Conquer Cancer Researcher Dr. Sherilyn Tuazon Maintains Progress During Pandemic

Mar 04, 2021

A patient with cancer prepares for a clinical trial, but the study is paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This obstacle reflects an unfortunate reality for many patients and oncologists worldwide as the pandemic persists. Despite research delays, Sherilyn Tuazon, MD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington, is maintaining momentum in cancer care for patients with multiple myeloma.

Dr. Tuazon is innovating new approaches to autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) treatment for patients with multiple myeloma. When paired with high-dose chemotherapy, ASCT can lengthen remissions, but novel methods are needed to improve patient outcomes in the long-term. Using support from a 2018 Young Investigator Award (YIA) from Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, Dr. Tuazon will launch a clinical trial in 2021 to measure response to an emerging and promising approach to ASCT treatment.

“This project involves a new approach that selectively delivers a small, but powerful, radioactive payload—astatine-211—directly to the myeloma cells by targeting a protein called CD38 found on their surface,” explained Dr. Tuazon.

At press time, Dr. Tuazon was awaiting an investigational new drug approval from the U.S Food and Drug Administration.

A winter surge in COVID-19 cases was expected to slow or suspend enrollment in clinical trials. “As such, potentially effective therapies may not be available to patients, some of whom have life-threatening malignancies and limited commercially available therapeutic options,” Dr. Tuazon said. “Correlative studies associated with trials would also be negatively impacted given limited laboratory staffing.”

Delayed, But Not Deterred

Dr. Tuazon’s Conquer Cancer YIA connects her with mentors committed to her career growth.

“After completing fellowship, I believe the YIA immensely enhanced my prospects for academic jobs and helped me secure a faculty position at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,” Dr. Tuazon said. “The YIA has been instrumental in allowing me to continue my mentored research projects as I transitioned to independence as a clinical investigator.”

A more interconnected cancer care community promotes diversity and exchange of ideas, which can elevate equity and inclusion in research for every patient. Though the pandemic poses temporary roadblocks to clinical research, donor funding continues to support the oncology workforce as researchers like Dr. Tuazon sustain efforts to help patients now and in the future.

“The protected research time afforded by the YIA has enabled me to generate sufficient data for publication,” Dr. Tuazon said. “This invaluable data can inform the rational development of future clinical trials.”

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