Six Columbia Cancer Researchers Receive Seed Funding from Velocity

Six Columbia cancer researchers will share $500,000 in seed funding to support early-stage research projects. The new grants were made possible by proceeds raised last fall in Velocity, Columbia’s Ride to End Cancer.

The recipients, who have been designated Velocity Fellows, are Piero Dalerba, MDCharles Drake, MD, PhDRichard Ha, MD, who will share the award with co-principal investigator Katherine Crew, MDGulam Manji, MD, PhD; and Teresa Palomero Vazquez, PhD. Each will be working with a team of researchers and clinicians.

“The researchers selected as Velocity Fellows are doing work that has the potential to have a real impact on patients’ lives, by testing new ideas for treatment or deepening our understanding of how to best utilize current treatments,” says Anil K. Rustgi, MD, Irving Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

"Recent advances in our understanding of cancer are allowing us to approach cancer diagnosis and treatment in new ways,” says Lee Goldman, MD, Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and Chief Executive of Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "Thanks to the thousands of people who participated in Velocity, we are able to fund the work of six researchers who are pursuing a range of novel and innovative projects." 

The Velocity Fellows will use the funding to support the following research projects:

 

Piero Dalerba, MD, is investigating whether the SOX10 gene, found in triple-negative breast cancer patients, may predict which patients are at highest risk of developing bilateral breast cancer. This information may help inform women who are considering a double mastectomy. 
Piero Dalerba, MD
Charles Drake, MD, PhD, is looking at whether senolytic agents—drugs that destroy some aging cells—can boost response to cancer immunotherapy. 
Charles Drake, MD, PhD
Richard Ha, MD, and Katherine Crew, MD, are studying whether a novel breast cancer risk model is more efficient than serial mammography in reducing the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women with early-stage disease who are treated with hormonal therapy.
Katherine Crew, MD, and Richard Ha, MD
Gulam Manji, MD, PhD, is investigating whether adding a chemokine receptor inhibitor to immunotherapy and chemotherapy may boost treatment response in pancreatic cancer.
Gulam Manji, MD, PhD
Teresa Palomero Vazquez, PhD, is studying mechanisms that lead to therapeutic resistance in patients with an aggressive form of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and drug combinations that could reverse resistance.
Teresa Palomero Vazquez, PhD

 

 

This year’s fellows were selected from a pool of nearly 30 applicants. The applications were reviewed by a panel that included leadership from the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as outside experts. The review process was led by Emer Smyth, PhD, director of cancer research alliances and assistant dean for cancer research.

“Our review process ensures that we are devoting our resources toward some of the most exciting cancer research projects at Columbia,” says Gary K. Schwartz, MD, the Clyde ’56 and Helen Wu Professor of Oncology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, chief of hematology-oncology, and deputy director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We are hoping that the seed funding we are providing will allow our Velocity fellows to acquire the data needed to obtain additional grants from private and government funders.” 

In its first two years, Velocity raised over $2 million. All of the funds raised by Velocity participants support the mission of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, by investing in research, clinical trials, and technologies that will improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

References

Piero Dalerba, MD, is assistant professor of pathology & cell biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

Charles Drake, MD, PhD, is professor of medicine and of urology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and director of genitourinary oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Richard Ha, MD, is associate professor of radiology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a breast cancer radiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Katherine Crew, MD, is associate professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a medical oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She also is associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health.

Gulam Manji, MD, PhD, is assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Teresa Palomero Vazquez, PhD, is associate professor of pathology & cell biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.