July 14, 2011

VUMC’s Kim lands award from Doris Duke Foundation

VUMC’s Kim lands award from Doris Duke Foundation

Annette Kim, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Pathology, has received a 2011 Clinical Scientist Development Award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Annette Kim, M.D., Ph.D.

Annette Kim, M.D., Ph.D.

Kim is one of 16 physician-scientists from across the country selected this year for the award. Each will receive $486,000 in research support over three years.

A practicing hematopathologist, Kim joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2009.

She is also associate director of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory and co-director of the Human Tissue Acquisition services, part of the Translational Pathology Shared Resource.

Kim’s award will support her research on microRNAs in myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a form of blood cancer typically affecting the elderly that is caused by abnormal or inefficient blood cell differentiation.

“I am honored to receive this award at this critical juncture in my career, and eager to embark on the exciting research that it has enabled,” she said.

MicroRNAS (miRNAs) play a key role in cellular differentiation and identity by regulating gene expression.

Kim and her colleagues previously have demonstrated the differential expression of eight miRNAs in MDS patients compared to normal controls. Interestingly, these miRNAs are intragenic (inside host genes) and are under the regulation of the promoters of the genes, some of which also have been shown in MDS to be epigenetically dysregulated (abnormally expressed).

The funded study will examine bone marrows of MDS patients before and after treatment with drugs that inhibit the enzyme DNA methyltransferase (among the only approved therapies for MDS).

Kim and her colleagues will look for changes in miRNA “signatures” and DNA methylation profiles (indicators of altered gene expression) in response to therapy.

In addition, key miRNAs implicated in the disease will be examined in assays of hematopoietic (blood cell) maturation. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop clinically relevant assays that can improve diagnosis, predict the course of the disease and which can be used to monitor therapy.

MDS is fatal within three years in 65 percent of patients. “A clinical biomarker-based assay capable of detecting early MDS would greatly accelerate diagnosis and treatment of these patients,” Kim said.

Since 1998, 186 Clinical Scientist Development Awards have been given to physician-scientists early in their careers to help strengthen the nation’s clinical research workforce. Kim is the fifth award recipient who currently is a member of the Vanderbilt faculty.