Bladder Cancer Researcher Earns Two Prestigious Awards

Cleveland Clinic urologic oncologist and researcher Byron Lee, MD, PhD, has received two significant awards, totaling $250,000, that recognize his research in chromatin modifier genes and bladder cancer: a Kimmel Scholar Award from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research and a Young Investigator Award from the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN).

Chromatin modifiers control how DNA is organized inside a cell’s nucleus, playing a central role in the regulation of proper gene expression, initiation of DNA replication and recombination. Recently, genome-wide analyses have shown the vast majority of urothelial bladder cancers harbor a chromatin modifier gene mutation. While many agree mutations in these genes can substantially alter a cell’s behavior and lead to malignancy—including cancers of the lung, kidney, colon, ovary and white blood cells—the functional consequences of these mutations in bladder cancer are not fully understood.

With the help of Dr. Lee, Cleveland Clinic was one of 14 centers to participate in a phase II clinical trial evaluating the epigenetic drug mocetinostat in bladder cancer. The results will elucidate the clinicopathologic and molecular factors that affect the tumor’s response to the drug.

Dr. Lee’s team is using the gene editing technology CRISPR to delete chromatin modifier genes in early bladder cancer and study how that affects cell behavior.

This research into the role genetics play in bladder cancer will significantly improve understanding of the complex disease and holds great promise in ultimately improving the outcomes for patients who contract this all-too-common cancer.

Dr. Lee is a staff member in the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute Department of Urology and Lerner Research Institute Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Kimmel Scholar Awards support early career research scientists and physicians with a two-year $200,000 grant. The BCAN Young Investigator Award, a one-year $50,000 grant, specifically encourages early career researchers to pursue bladder cancer investigations to improve patient outcomes.

(Story Adapted from Consult QD)