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Fox Chase Fellows Awarded Funds From In Vino Vita Benefit for Research Projects

July 23, 2021

PHILADELPHIA (July 23, 2021)—Fox Chase Cancer Center recently awarded grants to two fellows to continue work on projects related to patient care in their fields. These funds were raised as part of Fox Chase’s annual In Vino Vita Benefit and Wine Auction.

In Vino Vita, which was held virtually in 2020, raised over $700,000 for cancer research. The special pledge portion of the event helped raise more than $400,000 for the new Young Investigators Fund, from which grants for fellows were awarded. Amaranta Craig, MD, a gynecologic oncology fellow, and Julia Judd, DO, a hematology/oncology fellow, were allocated $15,000 each for their projects.

“We expect that these studies will lead to major papers in high-impact journals and perhaps to future funding for these budding clinical investigators,” said J. Robert Beck, MD, professor emeritus and H.O. West and J.R. Wike Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at Fox Chase and chair of In Vino Vita.

Investment in early-stage research has been successful at Fox Chase, where several projects funded by the 2017 In Vino Vita Special Pledge have since yielded 12 peer-reviewed publications and more than $5 million in government and industry funding. Beck said that applications for Young Investigator Award funding are accepted quarterly; if funding is awarded, it begins the following quarter.

“My project looks at the Flatiron Health database, which is a national community oncology database,” said Craig. “It’s unique because it gives us a lot of information about how people in the community are being treated. There’s no delay in the information, so we have information as recent as 2021.”

Craig’s project will analyze information from this database and investigate differences in the primary treatment of ovarian cancer. She will be examining topics such as whether patients receive chemotherapy or surgery first and will work toward determining whether those primary treatments have changed over time.

“I’m really excited to be chosen as a young investigator because I’m still a fellow but I’m planning to continue in academics. This helps me figure out how to apply for future funding from the feedback we received on our applications. I’m grateful that even in this challenging time, there’s an opportunity for young faculty to have this funding mechanism,” said Craig.

Judd will be using funds for her project: “Ancestry Related Genomic Differences and Survival Disparities Among Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients.”

Judd said her work stems from the assumption that disparities in lung cancer survival are solely due to socioeconomic and access issues. However, based on prior work by Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH, professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program and one of Judd’s mentors on this project, there is evidence to suggest that genetic ancestry may play a large role in disparities among patients with smoking-related cancers.

“We propose that ancestry-related genomic differences in gene regulatory pathways are associated with inferior survival. We have known therapies with variable mechanisms of action to target these different pathways,” said Judd. “So the goal is that if we can identify genomic differences related to ancestry in non-small cell lung cancer patients then we can implement precise and rational therapeutic strategies to target those pathways and ultimately narrow the survival gap.”

Judd said the mission of this project is particularly important to her because she feels there is a significant healthcare disparity between African American and white lung cancer patients.

“It’s important that we address this and don’t completely attribute this disparity to socioeconomic differences. I am very thankful to have the funding to begin to explore this further. I am specializing in thoracic oncology and plan to continue my work of addressing disparities in this space. Hopefully we identify significant differences and use the data to ultimately construct a clinical trial, bring it to the clinic, and assess patients directly,” said Judd.

Craig and Judd were selected to receive funds for their work following a rigorous application and review process that included feedback provided by a faculty committee that they will be incorporating into their projects.

“Doctors Craig and Judd applied for funding using the same procedure that applies to all Fox Chase pilot research grants. They prepared five-page proposals with references and budgets, and identified a faculty mentor to oversee their research. The proposals were reviewed by a faculty committee and scored according to National Institutes of Health guidelines,” said Beck.

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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