Two young cancer researchers receive awards from Parker Institute

The awards are designed to help train the next generation of scientists in cancer immunotherapy by supporting promising young researchers doing innovative work that has the potential for great impact.

- By Ruthann Richter

Two young investigators at the School of Medicine have received awards from the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to advance their research and further their careers in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Ansuman Satpathy, MD, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar and instructor in pathology, has been named a Parker Bridge Scholar. The award, which will provide him with $650,000 over a three-year period, will support his research in cancer immunology and epigenomics as he transitions into a faculty position at Stanford.

Zinaida Good, a graduate student in computational and systems immunology, has been named a Parker Scholar. She will receive $67,000 for a year, with the possibility of renewal for a second year, to help her move into a position as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford and continue her work on refining engineered T-cell therapies for patients with cancer.

The awards are designed to help train the next generation of scientists in cancer immunotherapy by supporting promising young researchers doing innovative work that has the potential for great impact. The Stanford investigators were among six from around the country receiving awards totaling $3.46 million.

“The Parker Institute has created a community of scientists working together to mobilize the immune system against cancer and improve patient outcomes. They have brought together some of the world’s best scientists and created incentives for them to collaborate,” Good said. “This is a real honor to become a part of this community. Discussing ideas with other researchers is really helpful in shaping research questions and thinking critically about your discoveries.”

Good has been working in the laboratories of Sean Bendall, PhD, assistant professor of pathology, and Garry Nolan, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology, who both pioneered an advanced, single-cell analysis tool called cytometry by time-of-flight. Using this technology, she created a high-resolution map of human T-cell differentiation and was able to “steer” T-cell fate towards a clinically useful phenotype. She plans to apply this approach to T cells engineered with chimeric antigen receptors, so these cells can effectively target cancer cells in patients and persist over time to prevent cancer from recurring. 

For her postdoctoral training, Good will join the labs of Crystal Mackall, MD, professor of pediatrics and of medicine, the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford and a leading researcher in chimeric antigen receptors engineering; and Sylvia Plevritis, PhD, professor of radiology and biomedical data science specializing in cancer systems biology.

Satpathy has been working in the lab of Howard Chang, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology, where he’s been focusing on why cancer immunotherapy works well in some patients but not as well in others. He and his colleagues have developed new genome-sequencing methods to study how T cells function and undergo change in the presence of cancer.

In so doing, “We can see what is happening in patients that is working well and what is not, and incorporate those insights in order to design better therapies in the future,” Satpathy said. Now a third-year resident in pathology, he will continue to work in Chang’s lab while he transitions to being an independent investigator and faculty member.

“I think that transition is particularly difficult both in terms of funding and developing relationships with other scientists and collaborators,” he said. “This award helps in both areas. It provides funding, but more importantly it provides membership in a community of scientists who are the best in cancer immunotherapy and immunology.”

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2023 ISSUE 2

How the environment and health interact