The AGA Research Foundation is thrilled to add seven exceptional early career investigators to our list of AGA Research Scholar Award recipients – a prestigious group of investigators who jumpstarted their independent research careers with this funding. Meet our recipients and learn more about their research projects below.
As an applied mathematician, Dr. Curtius plans to derive and validate mathematical frameworks, incorporating multiscale data, for optimizing cancer surveillance strategies for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although prevention of cancer is possible, the sub-optimal gastrointestinal cancer screening methods perpetuate inefficient, costly ‘one-size-fits-all’ practices that cause both over-diagnosis of benign lesions and under-diagnosis of dangerous lesions. Her research could potentially enable more efficient risk stratification and early detection and cancer prevention in this premalignant disease. She considers her work a paradigm shift for determining when a patient is at an “ideal” age for surveillance based on models of cancer evolution.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation) produce mixed results among patients with advanced rectal tumors. Dr. Eyler will use advanced tumor organoid models and human specimens to investigate the mechanisms by which treatment resistance occurs, with a focus on how standard treatments like chemoradiotherapy induce genetic and epigenetic tumor evolution. Identified changes can be leveraged for treatment opportunities that could spare some patients the need to undergo a morbid surgery.
Dr. Gabre was among the first to identify two DNA damage response signaling pathways (ATM and TRIM29) as potential mechanisms of treatment resistance to chemotherapy and radiation in esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC). His research will interrogate these pathways using patient derived organoids and investigate the clinical significance and underlying mechanisms of chemoradiation resistance responses by tumor molecular status. He hopes his work will lead to new chemotherapy and radiation therapies resulting in improved remission rates for patients with EAC.
Dr. Lee recently uncovered distinct immune responses in different subtypes of chronic pancreatitis through in-depth integrative single-cell multi-omics sequencing analysis using patient tissue samples. Her AGA-funded research will identify triggers for T cell-mediated pathogenic immune responses and signals unique to hereditary chronic pancreatitis using pancreatic tissues from patients. Results will provide novel insights into hereditary chronic pancreatitis-specific T cell immunopathogenesis and novel therapeutic strategies for hereditary chronic pancreatitis.
Dr. Pasricha will investigate the role and therapeutic potential of GDNF and transplanted enteric neuronal progenitor cells using single-cell RNA sequencing and functional studies in human ex vivo organotypic cultures. The overarching goal is to characterize the neuroimmune pathways that underlie gastroparesis and leverage this knowledge toward developing strategies to restore immune homeostasis and improve symptoms. The long-term aim of this research is to lay the foundation for direct therapeutic benefit to patients through novel applications of glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor as a biologic agent and/or neural stem cell transplantation therapy.
Dr. Gaddam’s research attempts to understand the tumor microenvironment in pancreatic adenocarcinoma using novel endoscopic ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging techniques. With his AGA funding, he will investigate how changes within the microenvironment impact patient outcomes and pave the way for predicting response to chemotherapy. His aim is to elevate positive response rates by providing precision-focused therapeutic strategies and provide a predictive methodology adaptable to other cancers.
Funding for this award is provided by the AGA Research Foundation Endowment Fund.
Dr. Jansson-Knodell’s investigations will amass celiac disease case data from five centers across the U.S. to compare standard biopsy diagnosis with non-biopsy, serology-based diagnostic criteria. The overall goal is to improve care of patients with celiac disease by simplifying diagnosis. Her intent is to provide a solution that will save health care costs, reduce patient risk and shorten treatment delays.
Funding for this award is provided by Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc.