TCRF Researchers Report Nearly $10M in Follow-On Funding in 2022

By: TCRF Staff | Published: November 17, 2022
Every year Tower Cancer Research Foundation (TCRF) reaches out to its Funded Researchers for its Annual Research Grant Recipient Update. Researchers share the latest updates of their recent success including presentations, publications, scientific advancements, and continued research supported by follow-on funding.
These updates are a wonderful reminder of the excellence of our researchers and the long-term impact of our research investments.
In 2022 alone, TCRF Researchers reported nearly $10M in follow-on funding, dozens of grants and academic awards, two groundbreaking scientific discoveries, and so much more.
Below is a full list of the awards and accomplishments reported by TCRF Researchers in 2022. To download a PDF version of the 2021-2022 Research Report, click here.

Breakthrough Scientific Discoveries

  • Xiaojiang Chen, MD | 2016 Tower Senior Investigator Grant
    • Dr. Chen’s research team, alongside collaborators at Thomas Jefferson University, has revealed the mechanism for a unique reverse transcriptase activity of this DNA repair enzyme. ⁠This is a groundbreaking discovery that has the potential for allowing us to introduce information into cancer cells through “targeted vaccines” and correct driver mutations that determine cancer cell doubling.⁠ Click here to learn more about Dr. Chen’s findings.
  • Richard J. Pietras, MD, PhD | 2015 Jessica M. Berman Memorial Fund Senior Investigator Grant
    • In his TCRF-funded research project, Dr. Pietras developed a novel translational strategy to address the challenge of endocrine resistance in patients with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. This groundbreaking discovery may allow the development of a new therapeutic approach to manage advanced breast cancer and promote the long-term survival of patients afflicted with this disease. Click here to learn more about Dr. Pietras’ findings.

New Awards

  • Anusha Kalbasi, MD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Joseph Drown Foundation Dean’s Award in Research Excellence, 2021
    • AACR NextGen Star Award, 2021
  • Steven Jonas, MD, PhD | 2018 Randi and Warren Grant Career Development Grant
    • NIH Directors Early Independence Award
  • Soo Park, MD | 2019 Tower Career Development Grant
    • AACR-Doreen J. Putrah Cancer Research Foundation Scholar-in-Training Award

New Independent Labs

  • Steven Jonas, MD, PhD | 2018 Randi and Warren Grant Career Development Grant
    • Started his independent lab at UCLA— The work explores the design of cell therapy manufacturing/assembly line technologies.
  • Theodore Scott Nowicki, MD, PhD | 2019 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Started his independent lab at UCLA— Dr. Nowicki’s research focuses on functional DNA methylomic evolution of transgenic TCR products in clinical scenarios.

New Grants Totaling $9.57M

  • Xiaojiang Chen, MD | 2016 Tower Senior Investigator Grant
    • NIH R01GM137124 | Mechanisms of RNA-DNA repair of PolQ
    • NIH R41CA265430 | Structure Based Design of Pol-theta inhibitors
  • Jun Gong, MD | 2020 Rosen Cherney Tower Golf Tournament Research Grant
    • ASCO Conquer Cancer Gastrointestinal (Colorectal) Cancer Career Development Award
  • Anusha Kalbasi, MD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • NIH/NCI K08 Career Development Award
    • Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award
    • UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Seed Grant
    • Highlight Therapeutics Investigator Initiated Trial Funding
    • Melanoma Research Alliance Team Science Award
  • Theodore Scott Nowicki, MD, PhD | 2019 Tower Career Development Grant
    • NIH/NCI K08 Career Development Award
    • Hyundai Hope on Wheels
    • UCLA Start-Up Funding
  • Richard J. Pietras, MD, PhD | 2015 Jessica M. Berman Memorial Fund Senior Investigator Grant
    • Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program DOD Breast Cancer Research Program Award
    • Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center Executive Advisory Board/ UCLA CTSI Women’s Health Pilot Project Funding Program
  • Joshua Sasine, MD, PhD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • NCI K08 Career Development Award

New Tenure-Track Assistant Professorship

  • DeChen Lin, PhD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Dr. Lin was recruited by the USC School of Dentistry as a tenure-track Assistant Professor and researcher for Ostrow’s Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology.

New Publications

  • Anusha Kalbasi, MD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Schaefer IM, Kelvin Hong K, Kalbasi A. “How technology is improving the multidisciplinary care of sarcoma. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book.” 2020;40:445-462.
    • Graham DS, Onyshchenko M, Eckardt MA, DiPardo BJ, Venigalla S, Nelson SD, Chmielowski B, Singh AS, Shabason JE, Eilber FC, *Kalbasi A. “Low Rates of Chemotherapy Use for Primary, High-Grade Soft Tissue Sarcoma: A National Cancer Database Analysis.” Journal of National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 2020 Aug;18(8):1055-1065.
    • Gao Y, Kalbasi A, Hsu W, Ruan D, Fu J, Shao J, Cao M, Wang C, Eilber FC, Bernthal N, Bukata S, Dry SM, Nelson S, Kamrava M, Lewis JH, Low DA, Steinberg M, Hu P, Yang Y. Treatment effect prediction for sarcoma patients treated with preoperative radiotherapy using radiomics features from longitudinal diffusion-weighted MRIs. Phys Med Biol. 2020 Aug 27;65(17):175006.
    • Qi, XS, Chu F, Zhang Z, Chin R, Raldow A, Kishan A, Lee P, Change A, Kalbasi A, Kamrava M, Steinberg M, Low D. Clinical Development and Evaluation of Megavoltage-Topograms for Fast Patient Alignment on Helical TomoTherapy. Advances in Radiation Oncology. 2020 June 17. Online ahead of print.
    • Gao Y, Yoon S, Savjani R, Pham J, Kalbasi A, Raldow A, Low DA, Hu P, Yang Y. Comparison and Evaluation of Distortion Correction Techniques on an MR-guided Radiotherapy System. Med Phys. 2020 Dec 6. Online ahead of print.
    • Graham DS, Onyschenko M, Eckardt MA, DiPardo BJ, Venigalla S, Jackson NJ, Nelson SD, Chmielowski B, Singh AS, Shabason JE, Eilber FC, *Kalbasi A. “The Association of Chemotherapy and Survival in Patients with Primary Localized, High-Grade, Extremity and Trunk Soft Tissue Sarcoma.” Cancers (Basel). 2020 Aug 24;12(9):E2389.
    • Torrejon DY, Abril-Rodriguez G, Champhekar AS, Tsoi J, Campbell KM, Kalbasi A, Parisi G, Zaretsky JM, Garcia-Diaz A, Puig-Saus C, Cheung-Lau G, Wohlwender T, Krystofinski P, Vega-Crespo A, Lee CM, Mascaro P, Grasso CS, Berent-Maoz B, Comin-Anduix B, Hu-Lieskovan S, Ribas A. Cancer Discovery. 2020 Aug;10(8):1140-1157.
    • Kalbasi A, Hakimi K, Tariveranmoshabad M, Kremer S, Campbell KM, Funes JM, Vega-Crespo A, Parisi G, Champekar A, Nguyen C, Torrejon DY, Shin D, Zarestky JM, Damoiseaux RD, Speiser DE, Lopez-Casas PP, Quintero M, Ribas A. Uncoupling Interferon Signaling and Antigen Presentation to Overcome Immunotherapy Resistance. Science Translational Medicine. 2020 Oct 14;12(565):eabb0152.
    • Gao Y, Yoon S, Savjani R, Pham J, Kalbasi A, Raldow A, Low DA, Hu P, Yang Y. “Comparison and evaluation nof distortion correction techniques on an MR-guided radiotherapy system.” Med Phys. 2020 Dec 6.
    • Qi XS, Chu FI, Zhang Z, Chin RK, Raldow A, Kishan AU, Lee P, Chang A, Kalbasi A, Kamrava M, Steinberg ML, Low DA.Adv Radiat Oncol. “Clinical Development and Evaluation of Meggavoltage Topogram for Fast Alignment on Helical Tomotherapy.” Adv Radiat Oncol. 2020 Jun 17;5(6):1334-1341.
    • Grasso CS, Tsoi J, Onyschchenko M, Abril-Rodriguez G, Ross-Macdonald P, Wind-Rotolo M, Champhekar A, Medina E, Torrejon DY, Shin DS, Tran P, Kim YJ, Puig-Saus C, Campbell K, Vega-Crespo A, Quist M, Martignier C, Luke JJ, Wolchok JD, Johnson DB, Chmielowski B, Hodi FS, Shailender B, Sharfman W, Urba WJ, Slingluff CL, Diab A, Haanen J, Algarra SM, Pardoll DM, Anagnostou V, Topalian SL, Velculescu VE, Speiser DE, Kalbasi A, Ribas A. “Conserved interferon-gamma signaling and decreased immune exclusion programs in responses to immune checkpoint blockade therapy.” Cancer Cell. 2020 Dec 5;S1535-6108(20)30607-3.
    • Li J, Duran MA, Dhanota N, Chatila WK, Bettigole SE, Kwon J, Sriram RK, Humphries MP, Salto-Tellez M, James JA, Hanna MG, Melms JC, Vallabhaneni S, Litchfield K, Usaite I, Biswas D, Bareja R, Li HW, Martin ML, Dorsaint P, Cavallo JA, Li P, Pauli C, Gottesdiener L, DiPardo BJ, Hollmann TJ, Merghoub T, Wen HY, Reis-Filho JS, Riaz N, Su SM, Kalbasi A, Vasan N, Powell SN, Wolchok JD, Elemento O, Swanton C, Shoushtari AN, Parkes EE, Izar B, Bakhoum SF.“Metastasis and immune evasion from extracellular cGAMP hydrolysis.” Cancer Discovery. 2020 Dec 28:CD-20-0387. Online ahead of print.
    • Reddy VK, Jain V, Venigalla S, Levin WP, Wilson RJ, Weber KL, Kalbasi A, Sebro RA, Shabason JE. “Radiotherapy Remains Underused in the Treatment of Soft-Tissue Sarcomas: Disparities in Practice Patters in the United States.” J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2021 Feb 8:1-12.
    • Gao Y, Ghodrati V, Kalbasi A, Fu J, Ruan D, Cao M, Wang C, Eilber FC, Bernthal N, Bukata S, Dry SM, Nelson SD, Kamrava M, Lewis J, Low DA, Steinberg M, Hu P, Yang Y. “Prediction of soft tissue sarcoma response to radiotherapy using longitudinal diffusion MRI and a deep neural network with generative adversarial network-based data augmentation.” Med Phys. 2021 Jun;48(6):3262-3372.
    • Valle LF, Bernthal N, Eilber FC, Shabason JE, Bedi M, Kalbasi A. “Evaluating thresholds for changing radiotherapy standard of care in sarcoma.” Sarcoma. 2021 Oct 26; 2021:3735874.
    • Campbell KM, Thaker M, Medina E, Kalbasi A, Singh A, Ribas A, Nowick TS. “Spatial profiling reveals association between WNT pathway activation and T-cell exclusion in acquired resistance of synovial sarcoma to NY-ESO-1 transgenic T-cell therapy.” Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. 2022, In press.
  • Michael Karin, PhD | 2017 Tower Senior Investigator Grant
    • Song, N. Y., Li, X., Ma, B., Willette-Brown, J., Zhu, F., Jiang, C., Su, L., Shetty, J., Zhao, Y., Shi, G., Banerjee, S., Wu, X., Tran, B., Nussinov, R., Karin, M., & Hu, Y. (2022). IKKα-deficient lung adenocarcinomas generate an immunosuppressive microenvironment by overproducing Treg-inducing cytokines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(6). https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2120956119
  • Kate Lawrenson, PhD | 2016 Cancer Free Generation Career Development Grant
    • Reddy, J., Fonseca, M. A. S., Corona, R. I., Nameki, R., Segato Dezem, F., Klein, I. A., Chang, H., Chaves-Moreira, D., Afeyan, L. K., Malta, T. M., Lin, X., Abbasi, F., Font-Tello, A., Sabedot, T., Cejas, P., Rodríguez-Malavé, N., Seo, J. H., Lin, D. C., Matulonis, U., . . . Lawrenson, K. (2021). Predicting master transcription factors from pan-cancer expression data. Science Advances, 7(48). https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abf6123
  • DeChen Lin, PhD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Dinh HQ, Pan F, Wang G, Huang QF, Olingy CE, Wu ZY, Wang SH, Xu X, Xu XE, He JZ, Yang Q, Orsulic S, Haro M, Li LY, Huang GW, Breunig JJ, Koeffler HP, Hedrick CC, Xu LY, Lin DC (Correspondence), Li EM. Integrated single-cell transcriptome analysis reveals heterogeneity of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma microenvironment. Nat Commun. 2021 Dec 17;12(1):7335. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-27599-5.PMID: 34921160
    • Lin DC (Correspondence). A closer look at esophageal cancer through different lenses. EBioMedicine. 2021 Aug 19;71:103545. PMID: 34419929
    • Li LY, Yang Q, Jiang YY, Yang W, Jiang Y, Li X, Hazawa M, Zhou B, Huang GW, Xu XE, Gery S, Zhang Y, Ding LW, Ho AS, Zumsteg ZS, Wang MR, Fullwood MJ, Freedland SJ, Meltzer SJ, Xu LY, Li EM, Koeffler HP, Lin DC (Correspondence). Interplay and cooperation between SREBF1 and master transcription factors regulate lipid metabolism and tumor-promoting pathways in squamous cancer. Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 16;12(1):4362. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24656-x. PMID: 34272396
    • Jiang Y, Jiang YY, Lin DC (Correspondence). Super-enhancer-mediated core regulatory circuitry in human cancer. Comput Struct Biotechnol J. 2021 May 5;19:2790-2795. PMID: 34093993
    • Lin DC (Correspondence). Exercise impacts the epigenome of cancer. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2021 May 27. doi: 10.1038/s41391-021-00396-3. PMID: 34045658
    • Zheng Y, Huang G, Silva TC, Yang Q, Jiang YY, Koeffler HP, Berman BP, Lin DC (Correspondence). A pan-cancer analysis of CpG Island gene regulation reveals extensive plasticity within Polycomb target genes. Nat Commun. 2021 Apr 30;12(1):2485. PMID: 33931649
    • Ma S, Zhou B, Yang Q, Pan Y, Yang W, Freedland SJ, Ding LW, Freeman MR, Breunig JJ, Bhowmick NA, Pan J, Koeffler HP, Lin DC (Correspondence). A transcriptional regulatory loop of master regulator transcription factors, PPARG, and fatty acid synthesis promotes esophageal adenocarcinoma. Cancer Res. 2021 Mar 1;81(5):1216-1229. PMID: 33402390
  • Steven Jonas, MD, PhD | 2018 Randi and Warren Grant Career Development Grant
    • Belling, J. N., Heidenreich, L. K., Tian, Z., Mendoza, A. M., Chiou, T. T., Gong, Y., Chen, N. Y., Young, T. D., Wattanatorn, N., Park, J. H., Scarabelli, L., Chiang, N., Takahashi, J., Young, S. G., Stieg, A. Z., De Oliveira, S., Huang, T. J., Weiss, P. S., & Jonas, S. J. (2020). Acoustofluidic sonoporation for gene delivery to human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(20), 10976–10982. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1917125117
  • Theodore Scott Nowicki, MD, PhD | 2019 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Campbell, K. M., Thaker, M., Medina, E., Kalbasi, A., Singh, A., Ribas, A., & Nowicki, T. S. (2022). Spatial profiling reveals association between WNT pathway activation and T-cell exclusion in acquired resistance of synovial sarcoma to NY-ESO-1 transgenic T-cell therapy. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 10(3), e004190. https://doi.org/10.1136/jitc-2021-004190
  • Richard J. Pietras, MD, PhD | 2015 Jessica M. Berman Memorial Fund Senior Investigator Grant
    • “New selective estrogen receptor antagonists to treat breast cancer”. Invited presentation for 4th International Congress on Steroid Research, July 8-11, Seoul, South Korea (2018).
    • Márquez-Garbán DC, Gang Deng, Begonya Comin-Anduix, Alejandro Garcia, Emelyne Diers, Nalo Hamilton2,4, Michael E. Jung, Richard J. Pietras (2018). New selective estrogen receptor antagonists to treat breast cancer. Proceedings 4th International Congress on Steroid Research, July 8-11, Seoul, South Korea.
    • Márquez-Garbán DC, G Deng, B Comin-Anduix, AJ Garcia, E Diers, Ga Ma, N Hamilton, ME Jung, RJ Pietras (2019). Selective Estrogen Receptor Downregulators and Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors in Breast Cancer Immunotherapy. Cancer Research. Proceedings American Association for Cancer Research 2019: 122.
    • Márquez-Garbán DC, Gang Deng, Begonya Comin-Anduix, Alejandro J. Garcia, Yanpeng Xing, Hsiao-Wang Chen, Gardenia Cheung-Lau, Nalo Hamilton, Michael E. Jung, Richard J. Pietras (2019). Antiestrogens in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors in breast cancer immunotherapy. J Steroid Biochem Molecular Biol. J. Steroid Biochem. 2019; 193: 105415-31. PMCID: PMC6903431.
    • “Next generation estrogen receptor downregulators and immunotherapy in advanced breast cancer”. Immunology Lecture Series, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, 2020.
  • Martina Roos, PhD, PharmD | 2018 Cancer Free Generation Career Development Grant
    • Termini, C. M., Pang, A., Fang, T., Roos, M., Chang, V. Y., Zhang, Y., Setiawan, N. J., Signaevskaia, L., Li, M., Kim, M. M., Tabibi, O., Lin, P. K., Sasine, J. P., Chatterjee, A., Murali, R., Himburg, H. A., & Chute, J. P. (2021). Neuropilin 1 regulates bone marrow vascular regeneration and hematopoietic reconstitution. Nature Communications, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27263-y
  • Joshua Sasine, MD, PhD | 2017 Tower Career Development Grant
    • Termini CM, Pang A, Fang T, Roos M, Chang VY, Zhang Y, Setiawan NJ, Signaevskaia L, Li M, Kim MM, Tabibi O, Lin PK, Sasine JP, Chatterjee A, Murali R, Himburg HA, Chute JP. Neuropilin 1 regulates bone marrow vascular regeneration and hematopoietic reconstitution. Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 30;12(1):6990.
    • Li YR, Zhou Y, Kim YJ, Zhu Y, Ma F, Yu J, Wang YC, Chen X, Li Z, Zeng S, Wang X, Lee D, Ku J, Tsao T, Hardoy C, Huang J, Cheng D, Montel-Hagen A, Seet CS, Crooks GM, Larson SM, Sasine JP, Wang X, Pellegrini M, Ribas A, Kohn DB, Witte O, Wang P, Yang L. Development of allogeneic HSC-engineered iNKT cells for off-the-shelf cancer immunotherapy. Cell Rep Med. 2021 Nov 16;2(11):100449.
    • Pasquini MC, Hu ZH, Curran K, Laetsch T, Locke F, Rouce R, Pulsipher MA, Phillips CL, Keating A, Frigault MJ, Salzberg D, Jaglowski S, Sasine JP, Rosenthal J, Ghosh M, Landsburg D, Margossian S, Martin PL, Kamdar MK, Hematti P, Nikiforow S, Turtle C, Perales MA, Steinert P, Horowitz MM, Moskop A, Pacaud L, Yi L, Chawla R, Bleickardt E, Grupp S. Real-world evidence of tisagenlecleucel for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Blood Adv. 2020 Nov 10;4(21):5414-5424. doi: 10.1182/bloodadvances.2020003092. Erratum in: Blood Adv. 2021 Feb 23;5(4):1136.
    • Gaut D, Tang K, Sim MS, Duong T, Young P, Sasine J. Filgrastim associations with CAR T-cell therapy. Int J Cancer. 2021 Mar 1;148(5):1192-1196. doi: 10.1002/ijc.33356. Epub 2020 Nov 6. PMID: 33091961; PMCID: PMC7894177.