Keck professor wins young investigator award

 By Sara Reeve

The V Foundation for Cancer Research recently honored Christina Curtis, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, with one of only 17 2012 V Scholar grants. 

The V Scholar award provides $200,000 to fund specific research being conducted by a young investigator. The award provides the recipients with resources to help them advance their cutting-edge research and to strengthen their ability to receive additional grant funding throughout their careers.  

Curtis’ research, “Interrogating patient-specific tumor dynamics through single cell profiles and computational modeling,” analyzes the molecular mechanisms of cancer progression. 

“Our integrative framework couples technological advances with computational modeling to enable the interrogation of cancer genomes at single cell resolution, providing insight into both the spatial and temporal dynamics of tumor progression,” said Curtis. “This level of detail has not previously been achieved and has critical implications for understanding the extent of genetic diversity present within individual tumors, the role of cancer stem cells, and the changes in cancer cells that take place over time and in response to treatment.”

V Scholars are selected through a competitive process conducted by the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board.  “The V Scholars are chosen from the best and brightest young cancer researchers across our country,” said Scientific Advisory Board member Robert C. Bast Jr.  “We are investing in the careers of scientists whose discoveries will cure this large family of diseases.”   

According to Curtis, support from groups like the V Foundation is important to young researchers as it allows them to pursue high-risk, high-reward projects that may require preliminary data in order to be funded through more conventional means. 

“The flexibility these awards provide is particularly important since timing can be critical in initiating such projects, and the cancer community cannot afford delays in translating this kind of research to the clinic,” she said. “Given the current funding climate, support from groups such as the V Foundation has become even more important for young investigators pursuing out-of-the-box cancer research that will transform patient care.”

The V Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1993 by ESPN and the late Jim Valvano, legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN commentator. Since 1993, the foundation has funded more than $100 million in cancer research grants nationwide.

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