Drs. Francesca Battaglin, Madiha Naseem, and Alberto Puccini received three out of twelve 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting Merit Awards at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium that ran from January 17-19, 2019 in San Francisco, California. They each conducted their research under the mentorship of Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD, Professor of Medicine.

Madiha Naseem, MD, presents her research findings to oncologists at ASCO GI

Merit Awards are given to fellows / oncology trainees whose research is addressed in high-quality abstracts submitted to an ASCO meeting and recognized for its scientific merit, according to the symposium’s website.

“Working for Dr. Lenz and attending GI ASCO as a Merit Award recipient has been an extremely rewarding experience for me,” said Dr. Naseem. “I had the honor of having my poster selected for ‘Poster Walks’ and presented my findings to a group of oncologist.”

Dr. Naseem’s study identified a novel finding, that genes in DNA repair known to be associated with breast cancer may also play important roles in colorectal cancer patients. The study highlighted possibilities for using a protein called PARP that allows cancer cells to repair DNA damage as a potential therapy. She is a first year internal medicine resident doing research in Dr. Lenz’s lab.

Dr. Puccini’s research is one of the first studies to comprehensively characterize the molecular features of signet-ring cell carcinoma from gastric and colorectal tumors. He finished his one-year postdoctoral research at Dr. Lenz’s Lab in March 2018 and is currently completing his oncology fellowship in Genoa, Italy.

“For us,” Dr. Puccini said, “it is important support to have access to one of the most relevant meetings of the year and to present our data, connect with colleagues, share ideas and projects.”

Dr. Battaglin’s study addressed the topic of the interplay between tumor and intestinal bacteria in metastatic colorectal cancer, exploring the role of one of the mechanisms that mediate this interaction on treatment response and patients’ outcomes. She is currently in her second year working as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Lenz’s lab.

“Dr. Lenz’s amazing mentorship has played a key role in giving me the tools to pursue these innovative projects and supporting my growth as a young researcher,” Dr. Battaglin said.

By Eric Weintraub