Two Yale Department of Pathology graduate students were recently awarded prestigious Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Awards (F31) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Caro Kravitz, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the lab of Don Nguyen, PhD, received a F31 fellowship while Matthew Murray, a fourth-year PhD candidate in the lab of Dr. Ranjit Bindra, MD, PhD, received an F31-Diversity fellowship.
The awards are designed to help promising predoctoral students develop into productive, independent research scientists through mentored research training while conducting dissertation research.
The diversity fellowship’s purpose is to enhance diversity of the health-related research workforce by supporting the training of predoctoral students from population groups underrepresented in the biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research workforce, according to the NIH.
Kravitz is researching the molecular contributions of KDM2A in non-small lung cancer metastasis.
Murray is working on a collaborative project on central nervous system cancers involving Dr. Bindra’s lab and the lab of W. Mark Saltzman, PhD, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.
Through her research, Kravitz is interested in understanding the epigenetic mechanisms behind how and why lung cancer metastasizes, with a particular focus on discoveries that can be therapeutically leveraged. More specifically, she’s working on determining the mechanism by which KDM2A, a specific epigenetic modifier, contributes to the metastatic capacity of KRAS mutant non-small cell lung cancer.
Murray’s research into central nervous system cancers such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) recognizes they are notoriously difficult to treat because of their anatomical location and the lack of highly effective treatment options that don’t result in severe toxicities, according to the project narrative.
“To address these issues, our group has identified a common DIPG mutation in the phosphatase PPM1D that confers metabolic defects which can be exploited for therapeutic gain,” the narrative states. “Using in vitro and in vivo preclinical model systems, the proposal seeks to develop and utilize nanoparticle-encapsulated inhibitors of NAMPT, an NAD biosynthesis enzyme, to target and kill mutant PPM1D cells and tumors with high efficacy and low toxicity.”