Hollings Cancer Center announces seven Fellowship Program awards

March 22, 2018
Yongxia Wu, Ph.D. (left), and Steven Schutt (far right) are among seven researchers to receive the first round of Fellowship Program awards. They are pictured here with their mentor Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D. Photo by Dawn Brazell
Yongxia Wu, Ph.D. (left), and Steven Schutt (far right) are among seven researchers to receive the first round of Fellowship Program awards. They are pictured here with their mentor Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D. Photo by Dawn Brazell

Hollings Cancer Center (HCC) awarded seven cancer scientists funding as part of its Fellowship Program that is designed to train and support the next generation of researchers making important advances in the field at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

It’s exciting to announce the first round of these awards, said Mike Ostrowski, Ph.D., who serves as co-director of the program along with Elizabeth Yeh, Ph.D. and David Long, Ph.D.  It’s an important mission of Hollings Cancer Center, the only NCI designated cancer center in South Carolina, to educate the next generation of exceptional cancer scientists who are focused on research relevant to the state’s population, he said.

“Hollings already has an amazing educational pipeline, but this program is a critical additional piece to that effort, which importantly highlights HCC’s commitment to our educational mission.”

The fellowship supports promising trainees who are working on a spectrum of cancer focused projects that include population sciences, basic science and translational research, he said. “Our vision is that this program will serve as a beacon to the community highlighting HCC’s commitment to the fight against cancer in South Carolina and also be a beacon to continuously attract the best and brightest trainees to HCC in the future.”

The program, which launched in November, has two components.

The Postdoctoral and Clinical Fellowship Program focuses on recruiting and training innovative basic science and clinical/translational researchers who have the potential to apply for nationally funded grants. At this point in their careers, postdoctoral researchers usually can work on their own independent research projects and have some experience presenting their work and having results published in research journals. The award provides support to help them gain the necessary skills and funding to become independent researchers.

The HCC Graduate Fellowship Program focuses on developing highly promising graduates with the potential to become independent research scientists. Graduate students are responsible for much of the work performed in research labs around the MUSC campus, so funding helps them become more immersed in cancer research as they develop their own research projects

The following are the recipients of this year’s awards.

Graduate Fellowship Program

Hyunwoo (Tony) Kwon

Mentor: Zihai Li, M.D., Ph.D.
Project: Investigation of IFNg-IDO1-Tryptophan Transport Axis as the Molecular Basis for Bladder Cancer Sex Bias
“Males and females share robust differences in their susceptibility to various autoimmune and infectious diseases, emphasizing that sex is an important biological variable regulating the immune system. My research studies the potential implication of sex-based immunological differences on the pathogenesis of various malignancies.”

Aubrey Smith

Mentor: Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D.
Project: Defining the Role of Toll-like Receptor Agonists in T Cell-based Immunotherapy
“We recently discovered that Toll-like receptor 9 agonist, called CpG-ODN, dramatically augments the anti-tumor activity of adoptively transferred CD8+ T cells. This grant seeks to uncover the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of this novel therapy. Our findings have the potential to revolutionize various forms of T cell-based therapies for cancer patients."

Steven Schutt

Mentor: Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D.
Project: Fli-1: A Promising Therapeutic Target in Graft-versus-Host Disease and Leukemia
“The protein Friend leukemia virus integration 1 (Fli-1) is responsible for development of Ewing’s Sarcoma and certain types of leukemia, while also being associated with systemic lupus (SLE) in humans. This association led us to test if targeting Fli-1 in pre-clinical animal models would be beneficial for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), where we indeed found that targeting Fli-1 using a genetic approach was able to prevent GVHD development.”

Bradley Krisanits

Mentor: David Turner, Ph.D.
Project: Advanced Glycation End-Products: Lifestyle Contributions to Prostate Cancer Disparity and Intervention
“The HCC fellowship will aid in the successful completion of a clinical trial investigating the benefits of lifestyle change on biomarkers of prostate cancer progression.”

Postdoctoral & Clinical Fellowship Program

Simon Grelet, Ph.D.

Mentor: Philip Howe, Ph.D. 
Project: Transfer RNAs in Cell Plasticity and Tumor Progression: Uncharted Biology and Novel Therapeutic Avenues
"The aim of Dr. Grelet's project is to decipher how tRNA biology regulates cancer invasion and stemness, two traits of the tumor cells that are deemed to be essential during tumor metastasis and tumor relapse. Such molecular insights might open new therapeutic opportunities that will be evaluated within the study."

Zongyang Lyu, Ph.D.

Mentor: Shaun Olsen, Ph.D.
Project: Structural Biology of the Essential Cell Cycle Regulator Cdc34
"I study structure and function of protein complexes in ubiquitin pathway and develop inhibitor for cancer therapeutic targets.”

Yongxia Wu, Ph.D.

Mentor: Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D.
Project: Targeting STING in Immunotherapy for Hematologic Malignancy
“The goal of this proposal is to define the biology of stimulator of interferon gene (STING) in immune response against leukemia after bone marrow transplantation (BMT). We will validate STING as a potential target in immunotherapy for controlling leukemia relapse and reducing the side effects associated with BMT.”