February 19, 2019

Fourteen New Cancer Innovation Projects Funded

$3.4 million in ASPIRE Awards Announced to Support Cancer Research

NEW YORK, NY — The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has selected fourteen outstanding scientific research projects for ASPIRE Awards. Designed to answer key proof-of-concept questions in a short timeframe, the ASPIRE (Accelerating Scientific Platforms and Innovative Research) program funds high risk, high reward approaches to solving complex problems in cancer research that tend to fall outside the scope of other funding opportunities.

The diverse group of scientists leading these ASPIRE projects represents disciplines across the spectrum of cancer research at top academic institutions throughout the United States and internationally. The projects address a wide range of topics in basic, translational, and clinical research including early cancer detection, novel combinations for immunotherapy, model systems to elucidate the mechanisms of tumorigenesis and metastasis, and chemical biology platforms to explore new therapeutic targets and pathways.

“These fourteen projects have the potential to truly advance the field of cancer medicine,” said Michele Cleary, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of The Mark Foundation. “Each awardee proposed an innovative and bold idea that fully exemplified our vision for the ASPIRE program. We are delighted to welcome them into our growing family of funded investigators.”

The Mark Foundation’s new class of ASPIRE Awards are:

• A Systems Biology Approach to the Tumor Microenvironment Using Zebrafish, Richard White, MD, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
• Chemoproteomics-Enabled Covalent Ligand Discovery Platforms for Accessing Novel Druggable Modalities, Daniel Nomura, PhD, University of California, Berkeley
• Compartmentalized and Systematic Interactions of the Skin Microbiome in Cancer Immunotherapy Response, Julia Oh, PhD, The Jackson Laboratory
• Delineating How Obesity Induces Chemoresistance in B-Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Cells, Curtis Henry, PhD (Principal Investigator) and Joshua Chandler, PhD, Emory University
• Enhancing Cancer Immunotherapy Through Pharmacological Inhibition of ER Stress Sensors, Juan Cubillos-Ruiz, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine
• Harnessing Innovations in Artificial Intelligence to Improve Breast Cancer Detection, Susan Harvey, MD (Principal Investigator); Lisa Mullen, MD; and David Porter, PhD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
• Intracellular Paired Agent Imaging (iPAI) Enables Personalized Therapy Selection for Cancer Patients, Summer Gibbs, PhD (Principal Investigator), Oregon Health & Science University; Kimberley Samkoe, PhD, Dartmouth College; and Kenneth Tichauer, PhD, Illinois Institute of Technology
• Probing the Interrelationship of Microvascular Structural Adaptation, Vessel Co-Option, and Resistance to Anti-Angiogenesis Therapy in Microengineered Vessels, Jonathan Song, PhD, The Ohio State University
• Prospective Identification of Neoantigen-Specific T-Cell Receptors (TCR) Using an Optimized Model System, Michelle Krogsgaard, PhD (Principal Investigator); Jef Boeke, PhD; and Jeffrey Weber, MD, PhD, New York University
• Rational Design of Novel Combination Immunotherapies: Enhancing the Cytotoxic Activity of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T Cells, Marco Ruella, MD (Principal Investigator); Sara Cherry, PhD; and Igor Brodsky, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
• Short-Term 3D-Printing-Based Cultures of Metastatic Breast Cancer for Tailored Therapy Selection, Wilbert Zwart, PhD (Principal Investigator), Netherlands Cancer Institute and Luis Solorio, PhD, Purdue University
• Target Class Approach to Develop DUB Inhibitors, Sara Buhrlage, PhD (Principal Investigator) and Jarrod Marto, PhD, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
• Targeted Third Generation Sequencing of Methylated Circulating Tumor DNA to Enable Early Cancer Detection, Katherine Varley, PhD, University of Utah
• Ultra-Sensitive Detection of Circulating Tumor DNA Through Genome-Wide Integration for Early Detection and Dynamic Cancer Monitoring to Transform Cancer Care and Outcomes, Dan Landau, MD, PhD (Principal Investigator) and Asaf Zviran, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine

For additional information about The Mark Foundation’s ASPIRE Awards, visit:



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