Massachusetts General Hospital’s talented and dedicated researchers are working to push the boundaries of science and medicine every day. In this series we highlight a few individuals who have recently received awards or honors for their achievements:
Marc Wein, MD, PhD,of the Endocrine Unit, has received a Young Physician-Scientist Award from the American Society for Clinical Investigation. These recognize young physician-scientists who are supported by the National Institutes of Health or similar significant career-development awards, are early in their first faculty appointment and have made notable achievements in their research.
“As an endocrinologist, the problem of osteoporosis is extremely important to me. My laboratory studies how bone cells respond to external signals like hormones and mechanical cues. Ultimately, this knowledge will lead to new and improved drugs for our patients with osteoporosis. It was truly an honor to receive this award. Attending the ASCI meeting as a recipient of the Young Physician-Scientist Award was both exciting and inspiring. Four different Nobel laureates gave lectures about their career paths, and provided excellent advice about picking the right research questions that will ultimately help our patients.”
Elena B. Hawryluk, MD, PhD, of the Department of Dermatology, has received Weston Award from the Society for Pediatric Dermatology for her work “Melanoma and Dysplastic Nevi in Children”. This award is given to one pediatric dermatologist every two years and supports career development of future leaders, educators, clinical scholars and/or translational investigators in pediatric dermatology. Awardees must demonstrate a strong commitment to skin research that can advance the field of pediatric dermatology.
“My research investigates moles in children as well as pediatric melanoma, which is quite rare. Patients with dysplastic (abnormal) moles have an increased risk of melanoma, however, studies of children and adolescents with these moles have not been performed. I am collaborating with pediatric dermatologists across the country to identify features that might help us better understand which melanomas are most aggressive. With an increased public awareness of sun protection and melanoma, it is important for pediatric dermatologists to be able to identify skin lesions of concern, and discuss risks that are relevant to children and adolescents.
This is an incredible honor coming from the Society for Pediatric Dermatology: just one pediatric dermatologist every two years is selected for the award. It means so much to have the support of both the research I’m so passionate about and the investment in my development as a researcher.”
David T. Ting, MD, of the MGH Cancer Center, has received a Phillip A. Sharp Award through Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), to advance “innovation in collaboration” among SU2C-affiliated scientists. The award program was established in 2014 by SU2C to honor Sharp’s keen interest in team research, and are intended to reward distinctive collaborations that propose to accelerate current research and development models, bringing therapeutic benefits for cancer patients. Ting’s research will focus on “Dissecting the Epigenetic Mechanisms of Repeat RNA Regulation in Cancer.”
“Our research focuses on identify novel methods to engage the immune system against cancer cells. We are working on a set of molecules called satellite RNAs, which we have found to be specifically expressed in cancers compared to normal tissues. These satellites are generated from areas of our genome thought to be silent and were considered “junk” DNA, but cancers have found a way to reactivate these regions through a mechanism called epigenetic regulation. Interestingly, these satellite RNAs appear to have behavior that is shared with viruses, and their presence in cancer cells are thought to alter the immune response to cancer. I am truly honored to receive this collaborative award with Dr. Shelley Berger who is an international leader in epigenetics. Together, we hope to understand how cancers turn on this primordial viral program and identify novel therapies that can enhance our ability to drive the immune system to attack cancer.”
Shawn Demehri, MD, PhD, has been awarded a grant from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation as part of its Kimmel Scholars Program for “Mechanism of CD4+ T-cell immunity against skin cancer precursors.” Begun in 1997, the program was designed to jumpstart the careers of the most promising and creative researchers and physician-scientists seeking solutions to the riddle of cancer. To qualify, grantees must demonstrate great promise and innovation in their work, and be in the early stages of their research careers.
“Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and we often see patients in our clinics who are affected by multiple skin cancers. To prevent these cancers, our laboratory has recently developed a topical immune activating treatment, which showed high efficacy in activating T cells leading to the clearance of skin cancer precursors in a randomized clinical trial. We now aim to explore the exact mechanism underlying the potent anti-tumor immune response we observed with our immunotherapy. The Kimmel Scholar Award will enable us to expand this research effort and establish a fundamental role for immunoprevention in cancers of skin and other organs.”