City of Hope researcher Takahiro “Taka” Maeda, M.D., Ph.D., was among 15 top young cancer investigators selected as 2007 V Scholars by the V Foundation for Cancer Research.
Maeda is the first City of Hope researcher to receive a V Scholar grant, which provides funding for young cancer investigators as they begin their careers. He will receive $100,000 over a two-year period.
An assistant professor in the Department of Hematopoietic Stem Cell & Leukemia Research, Maeda joined City of Hope in 2007 from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
V Scholar funding will enable Maeda to continue his research on a protein known as Leukemia/Lymphoma Related Factor (LRF). LRF is a proto-oncogene — a gene required for normal cell growth. LRF may cause cancer when mutated or expressed at unusually high levels.
During his postdoctoral fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Maeda showed that immune system cells called B-cells require LRF, but LRF also is highly expressed in human non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma tissues. Maeda will use his grant to determine how LRF protein regulates normal B-cell maturation. He also will begin testing strategies to turn off LRF that is overactive in human lymphomas.
“We believe that LRF is an important oncogene in lymphoma and would like to develop a compound to block its function,” said Maeda, noting that preliminary efforts to identify such a compound must be validated in mice before applying therapies to humans. “Animals provide a disease model closest to the human disease. Generating a lymphoma mouse model will give us something to test compounds on.”
The V Foundation was founded by the legendary North Carolina State basketball coach and ESPN commentator Jim Valvano in 1993 shortly before he died of cancer. Its goal is to find a cure for cancer. Since its creation in 1993, the V Foundation has raised more than $70 million and awarded cancer research grants in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
V Scholar grants are awarded after a rigorous review process. “This year we had 47 proposals and funded 15 grants,” said review committee member Robert C. Bast Jr., M.D., vice president for translational research at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “Our goal is to continue to fund the best and the brightest researchers on the cutting edge of finding a cure.”
Information about Jim Valvano and the V Foundation is available at www.jimmyv.org.