Dana-Farber researchers receive prestigious 2023 Outstanding Investigator Award from National Cancer Institute

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Three Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers are the recipients of the prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health: Jean Zhao, PhD; Kimberly Stegmaier, MD; and William G. Kaelin, Jr., MD.

Zhao is Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and runs the Zhao lab at Dana-Farber, which investigates the signaling networks regulating cellular processes in cancer, examining how these signals affect tumor, immune, and stromal cells. Their research aims to elucidate mechanisms of immune evasion, therapy resistance, and metastasis.

Stegmaier is Vice Chair of Pediatric Oncology Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Co-Director of the Pediatric Hematologic Malignancy Program, Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Ted Williams Chair, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. The Stegmaier laboratory will address the fundamental challenge of improving treatments for children with cancer with more tumor targeted drugs.

Kaelin, the 2019 Nobel Prize recipient in medicine or physiology, runs the Kaelin Lab for Cancer Biology at Dana-Farber, which seeks to understand why mutations affecting tumor-suppressor genes cause cancer. The Kaelin Lab had a role in the development of VEGF inhibitors and HIF2 inhibitors for treatment of kidney cancer, and IDH inhibitors for treatment of leukemias and brain tumors with IDH mutations. In parallel with the Ebert Lab at Dana-Farber, the Kaelin Lab discovered why thalidomide-like drugs are so effective in multiple myeloma.

The NCI Outstanding Investigator Award (OIA) supports investigators with a record of outstanding contributions to cancer research. Awardees are recognized for their cutting-edge research that has the potential to yield a significant scientific impact within cancer research. Developed in 2014, the award aims to provide investigators with an opportunity to build upon current work or contribute toward new discoveries in advancing biomedical, behavioral, or clinical cancer research.

The OIA supports accomplished researchers who have served as principal investigators on an NCI grant for the last five years and have demonstrated exceptional cancer research productivity. Researchers are nominated by their institutions and are awarded funding of up to $600,000 in direct costs per year for an anticipated seven years.

"The National Cancer Institute is honored to recognize and support the innovative and adventurous projects being undertaken to create real progress in cancer care," said Dinah Singer, PhD, deputy director for scientific strategy and development of the National Cancer Institute. "The prestigious Outstanding Investigator Award offers seven years of uninterrupted research funding, allowing this select group of highly accomplished investigators the opportunity to make a lasting impact in the advancement of cancer research, treatment, and prevention."

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