Former Conquer Cancer Foundation Grant Recipients Present Research Advances and Share Impact of CCF Grants

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Gregory T. Armstrong, MD, MSCE

Dung T. Le, MD

Tanguy Seiwert, MD

Of the $150 million being raised through The Campaign to Conquer Cancer, a planned $56 million will support vital research grants such as the Young Investigator Award (YIA) and Career Development Award (CDA). Over the past 30-plus years, the Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) has supported and launched the research careers of more than 1,000 physician scientists in at least 65 countries.

Former CCF grant recipients, many of whom presented research at the ASCO Annual Meeting, can attest to the transformative power of these awards. Notably, former CCF grant recipients led three of the studies highlighted in the official ASCO Annual Meeting press program.

Gregory T. Armstrong, MD, MSCE, Pediatric Oncologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, led an analysis of more than 34,000 participants in the federally funded Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, which showed improvement in late mortality achieved over 3 decades. Among 5-year survivors, all-cause mortality at 15 years after diagnosis dropped from 12.4% to 6%. This improvement is attributed in part to changes in care that reduced the risk of mortality related to late effects of pediatric cancer treatment, such as subsequent malignancies and cardiac and lung diseases.

 Dr. Armstrong received a 2008 Career Development Award CDA from CCF to evaluate the long-term effects of anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity. The CCF CDA “was my first grant, and gave me the money to do studies which I could not have done otherwise,” Dr. Armstrong said. 

A phase II study led by Dung T. Le, MD, Assistant Professor of Oncology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, identified the first genomic marker—mismatch repair (MMR) deficiency—to predict response to the anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab (Keytruda). This marker predicted responses across a range of cancers.

Dr. Le received a 2008 CDA from CCF, the results of which led to a phase II clinical trial that identified a promising vaccine combination for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer and was labeled a “breakthrough therapy” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2014.

“Awards such as the Conquer Cancer Foundation Career Development Award have definitely made it possible for me to dedicate time to push forward innovative programs,” said Dr. Le.

Tanguy Seiwert, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, led a phase I study indicating that pembrolizumab immunotherapy is safe and possibly more effective than existing options for advanced head and neck cancer. Up to 23% of patients treated with the anti–PD-1 antibody experienced tumor shrinkage. The findings suggest that immunotherapy may fill a large unmet need for better treatments—importantly, responses were observed across a wide range of patient subgroups.

Dr. Seiwert received a 2006 YIA from CCF to investigate Heat Shock Protein 27 as a promising novel target and prognostic marker in non–small cell lung cancer.

“I am extraordinarily thankful for having received the YIA, and it was very impactful,” Dr. Seiwert said. “This grant was extremely important, even more than many other grants I received later on, because of the pivotal time point in my career following residency and fellowship.”

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Originally printed in ASCO Connection. © American Society of Clinical Oncology. “Former Conquer Cancer Foundation Grant Recipients Present Research Advances and Share Impact of CCF Grants.” ASCO Connection, September 2015: 51. All rights reserved.