Tumor cell biologist obtains prestigious Kimmel scholarship

September 20, 2011 | by City of Hope Staff

Mei Kong

The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded Mei Kong, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Tumor Cell Biology, a two-year grant under its Kimmel Scholars program. The $200,000 award supports Kong’s efforts to translate her research from the laboratory to clinical studies.

Kong was one of 15 scientists in the U.S. named a Kimmel Scholar this year. Her research centers on the molecular factors that allow cancerous cells to survive through a sort of cellular famine.

As tumors develop, their speedy growth often outpaces the supply of blood that feeds them, leaving the cells hungry for nutrients. Researchers are unsure how tumor cells survive these stressful periods.

Kong is exploring the importance of a protein called PP2A. This protein helps tumor cells flourish even as key nutrients grow scarce. Once she unveils how PP2A works, she hopes to use the information to develop new anticancer therapies that block the survival method tumor cells use when nutrients are not available. And because PP2A is common to many cancers, Kong hopes her work will benefit many patients.

“My greatest hope would be to find a way to target the protein that would be effective against a broad range of malignant tumors,” Kong said. “I’m very honored and grateful that the Kimmel Foundation chose to support my work.”

The Kimmel Scholar Awards aim to advance the careers of young cancer researchers. Recipients must show great promise and innovation in their work, must be in the early stages of their research careers and must not have received major grants from other funding sources such as the National Cancer Institute.

Kong joined City of Hope in 2010 following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. She obtained her doctoral degree from McGill University in 2003.

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