Winners of the 2020 Lasker Essay Contest
Christine Alewine, National Cancer InstituteAlewine is conducting clinical trials to test the effectiveness of a recombinant immunotoxin in combination with standard-of-care chemotherapy in patients who have advanced pancreatic cancer. Recombinant immunotoxins are antibody-based anticancer therapeutics that deliver a potent bacterial toxin to cancer cells; the toxin halts protein synthesis in those cells. Her study may lead to advances in our understanding of whether immunotoxins can be used to treat pancreatic cancer and provide insight into technical aspects of this therapeutic strategy.
Courtney Fitzhugh, National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteFitzhugh is seeking to improve—and develop new—treatment options to achieve a cure for sickle-cell disease (SCD). Although matched-sibling bone-marrow transplantation offers the best treatment for people with SCD, only 15 to 20 percent of these patients have a complete sibling match. More than 90 percent have at least a half-match such as a parent, child, or half-matched siblings. Fitzhugh is developing an alternative option that involves such haploidentical donors. Her goal is to develop a widely available, successful half-matched transplant regimen.
Jung-Min Lee, National Cancer InstituteLee is conducting clinical and translational research to study the clinical activity and biomarkers of new immune-based DNA injury combination therapies in women who have recurrent ovarian cancer. Her research is focused on cancers that share similar molecular abnormalities: BRCA mutation-associated breast or ovarian cancer, high-grade epithelial ovarian cancer, and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). Lee’s clinical trial is the first to test the modulation of immune-checkpoint activity by increasing the antigenic microenvironment with active targeted therapy. The project may have a profound impact on the near- and long-term outcomes of women with recurrent ovarian cancer.
Frank Lin, National Cancer InstituteLin is using targeted radionuclide therapy (tRNT) to treat cancer. Unlike conventional external-beam radiation therapy, tRNT can target and treat cancer cells throughout the entire body and has the potential to deliver lethal radiation doses to even micro-metastases. He works with pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma, mesothelioma, and prostate cancer, but tRNT can be used to treat other malignancies, too. Lin hopes to demonstrate that tRNT can be used to treat a variety of malignancies including cancers that are highly resistant to other forms of therapy.
Anish Thomas, National Cancer InstituteThomas is a medical oncologist with a focus on clinical and translational research of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). His goal is to systematically develop more effective therapies for patients with SCLC and similar chemotherapy-refractory tumors by targeting key pathways involved in DNA replication, repair, and chromatin remodeling. His current work builds on more than six years of experience in clinical research of thoracic cancers.