PHILADELPHIA (July 7, 2021) — Sanjeevani Arora, PhD, assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has received the Yale Head and Neck Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) Career Enhancement Program (CEP) Award. Arora will receive a one-year grant of $50,000 and eligibility for a second year of funding.
“The CEP SPORE award supports young investigators who will emerge as the next generation of researchers that will improve treatment for head and neck cancer. I am excited to be included in this list of young investigators,” said Arora. “Through this award, I have also connected with other members of SPORE, and I am really enjoying being part of such a scientifically rich and collaborative environment.”
The award is related to a five-year, $11.7 million grant that Yale Cancer Center received last year to fund a SPORE collaboration between Fox Chase, Yale Cancer Center, and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center to address obstacles in treating head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Adjuvant chemoradiation therapy (CRT) is currently a standard treatment for locally advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), in which more than 50% of cases are diagnosed at the locally advanced stage. Although CRT benefits many patients, locoregional recurrence is observed in 15% to 50% of HNSCC patients.
The award will help Arora investigate the functional significance and therapeutic implications of germline single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in lysine-modifying genes in HNSCCs. She will test the hypothesis that germline SNPs in lysine-modifying genes regulate double strand break (DSB) repair in HNSCC and impact outcomes following CRT.
She will study the impact of specific SNPs on DSB repair in isogenic HNSCC cell lines and use HNSCC patient tumors and clinical data to study the association between germline SNPs in lysine-modifying genes and CRT outcomes.
Arora’s research has the potential to provide novel insight into how germline SNPs affecting histone modifying proteins impact DSB repairs and, consequently, therapeutic benefit from adjuvant CRT in HNSCC. In the long term, this could help introduce a new paradigm, thus improving treatment for HNSCC patients, Arora said.
Through the CEP, awardees are paired with an established and dedicated cohort of mentors and collaborators to ensure rapid progress on their projects. Erica Golemis, PhD, deputy chief science officer and co-leader of the Molecular Therapeutics Program, is Arora’s primary mentor.
“Overall, the central goal of the CEP SPORE award is to ensure new advances that translate research from bench to bedside and to foster new investigators in this area,” said Arora. “It is a great opportunity to be involved in research that makes a difference for patients.”