ThyCa Awards 7 Thyroid Cancer Research Grants to Researchers in Argentina and 5 states in United States

July 1, 2015—ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. is proud to announce it has awarded seven grants for thyroid cancer research into complex aspects of all types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. 

New ThyCa grants were awarded to physician researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas; Phoenix VA Health Care System, Phoenix, Arizona; and National University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Argentina. 

In addition, ThyCa second-year grants were awarded to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, Maryland; University of Texas M.D. Anderson Center, Houston, Texas; and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York. 

This is the 13th consecutive year of ThyCa research grants. The grants are all funded through donations to ThyCa from thyroid cancer patients, family members, and friends. ThyCa grants are open to researchers and institutions worldwide. An independent expert panel of the American Thyroid Association (ATA) reviewed applications and selected the recipients.

  • Carrie Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, 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., 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., 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, 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.  

The ThyCa continuation grants for 2015 are for a second year of a two year grant originally awarded in 2014 and are awarded to these researchers: 

  • 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 focuses on (1) identifying new molecular pathways and mechanisms contributing to aggressive thyroid cancer and progression involving the BRAF protooncogene and (2) assessing 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 explores 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 a Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant.

“We’re extremely grateful to all our wonderful donors, whose generosity throughout the year makes possible our research grants,” said Gary Bloom, ThyCa Executive Director, who is a thyroid cancer survivor. “More research on thyroid cancer is urgently needed, because we need to understand the complexities of this disease to help everyone who has thyroid cancer as well as to pursue cures for all survivors.” 

ThyCa’s research fund funds welcome contributions of any size. Visit our Rally for Research page to find out more. 

 This year is ThyCa’s is 20th anniversary year of providing free services to thyroid cancer survivors, families, medical professionals, and the public. 

ThyCa sponsors a wide array of services and resources. These include thyroid cancer support groups in eight countries; one-to-one support available worldwide; educational events including seminars, workshops, webinars and videos with experts, and the annual International Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Conference; dozens of free publications including the online newsletter plus handbooks on all types of thyroid cancer, a downloadable low-iodine cookbook, a patient information packet and thyroid cancer awareness materials; pediatric backpacks with information kits for children and teens with thyroid cancer and their families; and its educational web site with more than 800 pages in English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Japanese. 

ThyCa receives guidance from its Medical Advisory Council of world-recognized experts in the field of thyroid cancer. ThyCa sponsors Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month in September, a worldwide observance, plus year-round awareness campaigns, as well as research funding and thyroid cancer research grants. Details are available on ThyCa’s website or by calling 1-877-588-7904 or e-mailing