Donors to MD Anderson’s Annual Fund have made possible a new funding resource that enables researchers to resume work interrupted by COVID-19. This support was awarded through the Adverse Incident Bridge Funding Program, an offshoot of MD Anderson’s original Bridge Funding Program launched in 1999 to provide gap financing to researchers who need additional money to complete their work in a given year.
Prompted by the pandemic, the new program accepts quarterly applications for interim funds for faculty whose research programs are hampered due to unforeseen events that result in reduction or cancellation of previously secured funding. Both the new program and its ongoing predecessor are supported by unrestricted gifts to the Annual Fund and managed by the Office of Research Administration.
Krahe received support for his research focused on determining how changes in the tumor suppressor gene ARHGAP30 and the protein for which it codes contribute to genetically inherited disease, such as Li-Fraumeni-like syndrome, and sporadic or non-inherited cancers, including pediatric sarcomas and adult colon, kidney and breast malignancies.
“The adverse incident bridge funding is absolutely essential for us to restart and continue critical experiments that we, like so many other affected researchers, were forced to stop or put on hold when the institution abruptly went to the COVID-19-forced research shutdown in March last year,” Krahe says. “We lost momentum, time, reagents and data, among other things. The bridge funding enables us to now catch up and generate preliminary data that will put us in a better position to compete for external funding.”
The program also provided funding for Shepherd’s investigation of angiotensin signaling and neuro-immune crosstalk in chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, a debilitating side effect of cancer treatment. This funding enables development of genetically modified mice, a gold standard for making rigorous and reproducible findings that translate into changes in clinical practice.
Shepherd says the pandemic set his research back by more than six months. “With this funding, we have been able to restart our program at a pace that would not have been possible otherwise and begin generating the data we need to compete for further funding outside the institution,” he says.
Annual Fund gifts continue to play a vital role in supporting programs such as these. Gifts of all amounts — $20, $200, $2,000 — combine for significant impact, advancing innovative work and important programs that one day will mean more effective treatments and improved lives for patients with cancer everywhere.
Awards help scientists continue projects
The original Bridge Funding Program awarded support to two recipients in the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021 — Kelly Hunt, M.D., chair of Breast Surgical Oncology, who received support for the multi-investigator Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) breast cancer project, and Marvin Meistrich, Ph.D., professor of Experimental Radiation Oncology, who was awarded funds for his research into next-generation therapies for fertility preservation in male cancer patients.
“I am extremely honored to receive this award on behalf of the program’s co-leader, Khandan Keyomarsi, Ph.D. (professor of Experimental Radiation Oncology), and the entire breast cancer SPORE team,” Hunt says. “It will help us continue our research to improve outcomes for advanced breast cancer patients. Our team is using targeted therapies in the metastatic setting based upon the molecular, cellular and clinical biology of the disease and understanding mechanisms of drug resistance. We are also using a novel approach to radiation therapy delivery and using genomic tools to examine radiation sensitivity for personalized treatment approaches.”
Meistrich received support for basic research that ultimately aims to preserve fertility in young boys undergoing chemo- or radiation therapy treatments that enable them to survive their cancers. “Funding received through this program will help us refine and enable new techniques in the rhesus monkey, a species closely related to humans, which will help us advance toward early clinical trials with patients to use preserved testicular specimens to enable their future fertility, resulting in live, healthy children.”