Two WCM investigators, Yariv Houvras, Ph.D. and Bishoy Faltas, M.D. each recently received a Rapid Response Pilot Grant from the Functional Genomics Initiative (FGI). A joint venture from the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine (EIPM) at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO) at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Rapid Response Pilot Grant mechanism provides funding to facilitate experiments that will establish preliminary data to develop novel hypotheses suggested by CMO, EIPM data and/or cancer genomic data from other sources.
Each year there are 17,000 deaths in the United States caused by bladder cancer and there are currently no approved targeted treatments. Based on an improved understanding of the molecular changes that drive bladder cancer, Dr. Faltas has identified two pathways that are critical for the growth of bladder cancer cells. He designed a strategy to combine two targeted treatments, namely CDK4/6 and FGFR inhibitors that work in sync to eliminate bladder cancer cells; this combination will be tested in new bladder cancer models which he has developed. Ultimately, Dr. Faltas hopes to translate these findings into a treatment strategy that benefit bladder cancer patients.
Understanding the mechanism of resistance to kinase inhibitors is a critical problem in modern cancer medicine. Using a model of RET rearranged thyroid cancer Dr. Houvras identified a requirement for a specific phosphatase in resistance to RET kinase inhibition. In his Rapid Response Pilot Grant project, he proposed a combination of genetic, biochemical, and biophysical approaches to understand the precise mechanism of adaptive resistance to RET inhibition. These studies may lead to insights that help design the next generation of clinical trials to overcome resistance mechanisms.