A Decade of Impact: Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Awards

Oct 24, 2016

The Kidney Cancer Association has supported 12 kidney cancer research projects through the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award (YIA) program over the past decade. Early seed funding from the Kidney Cancer Association is advancing research, improving the lives of those affected by kidney cancer, and encouraging bright young doctors to pursue careers in kidney cancer research.

"The Conquer Cancer Foundation is deeply appreciative of the loyal and generous support from the Kidney Cancer Association that has provided critical funding for kidney cancer research and helped launch the careers of physician-scientists,” said Nancy R. Daly, MS, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Philanthropic Officer of the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Previous recipients of Kidney Cancer Association YIAs continue to pursue cutting-edge cancer research and are making great strides in their careers, as illustrated by the following updates from select recipients:

Matthew Campbell, MD, MS, assistant professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and 2015 YIA recipient, was promoted to junior faculty since receiving the YIA and the clinical trial he is working on has started to actively accrue patients.

“The YIA application and grant process helped me establish collaborative networks within my institution.  It provided me experience in grant writing and allowed me to dedicate time to research activities, while also boosting my confidence in pursuing a career in academia,” said Dr. Campbell.

Kevin Courtney, MD, PhD, assistant professor at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and 2008 YIA recipient, continues to pursue clinical and translational research focused on kidney and prostate cancer.  In addition to mentoring graduate students and clinical fellows, he leads clinical trials and performs funded research assessing tumor metabolism in vivo in patients with kidney and prostate cancers.

“The Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association YIA provided me with crucial funding to continue my post-doctoral research past the completion of my clinical fellowship and to gain further experience as a basic and translational scientist in genitourinary cancers,” said Dr. Courtney.

Thai Ho, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and 2011 YIA recipient, identified errors which initially arise in early kidney cancer that lead to propagation of these same errors in metastases.  Dr. Ho’s team continues to focus on the epigenetics of these alterations in kidney cancer metastases and has started treating patients affected by kidney cancer with drugs that target these epigenetic errors propagated in metastases.

"The YIA helped provide me with protected time to translate my research from the lab to the bedside. It also helped provide preliminary data to support extramural grants,” said Dr. Ho.

Eliezer Van Allen, MD, assistant professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and 2013 YIA recipient, remains focused on cancer genomics and clinical applications of this technology. Since receiving the YIA, he and his team have revealed new drivers of chemotherapy response, immunotherapy response, and targeted therapy resistance. They are now applying these findings toward kidney cancer through the study of immunotherapy and genomics. 

“The YIA was the true catalyst in providing funding during the gap between the end of my fellowship and beginning of my independent faculty position. Without this award, I would not have been able to pursue a career as an academic oncologist and contribute to the scientific fight against cancer. This award was transformative for my career, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities it afforded me,” said Dr. Van Allen.

Martin Voss, MD, assistant attending at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and 2012 YIA recipient, continues to study the development of novel treatment strategies and biomarkers for advanced kidney cancer. Dr. Voss’ team was among the first to correlate acquired somatic mutations along the PI3K/MTOR pathway with exceptional responses to MTORC1 inhibitor therapy. They further demonstrated that clonal evolution toward a targetable pathway can help overcome clonal tumor heterogeneity. His research sparked subsequent investigations by others that helped design the trial that allows for molecular selection of patients to receive MTOR directed agents.

"The YIA enabled me to complete a project that was critical to my early career as a clinical investigator.  It provided invaluable recognition during my application for faculty position and ultimately enabled me to stay in academic medicine as an independent investigator,” said Dr. Voss.

Learn more about the Young Investigator Award. Learn more about the Kidney Cancer Association.


Conquer Cancer Foundation/Kidney Cancer Association Young Investigator Award Recipients

Henk Verheul, MD, PhD

“Combination antiangiogenesis and anticoagulatory therapy in patients with advanced renal cell cancer”

2006 Young Investigator Award

Patricia Tang, MD

“The role of VEGF-A signaling in maintenance of the glomerular filtration barrier and blood pressure”

2007 Young Investigator Award

Aymen Elfiky, MD

“Targeting phosphoinositide 3-kinase in renal cell cancer”

2008 Young Investigator Award

Kevin Courtney, MD, PhD

“Identification of activators of phosphoinositide 3-kinase signaling in renal cell carcinoma as potential therapeutic targets; and Evaluation of signaling mechanisms involved in prostate cancer development and progression.”

2008 Young Investigator Award

Stephen Keefe, MD

“Predicting response to antiangiogenic therapies in renal cell carcinoma”

2009 Young Investigator Award

Aditya Bardia, MD, MPH

“Evaluation of cardiac glycoside, digoxin, as a novel inhibitor of Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1a and its target genes in tumor microenvironment.”

2010 Young Investigator Award

Thai Ho, MD, PhD

“The role of SETD2, a histone methyltransferase, in the development of renal cell carcinoma”

2011 Young Investigator Award


Martin Voss, MD

“Predictive Tissue Biomarkers for mTOR Inhibitors in Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC).”

2012 Young Investigator Award


Eliezer Van Allen, MD

“Dissecting clinical resistance to PI3K inhibitors in PIK3CA or PTEN-mutant cancers”

2013 Young Investigator Award

Kathleen Mahoney, MD, PhD

“PD-L1 and a secretory variant in Renal Cell Carcinoma”

2014 Young Investigator Award

Matthew Campbell, MD

“Enhancing therapeutic efficacy in metastatic renal cell carcinoma by combining immune check point blockade with cryoablation.”

2015 Young Investigator Award

Raj Gopal, MD, PhD

“Mitochondrial profiling in kidney cancer”

2016 Young Investigator Award

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