ThyCa Awards New Thyroid Cancer Research Grants to Physicians at Johns Hopkins, M.D. Anderson, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering

June 19, 2014—ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. is proud to announce six grants for thyroid cancer research into complex aspects of all types of thyroid cancer: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic thyroid cancer. 

The new ThyCa grants were awarded to physician 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. 

In addition, continuation grants were awarded to researchers at Duke University Hospital, Durham, North Carolina; Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. 

This is the twelfth consecutive year of ThyCa research grants. The grants are 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. 

The New ThyCa Grant Recipients and Projects: 

  • 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. 

The continuation grants were awarded to these researchers:

  • 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.” 
  • 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 grant was 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. 

“We’re excited about these grants, which support research crucial to developing cures for all thyroid cancer,” said Gary Bloom, ThyCa Executive Director, who is a thyroid cancer survivor. “More research on thyroid cancer is urgently needed. We are grateful to all our donors whose generosity throughout the year make these research grants possible.” 

ThyCa’s research fund funds welcome contributions of any size. Information about how to support ThyCa’s Rally for Research can be found on the ThyCa Rally for Research page.

This year ThyCa is marking its 19th 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 six countries; one-to-one support available worldwide; educational events including seminars, workshops, webinars, and the annual International Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Conference; 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, 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, and the. Details are available on ThyCa’s website or by calling 1-877-588-7904 or e-mailing