Grant Recipients

2020

Taylor C. Brown, M.D., M.H.S.

Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Missouri

His project is titled “Mapping of Intratumoral Heterogeneity and Identification of Druggable Targets in Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer using Whole-Exome Sequencing.” This grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

Priya H. Dedhia, M.D., Ph.D.

The Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

Her project is titled “Stem Cell and Patient-Derived Models of Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” This grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.

Jennifer H. Kuo, M.D., M.S.

Columbia University
New York, New York

Her project is titled “RFA of Thyroid Nodules: Clinical Outcomes in the United States.” This grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.

Leila Shobab, M.D.

Medstar Washington Hospital Center
Washington, DC.

Her project is titled “Sex-Specific Immune Landscape of Differentiated Thyroid Cancer.” This grant is the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named in honor of one of ThyCa’s Co-Founders. This grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.


2019

Jennifer Wang, M.D., Sc.M.

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Her project is titled “Defining the Role of SWI/SNF Mutations in Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma.” This grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.

Vivian Weiss, M.D., Ph.D.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Nashville, Tennessee

Her project is titled “Immunologic Markers of Aggressive Thyroid Carcinoma.” This grant to Dr. Bikas is co-funded by ThyCa, and Bite Me Cancer in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.

Athanasios Bikas, M.D.

Medstar Georgetown University Hospital
Washington, District of Columbia

His project is titled “Targeting Mitochondrial Cytochrome-C-Oxidase for The Treatment of Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC).” This grant is co-funded by ThyCa, and Bite Me Cancer in cooperation with the American Thyroid Association.

Myriem Boufraqech, M.D., Ph.D.

Surgical Oncology Group, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland

This project is titled “Glutamine Metabolism Is a New Therapeutic Target in Thyroid Cancer.” This grant is the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named in honor of one of ThyCa’s Co-Founders. This ThyCa grant is awarded in cooperation with ATA.

Matthew A. Nehs M.D., F.A.C.S.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

This project is titled “Metabolic Inhibition of Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma (ATC).” This ThyCa grant is awarded in cooperation with the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.


2018

Wayne Miles, Ph.D.

Ohio State University School of Medicine

Columbus, Ohio. His project is titled “Proteomic-led Discovery of Essential Genes in Medullary Thyroid Cancer (MTC).” It focuses on how cancer cells adapt to the loss of the Retinoblastoma 1 (RB) tumor suppressor gene and which of these changes contribute to the survival and growth of MTC cells. This grant is a collaborative grant from ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc., and Bite Me Cancer.

Miles Miller, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

His project is titled “Co-opting Tumor-associated Macrophages in Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer (ATC) To Enhance Immune Checkpoint Blockade Response.” It will use advanced microscopy approaches to understand how macrophage subsets influence drug response in ATC, with the goal of aiding strategies for combination therapy, antibody engineering, and patient selection. This grant is this year’s Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake.

Brendan Frett, Ph.D.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas

His project is titled “Dual Inhibition of RET and Aurora B To Study the Simultaneous Regulation of Multiple Oncogene Pathways in Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” It will involve generating single-agent inhibitors of both RET and Aurora B to better target thyroid cancers expressing a RET oncogene.

Lawrence Andrew “Drew” Shirley, M.D., M.S.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Columbus, Ohio

His project is titled “Integrin-Linked Kinase Facilitates Communication Between Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts and Immune Cells in Papillary Thyroid Cancer.” The project will examine the role of cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) in thyroid cancer, because the critical role of CAFs in other cancers is well understood, but their role in thyroid cancer is largely unknown. Dr. Shirley’s research aims to assess their role in thyroid cancer in order to uncover new markers and targets for new treatments for patients with papillary thyroid cancer who fail traditional treatments and lack alternative therapies.

Heather Stapleton, Ph.D.

Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

Her project is titled “Investigating Environmental Exposures and Papillary Thyroid Cancer.” This multidisciplinary project will focus on Iredell County, North Carolina, because this county is indicated in the North Carolina cancer registry to have a higher thyroid cancer incidence than other counties in the state. The research effort will focus on chronic indoor exposure through dust or the water system, to chemicals associated with coal ash and to flame retardant chemicals that have previously been associated with papillary thyroid cancer.


2017

Glenn J. Hanna, M.D.

Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project titled “Correlating the Circulating Immune Profile with Response to Dual Immune Checkpoint Inhibition in Advanced Thyroid Cancer.” This project is applicable to advanced medullary thyroid cancer as well as differentiated thyroid cancer and focuses on identifying predictors or response or resistance to immune checkpoint two immune checkpoint inhibitors. Immune checkpoint inhibitors have demonstrated clinical benefit in a wide range of solid tumors. The research will profile the tumor microenvironment in immunotherapy-treated patients using multiparametric flow cytometry with the aim of correlating these findings with a novel, circulating immune checkpoint profiling assay. This grant is this year’s Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake.

Jens Lohr, M.D., Ph.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project “Characterization of Treatment Response in Thyroid Cancer by cfDNA.” This project seeks to explore if “liquid biopsy: can be used as a tool to gain insight into the tumor biology of thyroid cancer, simply from a vial of blood, and ultimately translate these findings into new targeted therapies. The project aims to develop novel biomarkers that allow for early detection of resistance to the newer targeted therapies for thyroid cancer that is refractory to radioactive iodine. The research will determine the tumor fraction, copy number alterations and somatic mutations from tumor-derived cfDNA, and compare with the results from tissue biopsy.

Vicki Emma Smith, Ph.D.

University of Birmingham College of Medical and Dental Sciences
Birmingham, United Kingdom

For the project titled “A New Molecular Switch in Thyroid Cancer.” This research will focus on a modified (phosphorylated) version of the PBF protein, as high PBF levels have been linked with more aggressive thyroid tumors and resistance to radioactive iodine treatment. The research will investigate the hypothesis that PBF-Y174 is a central thyroid signaling event that is dysregulated in thyroid tumors, in order to improve understanding of thyroid tumors and consider PDF phosphorylation as a potential new drug target for the treatment of thyroid cancer.

Melissa Wilson, M.D., Ph.D.

Medical Oncologist of New York University Langone Medical Center
New York, New York

For her project focusing on adjuvant targeted therapy to improve efficacy of radioactive iodine ablation in BRAF mutant papillary thyroid cancer. Dr. Wilson earned her Ph.D. at Georgetown University and her M.D. from Thomas Jefferson University, followed by residency and fellowship at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.


2016

Trevor Angell, M.D.

Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project titled “Assessment of Circulation Immune Suppressor Cells for Predicting Treatment Response in Follicular Cell Derived Thyroid Carcinoma.” In this study, prospectively enrolled patients will have peripheral blood myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC) measured before and after therapy for thyroid cancer. This will permit the examination of its role providing new personalized data to patients and their doctors to determine whether the cancer is present or spreading after treatment, in order to aid decisions about treatment or monitoring. Dr. Angell is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and is on the staff of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is a graduate of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he also completed a residency followed by a fellowship in which he focused on mechanisms of immune suppression in thyroid cancer.

Viswanath Gunda, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project titled “Combining Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors with BRAF Targeted Therapy in Thyroid Cancer.” The research seeks to understand the role of immune checkpoint receptors, PD-1/PD-L1 in thyroid cancer combinatorial and to combine therapies of these inhibitors with MAPKinase inhibitors (BRAF and MEK proteins) and multi-kinase VEGFR inhibitors to examine their synergistic effect on the treatment of aggressive thyroid cancer and their mechanism of action, with a focus on immune system interactions. Dr. Gunda is an Instructor in Cell Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital committed to translational research in thyroid cancer. A graduate of Sri Ramachandra University in India with high distinction, he completed his Ph.D. dissertation in Molecular Endocrinology, followed by a fellowship at the University of Utah. Next, he joined the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital as a Research Fellow. Dr. Gunda also coordinates the Endocrine Tumor Repository in the Surgery department at Massachusetts General Hospital

Nikita Pozdeyev, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Colorado
Aurora, Colorado

For the project titled “Rational combination therapies with lenvatinib for advanced thyroid cancer.” This grant is the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant. This project aims to develop rational drug combinations with lenvatinib to further improve the efficacy of systemic treatment for advanced progressivethyroid cancer. This multidisciplinary project combines functional genomics, high-throughput pharmacology, and bioinformatics to identify drugs and drug targets that will have synergistic anti-proliferative effects in combination with lenvatinib on thyroid cancer cells. Dr. Pozdeyev is on the staff of the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado. His research focuses on the study of pharmacogenomics relationships in thyroid cancer and the development of rational combination therapies for progressive metastatic thyroid cancer. A graduate of Saint Petersburg Pavlov State Medical University in Russia, he completed internship and residency programs at MedStar Harbor Hospital Center in Maryland, and a fellowship at the University of Colorado.


2015

Carrie Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H.

Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Carrie Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H. is the recipient of the 2015 Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake. Dr. Lubitz’s research is examining the clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of a novel blood-based assay for circulating BRAFV600E mutation in patients with papillary thyroid cancer, in order to enhance risk stratification, and identify patients who are likely to benefit from more aggressive interventions, and enable more targeted and efficient care. Dr. Lubitz completed her medical training at the University of Michigan Medical School, followed by further training at Weill-Cornell Medical College, and through the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Program in Cancer Outcomes Research Training, as well as earning her Master’s Degree in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Sarah Oltmann, M.D.

Sarah Oltmann, M.D., is the recipient of a 2015 grant for Medullary Thyroid Cancer Research. Her project will examine cancer progression and therapeutic response in a unique mouse model, with emphasis on increasing understanding of the natural history of metastatic disease and responses to treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Dr. Oltmann is director of endocrine surgery at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. She earned her medical degree at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, with further training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and University of Wisconsin.

Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., is awarded a grant for the project titled “Studying the Genetic Basis of Advanced Differentiated Thyroid Cancer by Forward Genetics Screening with Thyroid-specific Random Transposon Insertional Mutagenesis.” Dr. Ming Li completed his medical training at Beijing Medical University, Beijing, China, earned his Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine, and received further medical training at the University of Minnesota. He is now staff physician and assistant professor at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, where his focus is thyroid cancer.

Juan Nicola, Ph.D.

National University of Cordoba
Cordoba, Argentina

Juan Nicola, Ph.D., National University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Argentina, is receiving a grant for his research on “Uncovering Na+/I- Symporter (NIS) interacting proteins: Implications for radioiodide therapy efficiency and diagnosis of radioiodide-avid thyroid tumors.” Dr. Nicola earned his Ph.D. at National University of Córdoba, Cordoba, Argentina, and received the Latin American Thyroid Society young investigator award. He received postdoctoral training at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven Connecticut and then returned to the National University of Córdoba, where he is Research Assistant Professor.


2014

Elizabeth G. Grubbs, M.D., M.S.

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Elizabeth G. Grubbs, M.D., M.S., The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, for the project titled “Fusion Oncogenes as Drivers of Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” This project focuses on the role of RET fusion in MTC tumorigenesis, with the overall goal of showing that this gene rearrangement may predict biological behavior in MTC and that this pathway may be a viable target to (1) predict responses to targeted MTC therapy, (2) better stratify MTC patient outcomes and, for non-RET driven tumors, and (3) potentially offer a more rational approach to individualization of therapy.

Jason D. Prescott, M.D., Ph.D.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

For the project “Development of a High Throughput in vivo Screening System for Small Molecule Activators of Thyroid Differentiation: Identification and Targeting of New Molecular Pathways Involved Thyroid Cancer Progression.” This project seeks to (1) identify new molecular pathways and mechanisms contributing to aggressive thyroid cancer and progression involving the BRAF protooncogene and (2) assess compounds in a large drug library for their anti-thyroid tumor activity and their molecular actions.

Brian R. Untch, M.D.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York

For the project titled “Mechanisms of response and resistance to farnesyltransferase inhibition in HRAS-driven thyroid tumors.” Dr. Untch notes that HRAS mutations are the second most common type of RAS mutation found in thyroid cancer and can be found in different types of cancer. Building on prior research with poorly differentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer, the study will explore a class of drugs that are preferentially active against HRAS as compared to other mutations, to explore the mechanisms of adaptive and acquired resistance to a drug targeted against RAS in vitro and in vivo in a genetically accurate model of cancer. Dr. Untch’s group is also developing clinical trials with these drugs specifically for HRAS-mutant disease. This grant is this year’s Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant. These grants are named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake, in honor of his dedication and commitment to ThyCa and to our goal of better futures for everyone with thyroid cancer, everywhere in the world.


2013

Nicole Chau, M.D.

Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project “Overcoming Resistance to RET inhibitors in Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” Dr. Chau is a medical oncologist and the goal of this project is to compare the efficacy of current and novel RET inhibitors against specific oncogenic RET mutations in Medullary Thyroid Cancer and to predict and study acquired resistance mechanisms.

Brittany Bohinc, M.D.

Duke University Hospital
Durham, North Carolina

For the project “Overexpression of LGR4 and LGR5 in Human Thyroid Cancer Promotes Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling and is Associated with Tumor Aggressiveness.” This project will focus on understanding the role of specific pathways and markers in nodal metastases and aggressive tumor behavior, with this understanding aiding potential development of novel therapeutics in metastatic papillary thyroid cancer that is unresponsive to current therapies. This grant is the 2013 Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant.

Jaroslaw Jendrzejewski, M.D.

Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

For the project “Analysis of locus 14q13.3 in search of mutations predisposing to Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (PTC).” This two-step project aims to uncover mutations by combining second-generation sequencing with bioinformatic analysis of 14q13.3 locus, which genome wide association studies have identified as one of the most important in genetic predisposition to PTC.


2012

Niklas Finnberg, Ph.D.

Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute
Hershey, Pennsylvania

For the project titled “Sorafenib and Quinacrine as Potential Combination for Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma.”

Aime Franco, Ph.D.

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Little Rock, Arkansas

For the project titled “The Role of RAS versus RAF in Thyroid Cancer Development and Progression.”

Andreas Lundqvist, Ph.D.

Cancer Center Karolinska
Stockholm, Sweden

For the project titled “Study the Role of Natural Killer Cells in Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma.” Dr. Lundqvist is the recipient of the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant.


2011

Naifa L. Busaidy, M.D.

Department of Endocrine Neoplasia & Hormonal Disorders at the University of Texas – M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

For the project titled “A PI3K Based Phophoproteome Signature To Predict Prognosis and Response to Therapy in BRAF Mutant Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma.”

Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, M.D., Ph.D.

Washington Hospital Center/Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

For the project, “The Role of the Translocator Protein (TSPO) in the Thyroid Cancer Response to Treatment.”

Carmelo Nucera, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston, Massachusetts

For the project “Targeting BRAF V600E with an Orally Available Selective Inhibitor in Novel In Vitro and In Vivo Preclinical Models of Human Papillary Thyroid Cancer.”


2010

Rozita Bagheri-Yarmand, Ph.D.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer
Houston, Texas

Tania Pilli, M.D.

University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

For the project titled “The Role of MADD, an IG20 Gene Splice Variant, and Its Potential Use as Therapeutic Target in the Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer.”


2009

Dingxie Liu, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

For the project titled “Dually Targeting the MAP Kinase and PI3K Pathways in Thyroid Cancer – Testing of a Novel Therapeutic Approach.”

Martin Walter, M.D.

University Hospital Basel
Basel, Switzerland

For the project titled “Somatostatin-coupled Nanoparticles for Imaging and Therapy of Medullary Thyroid Cancer.”


2008

Mike S. Fenton, Ph.D.

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)/Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Health Care System
Los Angeles, California

For project on promoter gene regulation of the sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) gene expression in papillary thyroid cancer.

Libero Santarpia, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

For project on identifying the target genes of six microRNAs (miRNA) in medullary thyroid cancer.


2007

Krystian Jazdzewski, M.D., Ph.D.

Medical University of Gdansk, Poland, and Visiting Scientist, Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

For research on the role of miR146a in papillary thyroid carcinoma.

Mabel Ryder, M.D.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
New York, New York

For research on the role of Tumor-Associated Macrophages (TAMs) on thyroid cancer progression.


2006

Lionel Groussin, M.D., Ph.D.

Cochin Institut
Paris, France

For research focusing on two specific enzymes in thyroid cells and their possible roles in suppressing thyroid cancer.

Xianmin Xia, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, Maryland

For research on the effect of a small portion of a tumor suppressor protein on the proliferation of human medullary thyroid cancer cells, as well as poorly differentiated papillary thyroid cancer cells and anaplastic thyroid cancer cells.


2005

Matthias Schott, M.D.

Heinrich-Heine University of Duesseldorf
Duesseldorf, Germany

For project titled “Induction of Cytotoxic Immunity in Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma by Dendridic Vaccination.”

Erich M. Sturgis, M.D.

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

For project titled “Radiation Response Genotype and Risk of Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Case-Control Study.”


2004

Sareh Parangi, M.D.

Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

For project titled “Antiangiogenic Therapy of Thyroid Cancer.”


2003

Xiulong Xu, Ph.D.

Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center
Chicago, Illinois

For project examining the relationship between a gene mutation and papillary thyroid cancer.