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Grant bolsters kidney cancer immunotherapy research

May. 10, 2018, 8:54 AM


Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), has received a grant to research the role of immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment for kidney cancer. She received the grant from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and Kure It, during the AACR Annual Conference held April 14 – 18 in Chicago.

W. Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD

AACR is the oldest and largest international organization dedicated to preventing and curing cancer through research, education, communication and collaboration.

For this project, AACR partnered with Kure It, a nonprofit founded in 2007 to help eliminate the deficit of cancer research funding for kidney and other underfunded cancers.

The AACR-Kure It Research Grant for Immunotherapy in Kidney Cancer is a two-year award totaling $250,000. Rathmell received the grant based on the relevance of her research proposal and the likelihood of significant impact along with her leadership role in the field.

“I am deeply honored to receive this grant in support of our efforts to understand the role of the immune system in the microenvironment for kidney cancer. This type of cancer receives significantly less research funding than many other forms of the disease and this grant provides vitally important support for our research initiative,” Rathmell said.

Rates of kidney cancer, also known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC), have been rising in the United States during the past 10 years. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), 65,340 new cases are expected to be diagnosed this year and 14,970 patients are projected to die from the disease.

Rathmell leads a research laboratory focused on kidney cancers, and is working to understand key genetic and molecular features of these cancers that contribute to disease biology.

Jeff Rathmell, PhD

She will partner with Jeff Rathmell, PhD, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor in Immunobiology, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology and co-investigator on the award. Together they bring a unique combined expertise to the investigation of kidney cancer immune biology.

The new research project will examine specific signals in the immune microenvironment, notably metabolic features as well as secreted extracellular vesicles known as exosomes.

“This proposal is particularly exciting as an opportunity to explore the features in the extracellular space that can influence the immune response of kidney tumors,” said Kimryn Rathmell. “Although immunotherapies are offering tremendous hope for many kidney cancer patients, more work is needed to bring durable responses to a larger set of patients.”

The research team also includes exosome expert Alissa Weaver, MD, PhD, as a collaborator, and Medical Scientist Training Program students Aaron Lim and Bradley Reinfeld.

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