The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has named Sidi Chen, PhD, assistant professor of genetics in the Systems Biology Institute and Yale Cancer Center, as a recipient of its Era of Hope Scholar Award — an award that supports individuals early in their careers who have demonstrated significant potential to effect meaningful change in breast cancer. According to DoD, this award goes to the “best and brightest in their fields,” and recognizes “creative and innovative individuals.” Investigators are chosen for their ability “to go beyond conventional thinking” in their respective areas of expertise. This award comes with a four-year grant, with a total dollar amount of $5 million.
Chen plans to use the award to work toward creating next-generation immunotherapies to enhance breast cancer treatment, because, he says, there is a great unmet need for them. “Advanced stage metastatic breast cancer is still lethal, especially triple-negative breast cancers that have no hormone targets,” Chen says. “A large fraction of breast cancer patients still do not respond to immunotherapy even in combinations.”
The Chen Lab has been working on multiple research areas that focus on immune engineering, T cell target discovery, functional characterization, and the tumor immune microenvironment. “When translated into the clinic in the longer run,” Chen says, “the outcome may accelerate the development of next-generation immunotherapy that might benefit not only breast cancer but also a broad range of patient populations.”
Chen's collaborators on the grant are Patricia LoRusso, DO, professor of medicine (medical oncology); Anees Chagpar, MD, MBA, MPH, professor of surgery (oncology); Carrie L. Lucas, PhD, assistant professor of immunobiology; Emily Reisenbichler, MD, assistant professor of pathology; David F. Stern, PhD, professor of pathology; and Hongyu Zhao, PhD, chair and Ira V. Hiscock Professor of Biostatistics, and professor of genetics and of statistics and data science.