Published OnlineFirst October 24, 2014; DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-NB2014-159


North Shore–LIJ Studios

Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s

PEOPLE David A. Williams, MD, chief of the division of hematology/ oncology and director of translational research at Boston Children’s Hospital, associate chairman of the department of pediatric oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, all in Boston, MA, became president of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in December. Serving a 1-year term, he succeeds Linda J. Burns, MD. His basic research has focused on hematopoietic stem cell biology. He has also been an investigator in multiple gene therapy trials for immunodeficiency, hematologic, and neurologic genetic diseases. Kanti R. Rai, MD, chief of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) research and treatment program at North Shore–Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System in New York, will receive the Wallace H. Coulter Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hematology on December 7 at the ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Francisco, CA. The award recognizes his landmark leukemia research, steadfast commitment to education and mentoring, and exceptional patient care. A professor of medicine at Hofstra North Shore–LIJ School of Medicine, he established the Rai prognostic categorization of CLL in 1975. Richard Marais, PhD, director of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, recently began a 2-year term as president of the European Association for Cancer Research. An expert in the underlying causes of melanoma, he has focused his research on how BRAF drives progression of the disease, work that has led to the development of new drugs. Prior to joining the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute in 2012, he spent 19 years at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, UK, studying cell signaling in melanoma.

NIH Funds High-Risk, High-Reward Research The NIH’s Common Fund has awarded 85 grants totaling $141 million to U.S. scientists pursuing highrisk, high-reward research that might lead to breakthroughs in cancer care and other areas of medicine. The awards provide 5 years of funding, ranging from approximately $250,000 to $1.5 million in direct costs per year, to individual investigators or teams working in areas deemed highly innovative or potentially groundbreaking. The program is intended to free talented researchers from the restrictions of traditional NIH Research Project Grants (RO1), which require extensive preliminary data and detailed annual budgets. “The awards give investigators the flexibility to alter the direction of their research as they progress,” says Ravi Basavappa, PhD, NIH Common Fund program director, who oversees the awards. “Our reviewers looked for projects with unusually broad and deep impact with the potential to inspire new ways of thinking about major challenges in important areas of research.” Denise Montell, PhD, professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at University of California, Santa Barbara, is one of 10 scientists selected for the prestigious Pioneer award, which provides $500,000 per year. Montell’s lab together with collaborators discovered that many different types of cells induced to undergo apoptosis are capable of returning to life—a process they call anastasis (Greek for “rising up”)—which could explain why some patients with cancer develop resistance to therapy or recurrences of their tumors following chemotherapy. “It’s possible that this intrinsic ability of cancer cells to bounce back from the brink of death may contribute to patients’ relapses,” she says. “If we can figure out at a molecular level what’s driving this recovery and gain control over it, we may be able to develop a treatment that would either prevent those cells from bouncing back or stimulate the revival mechanism so that beneficial cells survive better.”


Michelle Janelsins, PhD, recipient of one of 50 New Innovator awards, which provide $300,000 per year for early-career scientists who have not yet received an RO1 grant, is investigating the role of inflammation in chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment. She aims to identify inflammatory markers tied to cognitive problems in chemotherapy mouse models and then look for correlations in patients undergoing chemotherapy. “If there is an increase in inflammatory markers directly related to cognition, we might be able to develop an intervention, such as physical activity, that dampens levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines that could be related to toxicity,” says Janelsins. “If an intervention proves to be beneficial in mouse models, we can fine-tune the recommended amount and intensity before we move into a clinical study.” The grants also included eight Transformative Research awards, which support interdisciplinary projects by individuals or teams, and 17 Early Independence awards, which allow junior scientists to skip traditional postdoctoral training and move directly into independent research positions. “Although all of the projects have inherent risk, we are mitigating that risk by supporting researchers of unusual ability,” says Basavappa. “These researchers have track records of exceptional creativity, suggesting they are capable of overcoming significant conceptual and technical hurdles.” ■

European Cancer Consortium Launched Six of Europe’s top cancer centers have launched a new collaboration to share patient data and foster research on treatments. Unlike many institutional collaborations, which are usually temporary and dissolve after the projects are complete, Cancer Core Europe will be durable and involve substantial integration among the members, says Alexander Eggermont, MD, PhD, of the Gustave Roussy Cancer Campus Grand Paris in France. Along with Gustave Roussy, Cancer Core Europe includes the Cambridge Cancer Centre in the United Kingdom;

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Published OnlineFirst October 24, 2014; DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-NB2014-159

NIH Funds High-Risk, High-Reward Research Cancer Discovery 2014;4:1358. Published OnlineFirst October 24, 2014.

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NIH funds high-risk, high-reward research.

The NIH's Common Fund has awarded 85 grants totaling $141 million to U.S. investigators conducting research with the potential to lead to breakthrough...
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