Fondation MEDIC

www.fondation-medic.ch

Laureates

[15.09.2015]

The MEDIC prize is awarded each year to a particularly promising young clinician-scientist, for whom the prize is intended to function as a career development award. The prize money should be used for setting up the research group of the awardee but the person has great liberty in deciding how exactly the funds will be used. The prize has been awarded twice since its inception in 2010.

2014, Laure Ysebrant de Lendonck MD PhD (New York)

Biosketch Laure Ysebrant de Lendonck

Laure Ysebrant de Lendonck

Dr. Laure Ysebrant de Lendonck earned her M.D. degree at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2004, with high distinction. During her research memoire, she studied the immunological mechanisms involved the development of sclerodermia and her efforts were awarded with a prize from the Institute of Clinical Biology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles for the best thesis (memoire) in clinical or experimental research that contributed to medical progress. Subsequently entered into residency training in Internal Medicine and developed a keen interest for hematology. In 2012, she qualified as a specialist in Internal Medicine at the same university. In parallel, she pursued a PhD program as research fellow, supported by the National Research Foundation (FNRS), with a research project focusing on the role of Interferon Regulatory Factor 3 in the adaptive immune response. Subsequently, she also studied the contribution of costimulatory molecules in in shaping T cell differentiation. Her work has been published in top Ranking revue as "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" and "The Journal of Experimental Medicine". She earned a PhD at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2011. Since returning to the clinic, she has been working in the Hematology department of the Jules Bordet Institute. She practiced in the outpatient and inpatient settings, with a special focus on immunotherapy. In 2014 year, she qualified as Board certified Hematologist. Her experience, both on the bench and at the bedside, have helped her so far in understanding thoroughly different aspects of immunotherapy. Having acquired a strong expertise in T cell regulation, she will further develop her knowledge in cell engineering to contribute, in the near future, to T cell-based therapies. Now, She pursues postdoctoral research at the Center for Cell Engineering of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Institute in New York.

Project description – Deciphering the signaling pathways involved downstream chimeric antigen receptors (CARs): impact on efficacy and toxicity of engineered cell-based therapy.
The objective of this project is to decipher the signaling pathways downstream CARs used in clinical trials in order to understand the impact of the endodomain on the efficacy and toxicity of CAR T cell-based therapy. The main hypothesis is that the transcriptional pattern induced by costimulatory signaling will shape the differentiation of T-cells and the cross talk with host immune system. Hence we propose to compare the transcriptional profile downstream CARs encoding different costimulatory domains and assess their impact on functional characteristics of CAR-redirected T-cells. Based on the transcriptomic experiments, we will address the role of selected transcription factors on T-cell differentiation using over-expression and knockdown strategies. Our assumption is that better understanding of the functional characteristics of CAR-redirected T-cells and their cross talk with endogenous immune cells will offer novel strategies to reduce the occurrence of cytokine storms without compromising therapy efficacy.

2013, Lukas Flatz MD PhD (St. Gallen)

Biosketch Lukas Flatz

Lukas Flatz

Dr. Flatz, completed the medical school of Bern in 2004 with a thesis investigating the development of antibiotic resistance. He did post-doctoral trainings at the Institute of Experimental Immunology in Zurich (Proff. RM Zinkernagel/H. Hengartner within the group of Prof. D. Pinschewer) and in Gary Nabel's Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda (USA) before joining the Department of Dermatology at the CHUV where he did his clinical training. He is now principal investigator and attending physician at the Institute of Immunobiology in St. Gallen.

Project description
The growing incidence of melanoma is an increasing threat, and effective treatment options for advanced forms of melanoma are scarce. Although recently approved targeted- and immuno-therapies have shown objective beneficial effects in metastatic melanoma, in most cases the disease still relapses. Using well established mouse melanoma models his group studies and compares immune responses against i) classical melanoma antigens (melanA, gp100, trp2), ii) neoepitopes which arose through de novo mutations in rapidly evolving tumor cells and and iii) vaccine vector intrinsic epitopes. These antigens are presented in the context of a novel non-propagating recombinant lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus based vaccine. In order to further increase the potency of the T cell immune response we will combine this with prime-boost immunizations using DNA plasmid and adenoviral vectors against the same antigens. This project has a long-term goal of improving the treatment of individuals suffering from high-risk melanoma by prophylactic immunization using a highly personalized vaccination protocol. A completion of these experiments, will therefore path the way for clinical trials.

2012 Laurence Buisseret, MD, Doctoral Student and Research Fellow (Bruxelles)

Biosketch Laurence Buisseret

Laurence Buisseret

Laurence Buisseret attended medical school from 2000 to 2007 graduating with a degree in medicine (MD) from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in June 2007. During medical school she was awarded several honors as a top student, including the Prix Fleurice Mercier in 2003.

During her studies, she developed a keen interest in oncology and cancer research. This interest led her to pursue the option of a Master's research thesis (memoire) to complete her studies in 2007.

Her memoire research was performed under the supervision of Dr. Christos Sotiriou, head of the Breast Cancer Translational Research Laboratory at the Jules Bordet Institute in Brussels. At that time his laboratory had just developed a gene expression signature characterizing tumor grading with powerful implications in breast cancer and their next goal was to determine whether this signature was "universal" and could therefore be applied to other tumor types (ex. colon cancer). Laurence's memoire project was designed to answer this question by using qRT-PCR to detect expression of the breast cancer gene signature in colon cancer specimens. This analysis revealed that proliferation was not a determinant factor in colon cancer as it is in breast cancer. This research project was an extremely stimulating introduction to laboratory research and her efforts were awarded with a prize from the Institute of Clinical Biology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles for the best thesis (memoire) in clinical or experimental research that contributed to medical progress.

From 2007 to 2010 she completed her residency in Internal Medicine and then began a residency in Oncology. As a part of her Oncology residency, in 2012 she started a thesis project in tumor immunology under the supervision of Dr. Christos Sotiriou and Dr. Karen Willard-Gallo, head of the Molecular Immunology Unit at the Jules Bordet Institute. This Ph.D. thesis research is focused on the role of the immune system during breast cancer tumorigenesis and its influence on clinical outcome. The goal of these studies is to understand the mechanisms and mediators of effective anti-tumor immune responses that are capable of protecting patients from relapse. Recently published data from the Molecular Immunology lab demonstrated that in some patients the immune response to breast cancer is highly organized and that this is associated with long term protection from relapse. The principal goal of Laurence's thesis project is to validate these findings in a large cohort of patients and determine the threshold of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes necessary for long term positive clinical outcomes. The ultimate goal is to test these findings to determine if they can be used as a biomarker that can distinguish between patients needing specific immunotherapies to initiate an anti-tumor immune response versus those only needing a boost in immunity to their tumor.

The ongoing funding from the MEDIC Foundation for this project has provided valuable support allowing us to expand our studies to include a larger wider cohort of patients and to delve further into the mechanisms involved.

Project description (PDF)
2011 Anita Wolfer MD PhD (Lausanne)

Biosketch Anita Wolfer

Anita Wolfer

After obtaining a Swiss medical diploma in 1998 from the University of Lausanne, Anita Wolfer went on to complete a doctorate in medicine and biology at the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) in the laboratory of Dr. Freddy Radtke.

After completion of her MD-PhD, she returned to the clinic and trained in internal medicine, with an emphasis on oncology. With her interests in cancer research and clinical oncology, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Sridhar Ramaswamy at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston where she merged her clinical and research ambitions, studying the mechanisms that lead to invasion and metastasis during cancer progression.

During her postdoctoral research, she elucidated the coordinated molecular regulation of multiple gene expression-based cancer signatures associated with poor outcome. A network of twenty genes was identified, that is regulated by oncogenic stimuli. The well-known oncogene MYC was found to be central to this regulation. In this work, also a new function of MYC in regulating cancer cell invasion and metastasis was found.

In September 2010, she returned to the Centre Pluridisciplinaire d'Oncologie (CePO) in Lausanne to complete her clinical training as a medical oncologist in March 2012. Since January 2012, she is an attending physician at the CePO, sharing her time with clinical duties and basic research and establishes her own laboratory.

She will now combine the skills and the knowledge acquired during her training to investigate further the molecular mechanisms driving metastasis. As a transcription factor, MYC, a central regulator of invasion and metastasis, is difficult to directly target. Her laboratory will therefore study the role of the twenty genes in the MYC network to elucidate their role in cancer cell invasion and metastasis formation. A better understanding of these genes may lead to new avenues for targeting MYC's function. Ultimately, by elucidating the basic mechanisms of tumorigenesis and tumor progression, she hopes to develop more effective targeted cancer therapies and apply them to patient care.

The role of MYC in cellular invasion and metastasis (PDF)
2010 Mario Suvą MD PhD (Lausanne)

Biosketch Mario Suvą

Mario Suvą

Mario Suvą is a physician scientist in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He joined MGH in 2010 to complete a fellowship in Neuropathology as well as continue his research in the field of cancer stem cells. Mario Suvą has a solid training in clinical neuropathology and in cancer research.

In a collaborative effort between the Broad and MGH, co-directed by Brad Bernstein and David Louis, Mario Suvą focuses on dissecting the circuitry of cancer stem cells in glioblastoma. Using next-generation chromatin landscape analysis and experimental network reconstruction he identified a set of transcription factors providing stem cells properties and tumor-initiating potential to glioblastoma cells.

Before joining MGH, he obtained his PhD degree in the laboratory of Ivan Stamenkovic in Lausanne, Switzerland. His PhD work focused on cancer stem cell identification in Ewing sarcoma and highlighted mechanisms underlying their emergence. Mario Suvą earned his MD from the University of Lausanne and his board certification in Neuropathology from the Swiss Medical Association.

His long-term plan is to return to Switzerland and establish himself as an independent investigator and Neuropathologist. His current fellowship has been made possible thanks to funding's from the Medic Foundation.

Affiliations:

  • James Homer Wright Pathology Laboratories, Massachusetts General Hospital and
    Harvard Medical School.
  • Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
  • Institute of Pathology, University hospital of Lausanne, Switzerland
Research proposal for Dr Mario Suvą MEDIC (PDF)