers University – Project: Regulation of Natural Killer Cell Expansion in Anti-Tumor Immunity – Mentor: Aimee Beaulieu, PhD, assistant professor and Chancellor Scholar, Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics and the Center for Immunity and Inflammation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
  • Benjamin Winer, Princeton University – Project: Characterizing the Molecular Determinants of Viral Hepatitis Induced Liver Cancer – Mentor: Alexander Ploss, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and associate professor of molecular biology at Princeton University
  • Caitlyn Moore, Rutgers University – Project: The Role of Perivascular Bone Marrow Microenvironment in Breast Cancer Dormancy – Mentor: Pranela Rameshwar, PhD, member, Cancer Pharmacology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and professor of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
  • Harry Hurley, Rutgers University – Project: Metabolic Regulation of Tumor Iummnosurveillance – Mentor: Patricia Fitzgerald-Bocarsly, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and vice chair and professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Center for Immunity and Inflammation at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
  • Jui Wan Loh, Rutgers University – Project: Investigating Clonal Dynamics of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Under Targeted Therapy – Mentor: Hossein Khiabanian, PhD, resident member, Genomic Instability and Cancer Genetics Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Unnati Chauhan, Rutgers University – Project: New tRNAses for Cancer Treatment – Mentor: Nancy Woychik, PhD, member at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • Joseph Bulatowicz, Rutgers University – Project: Cell Stress and Metastasis in Breast Cancer – Mentor: Teresa L. Wood, PhD, member, Cancer Metabolism and Growth Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute; and professor of pharmacology, physiology, and neuroscience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

The award period runs through 2019.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not available at other facilities across the state.  Patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies throughout the state at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark, as well as at RWJBarnabas Health. 

Along with world-class treatment, which is often fueled by on-site research conducted in Rutgers Cancer Institute laboratories, patients and their families also can seek cancer preventative services and education resources throughout the Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health footprint statewide. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 848-932-8013 or visit www.cinj.org/giving.

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