Nghiem Lab Research Team Awarded Mark Foundation Grant for Merkel Cell Carcinoma Research

April 12, 2022

Congratulations to several members of the Nghiem Lab Research Team whose recent proposal was selected to receive over $1.2 million in award funding through The Mark Foundation to support their innovative Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) research.

The research team includes Peter Goff, MD, PhD, Senior Resident in the UW Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology, Rashmi Bhakuni, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the UW Medicine Division of Dermatology, Thomas Pulliam, BS, MD PhD student, Jung Hyun Lee, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, Evan T. Hall, MD, MPhil, Physician at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Assistant Professor at the UW School of Medicine, and Paul Nghiem, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator and Head of the UW Division of Dermatology.

The team’s research project titled, “Intersection of Two Checkpoints: Could Inhibiting the DNA Damage Response Checkpoint Rescue Immune Checkpoint-Refractory Cancer?,” will receive funding over three years through The Mark Foundation’s ASPIRE II grant, from April 2022 to March 2025. The grant will support the time and translational research efforts of key personnel involved in studying the effect of ATR inhibitors, a novel class of drugs, in immunotherapy-resistant Merkel cell carcinoma.

The project focuses on “ATR inhibitors.” ATR is a protein that ensures DNA is completely copied before a cell divides, failure of which results in cell death. Exciting laboratory studies have shown that ATR inhibitors (ATRi) not only cause cancer cells to die preferentially, but also increase the visibility of dying tumor cells to the immune system. The research team will conduct studies that will lead to a clinical trial of an ATR inhibitor for MCC patients with disease resistant to immune checkpoint inhibitors.

View the official announcement on The Mark Foundation website.