At the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, discoveries and advances are powered by partnerships — research partnerships that bring together experts across scientific disciplines and philanthropic partnerships that fund Seed Grants and Impact Grants. These partnerships yield life-changing results.
Jonsson Cancer Center research had led to nine FDA approvals for new cancer treatments and protocls just in the past four years--a remarkable achievement — and each of those Principal Investigators has received either a Seed Grant or an Impact Grant from the Jonsson Cancer Center.
These grants provide that key first funding, allowing our physician-scientists to pursue novel ideas, which might not otherwise be possible. By leveraging this initial investment from the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers can generate the preliminary data required to obtain sustainable funding from the Federal government or foundations.
The highlights below represent just some of the life-changing progress made possible by our partnership with members like you.
- In 2015, the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation funded a collaboration between National Academy of Sciences member and structural biologist Dr. David Eisenberg, physician-scientist in gynecological cancers Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, and computer scientist Dr. Matteo Pellegrini for a project entitled “Restoration of p53 function with a Novel Structure-based Peptide in Therapy of Solid Tumors.” The p53 gene has been called “The Guardian of the Genome” in the lay press and it is the most frequently mutated gene in human cancers. They have generated the first promising data that suggest we may be able to overcome the deleterious effects of this mutation.
- In 2014, funding enabled vascular biologist Dr. Luisa Iruela-Arispe, interventional radiologist Dr. Antoinette Gomes, and two physician-scientists, Drs. Fritz Eilber and Nicholas Bernthal to begin to unravel the molecular characteristics of very rare lesions found in blood vessels in the project entitled “Genetic Basis of Vascular Tumors.” The preliminary data from this funding enabled the team to receive a $1 million award from the NHI-NCI that gave them a perfect score. The team is currently working on the first manuscript related to this work.
- Also in 2014, an important collaboration was funded among faculty members from Pathology, Dr. Jian Yu Rao; Engineering, Dr. Dino Di Carlo; Physical Sciences, Dr. James Gimzewski; and the College, Dr. Amy Rowat who teamed up to study “Mechanical Profiling for Cancer Diagnosis and Control.” This work has the potential to capitalize on the physical properties of cancer cells to detect them more easily.
- A fellowship was awarded in 2011 to one of Dr. Roshan Bastani’s trainees entitled “Understanding HPV Vaccination among Ethically Diverse Young Women in Los Angeles.” The funding allowed us to collect data about HPV vaccine knowledge, attitudes and receipt among young women in our community. Results indicated very low vaccination rates and many misconceptions and have informed the development of programs to improve use of the vaccine among college students, a group at elevated risk for HPV infection.
- Seed Grants allowed us to help establish the careers of young faculty working at the interface of stem cell biology and cancer. Drs. Kathrin Plath, William Lowry, Hanna Mikkola and Amander Clark, who were jointly recruited by the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Broad Stem Cell Research Center between 2005 and 2006, have established outstanding individual laboratories and they continue to collaborate on the origins of cancer, cell evolution, cell self-renewal, among other areas, across a breadth of foci from the origins of pediatric cancers to overcoming infertility after cancer therapy.
- In September of 1999, the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation funded Brad Zebrack, a fellow working with Dr. Patricia Ganz, for a project entitled “Long-Term Outcomes in Survivors of Childhood Hodgkin’s Disease.” This helped to form the foundation for our internationally-recognized Childhood Cancer Survivor program. Brad is now a Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and continuing to do work in this area.
- Dr. Dennis Slamon, who received a Seed Grant early in his research career, is now internationally renowned for his pioneering work in changing how cancer is investigated and new treatments are tested. He led the development of the targeted drug Herceptin, approved by the FDA in 1998, which made the most virulent form of breast cancer, HER2+, now the most treatable.
- Our Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary promote the collaboration of faculty from diverse fields to tackle some of the most difficult challenges in cancer research. The ability of researchers from multiple disciplines to interact is facilitated by the fact that we are on a single campus with the Center for Health Sciences, the School of Engineering, and the undergraduate College in close proximity to one another. In January of 1996 the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation funded the first of our Interdisciplinary grants ($300,000) “Imaging Gene Expression in Tumor Cells.” This married the sciences of molecular biology with modern PET imaging technology (which observes metabolic processes in the body), and the preliminary data that were generated subsequently attracted tens of millions of dollars in grant funding to campus. Investigators are: Drs. Harvey Herschman, Sam Gambhir, Mike Phelps and Simon Cherry.
- In March of 1995, the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation funded Dr. Charles Sawyers to study “Signal Transduction by the BCR-abl oncogene.” He went on to conduct the early phase clinical trials leading to the FDA approval of Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia.