Lerner Research Institute News

Read about the latest advances from Lerner Research Institute scientists, including new findings, grant awards, innovations and collaborations.

Predicting Efficacy and Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines in Cancer Patients

Dr. Eng has received a Caregiver Catalyst Grant to assess the efficacy and safety of the current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in individuals with cancer or a high genetic susceptibility to cancer due to heritable PTEN mutations.


Charis Eng, MD, PhD, was recently named one of the 34 caregivers selected to receive a July 2021 Caregiver Catalyst Grant. The Caregiver Catalyst Grants program pools the gifts from thousands of generous Cleveland Clinic donors into a fund allocated to support caregivers’ innovative ideas and has awarded more than $4.6 million since its inception in 2018.

Dr. Eng’s team will receive $64,000 over one year to assess the potential responsiveness of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in the cells of individuals with a high genetic susceptibility to cancer due to germline (heritable) mutations in the PTEN gene.

PTEN is a key regulator of tumor initiation and growth as well as immune responses, so patients with PTEN mutations are at an increased risk for certain cancers, autoimmune diseases and other signs of immune dysregulation. As a result, not only are they more likely to develop life-threatening complications if they contract COVID-19, they also may experience reduced vaccine efficacy or negative reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Data acquired through this project will enable prediction of immune reactivity, efficacy and potential side effects of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines for this vulnerable patient population, thus allowing us to better address vaccine hesitancy and guide these patients to the safest decision regarding vaccination,” said Dr. Eng. “Our results also can be used as proof-of concept for other conditions presenting with similar immune dysregulation, especially due to heritable genetic mutations.”

Dr. Eng is the inaugural chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute and inaugural director of the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare, which includes the PTEN Multidisciplinary Clinic (designated as a Clinical Center of Excellence by the PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome Foundation) for children and adults with confirmed or possible diagnoses of genetic conditions associated with PTEN mutations.

Looking for more news and updates from Lerner Research Institute? Check out our news archive.

View Archive

Looking for more news and updates from Cleveland Clinic? Check out the Cleveland Clinic Newsroom.

Cleveland Clinic News Feed