By Kathy Clute
The Kidney Cancer Association (KCA) has made $650,000 in grants to three Dana-Farber researchers who are unlocking the molecular mechanisms of a disease that will be diagnosed in nearly 82,000 U.S. residents this year and claim the lives of more than 14,000.
The Texas-based organization is dedicated to finding a cure for kidney cancer by promoting scientific advances through an annual grant program and scientific symposiums. At the same time, it provides education and resources for patients and their caregivers. Since 2002, KCA has given nearly $1.4 million to Dana-Farber.
Toni Choueiri, MD, director of the Institute’s Kidney Cancer Center and of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, and the Jerome and Nancy Kohlberg Professor of Medicine, received KCA’s Advanced Discovery Award. His pioneering work has already led to FDA approval for an immune checkpoint inhibitor that dramatically extends disease-free survival in patients who have undergone surgery for clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). However, the disease almost always recurs in patients who have metastatic ccRCC. With the KCA award, Choueiri and his team are focused on thwarting advanced disease with cytokine-induced memory-like (CIML) natural killer (NK) cells.
KCA also honored Yufei Wang, PhD, and Srinivas Viswanathan, MD, PhD, with Trailblazer Awards, which go to promising early to mid-career investigators who are undertaking innovative research. Wang is genetically engineering CAR T cells, a highly effective form of immunotherapy in bloodborne cancers, to attack the cancer cells in the solid tumors found in kidney cancer.
Viswanathan is focusing on translocation renal cell carcinoma (tRCC), a rare but aggressive subtype of kidney cancer for which there is no targeted treatment. Only five percent of adult kidney cancers are of this type, but it accounts for up to 50 percent of such cancers in children. It is also notable for occurring in younger, female patients and responds poorly to therapies that are effective in ccRCC.
Gretchen E. Vaughan, president and CEO of the Kidney Cancer Association, noted that nearly 600,000 Americans are living with kidney and renal pelvis cancer. “Dana-Farber is bringing us closer to the day when these patients have effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure,” she said.