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Foundation lauds graduate student’s melanoma research

Mar. 28, 2013, 9:36 AM

Graduate student Katherine Hutchinson with Jeffrey Sosman, M.D., left, and William Pao, M.D., Ph.D. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Katherine Hutchinson, a third-year graduate student in Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt University, has won a $10,000 Research Scholar Award from the Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation.

Hutchinson, who works in the lab of William Pao, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Vanderbilt, is one of 10 U.S. graduate students to receive Research Scholar Awards from the foundation this year.

Pao and Jeffrey Sosman, M.D., director of the Melanoma and Tumor Immunotherapy Program in the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, co-sponsored her for the award, which was established by the Maryland-based foundation in 2006 to “enhance the potential for advancements in the melanoma cancer field.”

“I am very honored to be one of only 10 recipients of this year’s award,” Hutchinson said. “The grant will support my work in functionally characterizing novel mutations identified in melanoma to determine their impact on tumor growth and response to treatment. I hope these studies will help patients in the future.”

“I will also continue work on the development of an improved genotyping assay on a new next-generation sequencing platform for melanoma patients seen at Vanderbilt,” she said.

Hutchinson was co-first author of a paper published last summer which reported that a relatively uncommon mutation of the BRAF gene in melanoma patients was responsive to a specific drug therapy. This finding provided a rationale for routine screening and treatment in patients with the BRAF L597 mutation.

She is co-author on six other publications, including a News and Views article, “Chipping Away at the Lung Cancer Genome,” published in Nature Medicine last year.

“We are grateful to the Nicolay Melanoma Foundation for their support of Katie,” Pao said. “It is critical for graduate students like her to be recognized for their efforts and accomplishments as they train to become the next generation of scientific leaders.”

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