Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced today that Rizwan Haq, MD, PhD, Physician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has been awarded a $750,000 grant to identify and target mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy. The award was part of $7.5 million in Innovative Research Grants (IRG) focused on immuno-oncology given to 10 early-career scientists at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
A form of immunotherapy called immune checkpoint blockade has revolutionized the treatment of metastatic melanoma. However, not all patients respond to this kind of therapy, and some who respond initially will later have progression in their disease.
A translational melanoma researcher, Haq will use the SU2C award to better understand the mechanism of these varied responses so that patients who are more likely to respond favorably to the treatment could be identified before embarking on a therapy. He will also work to identify novel drug targets that have the potential to overcome resistance to the therapy.
Haq will utilize a unique tool developed in his lab to recreate resistance mutations in a mouse model and analyze the role of genes associated with resistance or response to immunotherapy. This platform will also be used to evaluate whether a drug currently in clinical trials can overcome immunotherapy resistance.
SU2C’s IRG program is one of the few opportunities for young scientists to receive funding for cancer research that does not have a “proof of concept” data requirement. Traditionally, the projects most likely to be funded in the oncology field are those with a demonstrable expectation of success, which means that some of the research has to be done before an investigator can submit a proposal. The innovative IRG-funded projects funded today are characterized as “high-risk” because they challenge existing paradigms, and, if successful, the projects have the potential for “high-reward” in terms of saving lives.
The 3 year grant begins July 1.