Current Grants

National Cancer Center 2021/2022 Grants

The following post-doc fellowship grants and renewals were approved for 2021/2022

Gretchen M Alicea, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins Univ, Baltimore MD

PROJECT: Dissecting the role of lipid metabolism in metastasis and immune therapy efficacy in older melanoma patients


Chiwei Xu, Ph.D.

The Rockefeller Univ, New York, NY

PROJECT: Crosstalk between epithelial stem cells and peripheral nerves in cancer

“Trained as a stem cell biologist, I am interested in the basic principles of tissue organization and fascinated by the intimate association between stem cells that maintain our barrier organs and peripheral nerves that sense the environment. The support of NCC allows me to explore uncharted territories, adapt new cutting-edge techniques, and perform inter-disciplinary work in this emerging field, which will hopefully pave new avenues for cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.”



Elena Grossi, Ph.D.

Icahn School of Medicine, New York, NY

PROJECT: Profiling SWI/SNF complex mutations in melanoma initiation

“My research project aims to understand how highly recurrent mutations in epigenetic factors promote tumor initiation of malignant melanoma, a deadly skin cancer. The NCC grant will allow me to investigate the oncogenic potential of these factors and ideally translate these findings to clinically relevant models and identify therapeutic targets.”



Carmen Adriaens, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

PROJECT: Targeting DMNT1 to induce anti-cancer gene expression programs and synthetic lethality


Narek Darabedian, Ph.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

PROJECT: Covalent manipulation of undrugged metabolic proteins to treat cancer


Robin Armstrong, Ph.D.

Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York, NY

PROJECT: Determining differential roles for p53 loss-of-function and R270H mutants during leukemia development

“Many patients with AML develop therapy-resistance and coincidently have a poor prognosis, rendering investigation into the mechanisms of disease initiation and maintenance essential. I am passionate about furthering our understanding of the causative factors that drive AML in order to improve therapeutics and survival for these AML patients, and funding from the NCC is crucial in allowing me to conduct the necessary experiments to attain this goal.”



Varadha Belaji Venkadakrishnan, Ph.D.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

PROJECT: Collaboration between EZH2 and DNA methyltransferase to drive lineage programming in advanced prostate cancer

“I am studying the interaction of key epigenetic regulators in driving lineage plasticity as a mechanism of treatment resistance in prostate cancer. I am excited about this project because of its potential clinical impact in providing new therapeutic strategies to treat or reverse lineage plasticity, with a goal to improve outcomes for patients with prostate cancer. The NCC fellowship provides critical support to this project, both by funding the science and in supporting me at this early stage of my career. “



Jiao Li, PhD.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

PROJECT: Characterization of a Novel Cell-Surface Therapeutic Target in Translocation Renal Cell Carcinoma


Manqi Zhang, Ph.D.

Duke University, Durham, NC

PROJECT: Loss of ALK4 promotes EMT through regulation of Golgi-mediated receptor glycosylation in pancreatic cancer

“Loss of ALK4 function via mutation of loss of expression is a frequent event in pancreatic cancer and associated with poor clinical outcomes. The NCC grant allows me to study the mechanism by which loss of ALK4 function contributes to cancer progression and metastasis.”


Ibtehaj Naqvi, M.D., Ph.D.

Duke University, Durham, NC

PROJECT: Mitigating inflammation using nucleic acid scavengers to prevent breast cancer metastasis

“I am studying how chronic inflammation promotes breast cancer metastasis and I am using a novel polymer-based approach to block this chronic inflammation and prevent breast cancer metastasis.”


Sohini Chakraborty, Ph.D.

New York Univ School of Medicine, New York, NY

PROJECT: Therapeutic targeting of stem cells in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia

“I am studying how the cell surface protein CD97 promotes stem cell function in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia, and if it may be therapeutically targeted with antibodies.”


Mireia Perez Verdaguer, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

PROJECT: Improving the Tumor-Suppressing Efficacy of EGFR Antibodies on Head-and-Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

“Despite the well-established role of EGFR in tumorigenesis, Cetuximab, a therapeutic EGFR antibody, helps only a small fraction of patients. This project aims to understand whether inhibition of stress-induced signaling processes may increase accessibility of EGFR to Cetuximab and improve its antitumoral effectiveness.”


David M. Gau, Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

PROJECT: Profilin-1 as a Target for Vascular Normalization and Treatment for Renal Cell Carcinoma
“A common theme of clear cell renal cell carcinoma, the most common subtype of kidney cancer, is the highly vascularized nature of the tumor environment. Anti-angiogenic treatments for this type of cancer typically will see cancer progression due to innate resistant mechanisms. I was interested in this project due to my previous PhD work on identifying fundamental targets to regulate blood vessel formation, that is, targeting processes that have limited alternative mechanisms.”

Giulia Cova, Ph.D.

New York University Medical Center, New York, NY

PROJECT: Defining the mechanisms by which genetic alterations in CTCF and CTCFL drive oncogenic transcription programs
“DNA is packaged within the nucleus in a highly organized manner which is important for gene regulation. Appropriate DNA folding relies on the architectural protein CTCF that is frequently genetically altered in cancer.  The goal of my project is to understand how these lesions contribute to oncogenic programs.”

David Frankhouser, Ph.D.

Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte California

PROJECT: Detecting neovascularity in MRI to identify and predict breast cancer 

“I am excited to develop analytical and machine learning methods to identify vessels to extend early detection of biologically aggressive breast cancers”


James J. Kaminski, Ph.D.

Boston Children’s Hospital

PROJECT: Identification of immunological circuits that regulate cGvHD

“I am working to identify the mechanisms that drive chronic graft-vs-host disease, the most deadly long-term complication for bone marrow transplants patients.”


William Maguire, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Pittsburgh

PROJECT: Biomarkers of sulforaphane for therapeutic prevention of melanoma
“My research interests comprise early phase drug development in the field of therapeutic prevention of melanoma.  The lack of systemic agents to prevent melanoma represents an important unmet need, given that the incidence of melanoma in the United States continues to rise more rapidly than that of most other common cancers.”