American Thyroid Association Awards ThyCa Research Grant to Jens Lohr, MD, PhD, Dana Farber Cancer Institute

Jens Lohr, MD, PhD

Jens Lohr, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA Bio

Supported by ATA

The American Thyroid Association has awarded a 2017 Research Grant, funded by the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. (ThyCa), to Jens Lohr, MD, PhD, who is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Medical Oncology Department at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. Dr. Lohr’s project, entitled “Characterization of treatment response in thyroid cancer by cfDNA,” will explore whether “liquid biopsy” from a vial of blood can be an effective tool to gain insight into the tumor biology of thyroid cancer and, ultimately, will translate these findings into new targeted therapies.

Despite much recent therapeutic progress, thyroid cancer that is resistant to radioactive iodine remains difficult to treat. Patients may respond to initial treatment with newer, targeted therapies but drug resistance still often develops. Therefore, it is urgent that we determine the underlying resistance mechanisms and develop novel biomarkers that allow for early detection of resistant disease.

Dr. Lohr’s laboratory has developed a technology to monitor cell-free DNA (cfDNA) that is derived from thyroid cancer in the blood of patients. This project will test whether such monitoring offers a valuable measurement for tumor response, in addition to imaging studies, as a surrogate marker for tumor burden. It has been demonstrated in other types of malignancies that tracking tumor-associated genetic defects in the blood can be used to assess disease or the emergence of resistance to a therapy, but little is known about this approach in thyroid cancer.

Dr. Lohr and his team will establish whether cfDNA can be used as a dynamic biomarker for tumor load, response to therapy, and development of drug resistance. They will define the sensitivity of their approach and determine the number of patients and clinical parameters that allow for sufficient genetic profiling of patients. Follow-up of clinical response parameters will determine whether cfDNA allows comprehensive genomic characterization of thyroid cancer in real-time. The work will establish a blueprint for simultaneous real-time tracking and identification of mechanisms of drug resistance in thyroid cancer. These data may reveal novel drug targets and impact how we design targeted treatment regimens for these patients.

Dr. Lohr received his MD and PhD from Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany, where he also trained as an immunologist. He completed a residency in internal medicine at UC San Francisco and a medical oncology fellowship at the Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care program in Boston. He performed postdoctoral work in immunology at UCSF and in cancer genomics at the Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA. Dr. Lohr is board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology and practices as a clinician at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care. Dr. Lohr is specialty chief editor of Precision Medicine for the journal Frontiers in Medicine.

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Dr. Motoyasu Saji, Chair, ATA Research Committee, says, “The ATA research grant program supports young scientists in thyroid-related research, including clinical, translational, and basic areas. Every year we receive over 50 grant applications from various countries. We are excited to see young thyroid researchers who attack current clinical problems and basic scientific questions using state-of-the-art technologies, new ideas, and new views. Many current leaders in the ATA were award recipients, which shows how important this program is for us. We hope these grants will be gateways to success in their careers as thyroid researchers and that the recipients will become leaders in the next generation of the ATA. Finally, we appreciate all the support we receive from members and various organizations, including thyroid cancer survivors, which makes it possible to create this excellent program.”

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has awarded 92 thyroid research grants totaling over $2.4 million since the inception of the Research Fund. In addition, the ATA rigorously manages the selection of research projects and the distribution of over $1.8 million generously donated to the ATA specifically for research grants from: ThyCa, the Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc.; Bite Me Cancer; and the Thyroid Head and Neck Cancer Foundation.

The Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. (ThyCa), has provided funding since 2003 in support of 67 special research grants totaling $1,881,250 focused on thyroid cancer and medullary thyroid cancer. ThyCa is supporting three research grants in 2017 and four renewing grants. ThyCa is a member of the ATA Alliance for Patient Education. Find out more at www.thyca.org.

Bite Me Cancer (BMC) is our newest grant funder, supporting seven thyroid cancer grants since 2014 for a total of $201,250. BMC will be supporting a new thyroid cancer grant in 2017 and one renewing grant. BMC is a member of the ATA Alliance for Patient Education. Find out more at www.bitemecancer.org.

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The American Thyroid Association (ATA) is the leading worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement, understanding, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. ATA is an international, individual membership organization for over 1,700 clinicians and researchers from 43 countries around the world, representing a broad diversity of medical disciplines. It also serves the public, patients and their families through education and awareness efforts.

Celebrating its 94th anniversary, ATA delivers its mission through several key endeavors: the publication of highly regarded monthly journals, THYROID, Clinical Thyroidology, VideoEndocrinology, and Clinical Thyroidology for the Public; annual scientific meetings; biennial clinical and research symposia; research grant programs for young investigators; support of online professional, public, and patient educational programs; and the development of guidelines for clinical management of thyroid disease.

Find out more about ATA at www.thyroid.org.