ATA announces research grants to support projects proposed by young researchers

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is pleased to announce that grants have been awarded to support projects proposed by leading young researchers. Three of these projects involve the genetic analysis of thyroid tumors carrying the BRAFV600E mutation, which is associated with the development of some forms of thyroid cancer and increased risk for distant metastases, more advanced disease, and higher mortality. These studies aim to identify molecular markers that help clinicians assess patient risk and tailor treatments to improve patient outcomes and minimize side effects.

"One important function of the American Thyroid Association is to review and fund early career research grants submitted by promising young investigators," says Robert C. Smallridge, MD, ATA President. "This year, meritorious proposals from both PhD scientists and clinician investigators, both within the United States and internationally, were selected. When completed, these awards will result in the publication of important new observations, and hopefully help the investigators in their requests for further research funding from federal sources."

Ming Li, MD, PhD, Staff Physician and Assistant Professor, Phoenix VA Health Care System, AZ, proposed the project entitled "Studying the Genetic Basis of Advanced Differentiated Thyroid Cancer by Forward Genetics Screening with Thyroid-specific Random Transposon Insertional Mutagenesis." By creating a genetic mouse model of advanced differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC), the most common type of endocrine malignancy, Dr. Li has been able to generate samples of advanced DTC lesions. The proposed research project will analyze the DNA from these lesions to identify the genes (and mutations in those genes) that may be responsible for metastatic behavior of the tumors, and then to compare those to mutations present in human DTC tumor samples.

Laura Boucai, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, received a "Bite Me Cancer" research grant to support her project entitled "Evaluation of a Gene Expression Classifier Derived from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Analysis to Predict Clinical Behavior of BRAF-Mutant Thyroid Carcinomas." BRAFV600E mutations play an important role in driving the development of most cases of papillary thyroid cancer (PTC), but BRAF-mutant PTCs are heterogeneous, and there are subpopulations of tumors with different biological characteristics. Dr. Boucai's project will analyze the genes expressed in these different subpopulations, with the hope that this information will give a better understanding of tumor behavior and help guide treatment decisions.

Carrie Lubitz, MD an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School has been awarded a ThyCa Research Grant for her project "Clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of a novel blood-based assay for circulating BRAFV600E in patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma." Her project aims to assess the clinical use and value of a blood test for the identification of patients with a high risk tumor mutation found in thyroid cancers, BRAFV600E, that previously could only be assessed invasively with a tissue biopsy. The implications of a blood-based assay that can identify the BRAF mutation may enable more targeted and efficient management of patients with thyroid cancer, influence clinical practice, and ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes.

"The ATA research grant program has played an increasingly influential role in encouraging, attracting and supporting early-stage faculty scientists in embarking on an academic career in thyroidology," says Mingzhao Xing, MD, PhD, ATA Research Committee Chair. "This year we have received a record-breaking number of applications from all over the world. It is exciting to see outstanding, talented young investigators, representing various areas of thyroidology, become the finalists to receive this prestigious award, providing a new source for future leaders in thyroidology."

Source:

American Thyroid Association (ATA)

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