External Advisory Board adds new members


Prominent kidney cancer experts Elizabeth Plimack, M.D., M.S., and Rana McKay, M.D., are the newest members of the Kidney Cancer Program's External Advisory Board. Established in 2014, the board comprises noted physicians and scientists from across the country who serve as resources on research initiatives for KCP leadership. Plimack is Professor of Hematology/Oncology and Division Chief of Genitourinary Medical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. McKay is Associate Professor of Medicine and Urology at UC San Diego and Co-Leader of the Genitourinary Oncology Disease Team at Moores Cancer Center.

Physician-scientist conference among first to resume post-pandemic


After more than a year, the Physician-Scientist Faculty Seminar Series has resumed at UT Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW). As an institution ranked #1 globally by Nature Index in healthcare research, it was fitting that this conference, focusing on physician-scientists working on cancer, be among the first to roll out.

The post-pandemic seminar was held at the T. Boone Pickens Biomedical Bldg. and the featured speaker was Isaac Chan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, who spoke about the role of NK cells in cancer. Approximately two dozen faculty attended the event and luncheon, which was sponsored by the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The seminar series is supported by a five-member organizing council comprised of Drs. Deepak Nijhawan, Kenneth Werstover, Lu Le, Hao Zhu, and James Brugarolas.

"By deploying their skills as scientists, physician-scientists are uniquely poised to rigorously address medical quandries," notes Dr. Westover.

The purpose of the faculty is to assist faculty in the early stages of building research programs and clinical practices.

"It's like having two jobs," says Dr. Le.

Physician-scientists face unique challenges. Council member Dr. Zhu notes the value of collegial networking and having mentoring resources. "As fellow physician-scientists, we have a shared experience," says Zhu. "We understand the complexities and unique demands of the role."

The peer-support platform enables junior faculty to get feedback from veteran colleagues about their research programs, particular projects, or funding strategies.

""That this seminar series is among the first to resume is a testament to the role the physician-scientist plays as an engine of discovery and the importance of collaborative systems that support team science, says Dr. Brugarolas, Director of the Kidney Cancer Program. "They physician-scientist is iconic of UT Southwestern Medical Center."

UT Southwestern investigators report first analysis of pioneering kidney cancer radiation approach in clinical trial


A pioneering approach developed by the Kidney Cancer Program (KCP) using stereotactic radiation to treat kidney cancer that has invaded into the largest vein in the body proves safe according to clinical trial results. Press Release

NIH investigator joins Kidney Cancer Program


The Kidney Cancer Program (KCP) welcomes its newest investigator Dr. Chen Yao. A CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas) awardee and joint recruit between the KCP and the Department of Immunology, Dr. Yao joined on June 1, 2021, as an assistant professor on a tenure track. She earned her Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Minnesota and subsequently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease (NIAMS), working in the Molecular Immunology and Inflammation Branch in the lab of Dr. John O'Shea.

Dr. Yao's research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which T cells, an important arm of adaptive immunity, eradicate tumor and infected cells. She will be investigating molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the antitumor activity of stem-like CD8 T cells in clear cell renal cell carcinoma. Her goal is to uncover ways of harnessing stem-like CD8 T cells to improve immunotherapies for kidney cancer.

UTSW investigator identifies signaling pathway responsible for driving sarcomatoid differentiation


Molecular biologist Thomas Carroll, Ph.D., reports in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that activation of the Hippo/Warts pathway, one of the major signaling pathways regulating organ size and tissue growth, is sufficient to drive sarcomatoid renal cancer. In mice studies, Carroll and colleagues show that constitutive activation of Hippo/Warts through deletion of Lats1/2 drives sarcomatoid tumors and metastases.

DoD awards more than $2.7 million to six UTSW investigators for kidney cancer research


The Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Kidney Cancer Research Program awards more than $2.7 million in research funding to six UTSW Kidney Cancer Program investigators.

Drs. Payal Kapur and Satwick Rajaram received an Idea Development Award ($980,839) to evaluate digital pathology and deep learning to predict treatment response. Dr. Srinivas Malladi received an Early Career Idea Development Award ($983,478) to delineate latency and relapse determinants in metastatic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Dr. Qing Zhang received a Concept Award ($163,670) to identify functionally important enhancers in kidney cancer. Finally, Drs. Jong-Sun Lee and Faeze Saatchi from the Mendell and Brugarolas Labs, respectively, received Postdoctoral Awards ($319,800/Lee; $319,307/Saatchi) to understand the role of nonlongcoding RNAs in kidney cancer and identify molecular mechanisms underlying HIF2-independent tumorigenesis. 

* The views expressed in this press release/article are those of the author's and may not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

2019 Nobel Prize winner Dr. William Kaelin speaks at University Lecture Series


2019 Nobel Prize winner and Harvard Medical School Professor William Kaelin, M.D., is the guest speaker for UT Southwestern's University Lecture Series. Kidney Cancer Program Director (and Kaelin Lab alumnus) James Brugarolas is the event moderator. Dr. Kaelin is recognized for his landmark work involving the VHL tumor suppressor gene.   

KCP hosts 7th annual Advisory Board meeting


Members of the Kidney Cancer Program's External Scientific Advisory Board convened to discuss the program's latest research initiatives and proposed SPORE projects.

New immunotherapy drug boosts innate immune system to fight cancer


A newly released study by Jinming Gao, professor of Oncology, Pharmacology, and Otolarynology, shows how a novel, nanoparticle-based drug may be more effective at engaging the body's innate immune system to fight cancer. The drug's unique and prolonged binding to the STING protein was associated with longer innate immune activation, demonstrating a more effective T cell response against solid tumors. 

Collaborative study highlights imortance of complement system in renal cancer


A collaborative study with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center that builds upon a prior KCP discovery of an inflammed subtype of renal cancer (Wang et al., Cancer Discov 2018) shows increased deposition of complement proteins in inflamed renal tumors. The data suggest that complement proteins, which are associated with poor prognosis, may suppress an adaptive immune response and could be targeted in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.