Eleven UTSW investigators receive millions in DoD awards for kidney cancer research

June 22, 2023
Discovery, Technology Development, Research

Eleven UT Southwestern Kidney Cancer Program investigators received nine awards from the U.S. Department of Defense Kidney Cancer Research Program (KCRP) in 2023, setting a record for the most proposals recommended for funding of any institution. A third of all proposals recommended for funding were from the KCP. 



Kiyoshi Ariizumi, Ph.D., professor of dermatology and immunology, received an Idea Development Award. Dr. Ariizumi’s proposal, entitled “Tumor Extravasation in Zebrafish as a Prognostic Marker and a Therapeutic Target for Metastasis of Kidney Cancer,” intends to determine if tumor extravasation in zebrafish models can be used as a biomarker for risk of metastasis in kidney cancer.  




Kenneth Chen, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics, received an Idea Development Award to investigate pediatric Wilms tumors. Dr. Chen’s project, “DROSHA regulates mesenchymal expression and chemosensitivity in Wilms tumors,” will evaluate how DROSHA regulates kidney formation as well as its role in Wilms tumors and chemotherapy response. 




Ian Corbin, Ph.D., associate professor at the Advanced Imaging Research Center, received an Idea Development Award for his proposal “Leveraging SCARB1 Overexpression for the Treatment of ccRCC with Low-Density Lipoprotein Nanocarriers,” to investigate the effectiveness of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) drug delivery in animal models of kidney cancer. 




Lindsay Cowell, Ph.D., associate professor at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. School of Public Health, and Payal Kapur, M.D., professor of pathology and urology, received a Translational Research Partnership Award for their proposal “Leveraging Biophysicochemical Motifs in T Cell Receptor Antigen Binding Regions and Antigen Co-occurrence to Predict Response to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors.” This project aims to study T cells in ccRCC and determine whether they can predict the response to immune checkpoint inhibitors, one of the most common treatments for kidney cancer. 



Weibo Luo, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and pharmacology, received an Idea Development Award. “Characterization of Epigenetic and Metabolic Vulnerability in VHL-deficient ccRCC and its Therapeutic Potential,” aims to evaluate the potential of a synthetic epigenetic drug to treat clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). 





Srinivas Malladi, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology, received an Idea Development Award. “Delineate Tumor Immune Contexture that Shapes Metastatic Progression and Response to Immunotherapy” seeks to investigate the contribution of the tumor microenvironment in immunotherapeutic response in kidney cancer. 




Xiankai Sun, Ph.D., Director of the Cyclotron & Radiochemistry program, and James Brugarolas, M.D., Ph.D, Director of the Kidney Cancer Program, received a Translational Research Partnership Award to investigate PET imaging of HIF-2α in renal cancer. Drs. Sun and Brugarolas plan to leverage their understanding of HIF-2α to develop a second-generation radiotracer to visualize its expression in ccRCC patients. 



Andrew Wang, M.D., professor of radiation oncology received an Idea Development Reward for his proposal “Multifunctional Immunotherapy Particle to Enable Innate Immunotherapy for Kidney Cancer,” which will investigate the use of multifunctional immunotherapy particles (MINPs) to activate natural killer cells that inhibit ccRCC tumors and enhance existing immunotherapy protocols. 




Chen Yao, Ph.D., assistant professor of immunology, received the Academy of Kidney Cancer Investigators – Early Career Scholar Award to investigate stem cell-like T cells as a target for immunotherapy in kidney cancer. Mentored by Drs. Celeste Simon (University of Pennsylvania) and Brugarolas, Dr. Yao’s proposal aims to explore the role of stem-like immune cells against kidney cancer. 



The Kidney Cancer Program within the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center is one of only two NCI-designated Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in kidney cancer. Established in 2013, the program has become one of the largest kidney cancer efforts worldwide.