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Career Enhancement Program

A critical element to ensure new advances that translate research from bench to bedside in head and neck cancer is to attract, foster and support new investigators in this area. The Career Enhancement Program (CEP) of the Yale Head and Neck SPORE has this as its core goal.

The communities of Yale, University of North Carolina and Fox Chase Cancer Center are strongly committed to promoting basic, translational and clinical cancer research. There is an exceptional pool of junior faculty, fellows and established investigators with outstanding potential to advance translational head and neck cancer research, plus a dedicated cohort of established head and neck investigators to serve as mentors and collaborators.

To ensure that there will be a pipeline of new, improved and much needed therapies to offer to head and neck cancer patients, it is essential to increase the workforce of translational researchers who are driven to gain greater understanding of this disease and motivated to develop new treatments to reduce head and neck cancer morbidity and mortality.

To achieve this the specific aims of the CEP are:

  1. to identify, support and mentor promising early career basics and translational investigators to work in head and neck cancer,
  2. to enhance the careers of established investigators who have newly-defined interest in pursuing translational research in head and neck cancer, and
  3. to contribute to the development of a diverse head and neck cancer translational work force.This is of particular importance for a cancer which disproportionately burdens communities of color, such as those in the communities surrounding our cancer centers in New Haven, Chapel Hill and Philadelphia.

The CEP awardees each year will receive up to $50,000 per year to support their research career enhancement activities. These awardees will be drawn for the Yale, UNC and FCCC communities, selected through a careful and well-defined process, and supported by the expertise and resources of the YHN-SPORE community. These CEP awardees will go on to take their place in the next generation of physician scientists and translational researchers dedicated to address the most urgent issues in head and neck cancer.

Eligibility: Open to investigators at a YHN-SPORE affiliated academic institution (Yale University, University of North Carolina, Fox Chase Cancer Center and Temple University) who can be described by one of the following categories:
1) Junior faculty holding appointments
2) Candidates with confirmed junior faculty appointments (e.g., advanced fellows)
3) Established investigators, who are committed to re-focusing a substantial component of her/his research on head and neck cancer and the study of risk prevention, diagnosis, prognosis or treatment of human head and neck cancer malignancies
Women and minority investigators are strongly encouraged to apply.

Requirements: If a grant is awarded, the P.I. and mentors must agree to abide by the attached Grant Guidelines (page 4) and to participate in the YHN-SPORE DRP/CEP Symposium to be held at Yale (or virtually) in April 2023.

Previous Career Enhancement Awardees

2022 Career Enhancement Program Awardees
  • Michael Chiorazzi, MD, PhD (Yale University): Investigation of the HNSCC Tumor Microenvironment and Response to Therapy with Autologous Humanized Mice (Mentor: Richard Flavell)
  • He (Peter) Wang, MD, PhD (Yale University): Electronic cigarette exposure on oral mucosa carcinogenesis (Mentors: Barbara Burtness, Qin Yan)
  • Pedro Torres-Ayuso, PhD (Fox Chase Cancer Center/Temple): Testing understudied kinase TNIK as a target in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. (Mentor: Erica Golemis and Barbara Burtness)
  • Travis Schrank, MD, PhD (University of North Carolina): Investigating Viral Genotypic Variability in HPV16 Head and Neck Cancer: Mechanisms and Blood Based Biomarkers. (Mentor: Wendell Yarbrough)
2021 Career Enhancement Program Awardee
  • Sanjeevani Arora, PhD (Fox Chase Cancer Center): Developing biomarkers of response to chemoradiation therapy in head and neck cancer: towards precision medicine (Mentor: Erica Golemis)
  • Thomas Hayman, MD PhD: STING-Dependent DNA Damage Response in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (Mentor: Joseph Contessa)
  • Jeffrey Ishizuka, MD MPhil: Defining mechanisms of inflammation-mediated immune escape in head and neck cancer (Mentors: Barbara Burtness, Marcus Bosenberg)
  • Travis Schrank, MD PhD (University of North Carolina): Double-Strand Break Repair Deficiency as a Driver of Genomic Copy Number Heterogeneity in HPV Associated Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (Mentors: Wendell Yarbrough, Natalia Isaeva)
Cycle 2
  • Claudio Alarcon, PhD, Yale University, Determining the role of RNA methylation in head and neck cancer (Mentor: Mark Lemmon)
  • He (Peter) Wang, MD, PhD, Yale University, Electronic cigarette exposure on oral mucosa carcinogenesis (Mentors: Barbara Burtness, Qin Yan, Nikhil Joshi)
  • Bernadette Marquez-Nostra, PhD, Yale University, PET imaging of activated T cells in preclinical models of head and neck cancer (Mentors: Barbara Burtness, Richard Carson)
  • Kim Blenman, PhD, MS, Yale University, Antigen processing and presentation machinery as prognostic markers for HNSCC (Mentors: David Rimm, Barbara Burtness)