Mass General Cancer Center Announces First Recipients of Krantz Awards for Cancer Research

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The Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research at the Mass General Cancer Center announced the selection of 17 scientists who have been awarded a combined $6 million in funding. These competitive awards, which will be granted annually, were established to recognize the trailblazing efforts of Krantz Center scientists and accelerate ideas, projects and initiatives with the potential to fundamentally change how cancer is diagnosed and treated.

Philanthropists Jason and Keely Krantz, who in September of 2023 made the largest research-directed gift in the Mass General Cancer Center’s 34-year history, included annual funding for innovative and collaborative research projects, advanced technologies to support cancer research, and an endowment to ensure sustainability. The awards announced today reflect the Krantz Center’s commitment to supporting cutting-edge research.

The awards are distributed to individual investigators and research teams at the Krantz Center in four tiers: Quantum Awards (with up to $2 million in funding to support research with the potential to transform overall understanding and treatment of cancer); Breakthrough Awards (with up to $1 million for projects that accelerate the most promising scientific concepts); Spark Awards (with up to $100,000 to test exciting new thought-provoking ideas); and Technology Support (to provide for the purchase of cutting-edge equipment and technological innovation).

The inaugural recipients were determined through a rigorous selection process that included internal and external scientific review. The final decisions were based on the individual project’s ability to have outsized impact on the future of cancer care and treatment. The number of awards presented each year will be dependent upon the diversity and merit of the proposals submitted.

“The Krantz Center for Cancer Research is home to some of the world’s most innovative and creative cancer investigators,” said Jason Krantz, founder, CEO and executive chairman of Definitive Healthcare. “These elite researchers come to Mass General because they want to be involved in the game-changing research that they believe can truly transform cancer care here in Massachusetts and around the globe. The Krantz Awards are designed to accelerate this work with the goal of bringing lifesaving therapies and diagnostics to cancer patients everywhere as quickly as possible.”

2023 Krantz Award Recipients

The Quantum Award was presented to the team of Liron Bar-Peled, PhD, Michael Lawrence, PhD, and Chris Ott, PhD. The team will receive $2 million over two years to explore new chemical-proteomic technologies to target transcription factors, a type of protein that can act as a genetic driver of cancer. Transcription factors are considered “undruggable” with current therapies. If their collaborative work is successful, Drs. Bar-Peled, Lawrence and Ott — who each oversee their own individual labs in the Krantz Center — could help usher in a new class of cancer therapeutics.

The following teams were selected to receive Breakthrough Awards, which include $1 million per team over two years:

Max Jan MD, PhD, Robert Manguso, PhD, Marcela Maus MD, PhD, and Debattama Sen PhD, are working to optimize CAR T-cell immunotherapy by improving the technology’s ability to kill cancer cells, reducing treatment failure (so-called CAR T-cell “exhaustion”), and developing ways to prevent side effects and toxicity.

Genevieve Boland MD, PhD, Russ Jenkins MD, PhD and Moshe Sade-Feldman, PhD, are using a combination of surgical expertise, in vitro culture technologies and molecular sequencing to identify optimal strategies for using adoptive T-cell therapy, a promising immunotherapy approach utilizing the body’s natural tumor-seeking immune cells.

Nabeel Bardeesy, PhD, and Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD, are exploring if targeting the genes that control cancer cell metabolism can be used to suppress the disease.

  • The following scientists were selected to receive Spark Awards, which include $100,000 in funding per recipient:
  • Andrew Elia, MD, PhD, to study the role of DNA damage pathways within immune cells.
  • Gad Getz, PhD, to develop a deep learning molecular language model for cancer drug discovery.
  • Abner Louissaint, MD, PhD to create and test models of patient-derived lymphomas.
  • Mo Motamedi, PhD, to explore chromatin regulation in combination with cancer chemotherapy.
  • Shannon Stott, PhD, to study non-invasive blood testing for immunotherapy complications.

In addition to the research-focused awards, the Krantz family also established a Technology Support Fund. This year’s awards include funds to support the purchase of advanced microscopy, flow cytometry, real time cell culture technologies and high content imaging data handling.

“Much remains to be done in understanding the fundamental biology that drives different types of cancer, and the dozen inaugural awards will empower new initiatives from some of our most talented faculty working together on collaborative projects,” said Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center and the Krantz Family Center for Cancer Research. “Research projects that are launched at the Krantz Center will ultimately translate into better ways to treat and prevent cancer.”