Thyroid cancer has been one of the most rapidly increasing cancer diagnoses in the United States. In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates that 56,870 new cases of thyroid cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, a slight decrease over 2016, based on the 2017 American Cancer Society’s publication “Cancer Facts & Figures 2017.” It is estimated that 2,010 deaths will also occur in 2017, which is a 1.5% increase from 2016.
Thyroid cancer is the 5th leading cancer in women and is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women 20 to 34 years old. About 75% of those diagnosed are women, and about 50% of all diagnosed are under 50 years old. Children to seniors are being diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Thyroid cancer diagnosis has tripled in the past three decades.
Research is a critical piece of our mission. We continually seek our funding from corporations, foundations and individuals, among others. We are now fundraising for our fifth thyroid cancer research grant. Our fourth thyroid cancer research grant funding was completed during 2016 and was assigned to a project in mid-2017.
Since 2012, Bite Me Cancer has been dedicated to trying to make a difference in Thyroid Cancer research with the hopes of being able to fund a 2-year grant in partnership with the American Thyroid Association (ATA). ATA’s grant program is for younger/newer researchers to look at new ways to approach Thyroid Cancer. There is a rigorous review process for the research applications, and Bite Me Cancer needed to raise $57,500 to fund one of the grants. By the end of 2013, we did achieve our goal to become an official grant partner of ATA by raising the $57,500! In the spring of 2014, the final selection process was conducted by ATA’s review panel; and Bite Me Cancer chose a research grant. With this grant process, Bite Me Cancer sends in the check for one half of the funds to cover the first year of the research. Then, research progress is reviewed after year one by ATA to determine whether year two will be funded. If approved, Bite Me Cancer pays for the year two research. Bite Me Cancer continues to raise research dollars to fund more research grants.
Throughout 2012-13, Bite Me Cancer was dedicated to trying to make a difference in Thyroid Cancer research with the hopes of being able to fund a 2-year grant in partnership with the American Thyroid Association. ATA’s grant program is for younger/newer researchers to look at new ways to approach Thyroid Cancer. There is a rigorous review process for the research applications, and Bite Me Cancer needs to raise $57,500 to fund one of the grants. Once a researcher’s grant proposal is accepted by ATA and also Bite Me Cancer, the foundation submits a check for 5o% of the grant ($28,750). At the end of year one of the research, the researcher presents a summary of the research progress to ATA. Once reviewed and accepted by the ATA review panel, the research project is accepted to continue for year two; and Bite Me Cancer makes the 2nd half payment.
Fourth Grant – Dr. Brian P. Danysh of the University of Texas MD Anderson Center. Dr. Danysh is researching a project focusing on extending the lives of patients with an aggressive form of thyroid cancer. Specifically, Dr. Danysh is investigating the mutations of the BRAF gene and the drugs that target said gene, and whether the drugs being used may be causing new gene mutations in the cancerous cells.
Dr. Danysh received his PhD from the University of Delaware and carried out postdoctoral training at Rice University, Houston, TX, where he collaborated with physicists in the use of nanoparticles and laser irradiation to selectively destroy cancer cells, and at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His current research at MD Anderson involves working with clinicians to examine the mechanisms of acquired inhibitor resistance, with the goal of discovering novel therapeutic targets to recurrent metastatic thyroid cancer.
Third Grant – Dr. Irene Min of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York received her BS in Biology from Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea and her M.Phil from the Department of Physiology, from Cambridge University in England. She earned a Ph.D in Genetics from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. An experienced basic research scientist with a focus in stem cell biology, genetics and genomics, Dr. Min’s research program will focus on specific immune therapeutics that can loosen the immune suppressive environment to reach a greater level of improvement in thyroid cancer tumor targeting.
Second Grant – Laura Boucai, MD – We are honored that our second grant has been given to Laura Boucai, MD, MS who is a physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She is focused on endocrine tumors and malignancies. Her specific interest is in thyroid cancer and her goal is to advance the knowledge and treatment options for patients with this condition. Dr. Boucai attended medical school at University of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. She then underwent her Internal Medicine residency training at Cornell University and completed an Endocrinology fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Under the mentorship of Dr. Martin I. Surks, she studied the effects of age, race, and gender on the TSH distribution.
Following her interests in thyroid diseases, she joined the clinical faculty at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she serves as an instrumental member of a multi-disciplinary team of physicians dedicated to understanding the pathogenesis of thyroid cancer and advancing the knowledge of this condition. Dr. Boucai is interested in studying and promoting risk-adapted therapeutic strategies in patients with thyroid cancer with the ultimate goal of developing interventions that reduce harm without changing cancer prognosis.
First Grant – Ramona Dadu, MD – The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX. Dr. Ramona Dadu will transition to an Assistant Professor position in the Department of Endocrine Neoplasia & Hormonal Disorders at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center starting July 2014. Dr. Dadu received her MD degree from Iuliu Hatieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Romania, where she also trained in Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. After graduation from Internal Medicine residency in Connecticut, she joined Baylor College of Medicine/M.D. Anderson Cancer Center endocrinology fellowship program. During this time, she also matriculated into the Clinical Scientist Training Program where she received extensive training in grant writing, conduct of research, and biostatistics.
For the last 2 years of her training, she focused on thyroid cancer research under the mentorship of Dr. Maria E. Cabanillas. She is the author of several peer reviewed publications related to thyroid cancer and received the Women in Endocrinology Young Investigator Award in 2014. She is the recipient of the ATA grant for her research project entitled “Immune markers in medullary thyroid cancer and their clinical significance”. Dr. Dadu has already started collaborations that have enabled her to expand her expertise beyond Endocrinology to Immunology in order to begin to examine the role of immune system in medullary thyroid cancer. Her long term goal is to become an independent investigator and leader in the field of advanced thyroid cancer, with specific focus in immune based therapies.
Hear from Dr. Dadu: