Cancer Institute Event Presents First Cash Prize

Graduate student Jennifer M. Steers, winner of the $250 Phase ONE Foundation Young Investigator Award for Cancer Translation

More than 50 scientists presented studies on May 29 at the 5th Annual Research Poster Presentation Day, sponsored by the Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. This year's event for the first time included a cash award, judged by a faculty committee, for the best translational research.

Graduate student Jennifer M. Steers won the $250 Phase ONE Foundation Young Investigator Award for Cancer Translation, which was open to graduate students and other applicants up to three years beyond completion of a graduate degree. The mentor and advisor for the project was Benedick Fraass, PhD, vice chair for research and professor and director of Medical Physics in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the cancer institute.

Steers' winning study examines intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) quality assurance testing, which is performed before the very complex IMRT plans are used to treat patients. The study proposes a strategy for determining the actual sensitivity of quality assurance testing to potential errors and uncertainties in the planning or delivery of the treatment.

Using many variations of the standard analysis technique, detailed evaluation of more than 10,000 plan-versus-measurement comparison analyses were performed. The results demonstrate that the current tolerances typically used throughout the field may be, in many cases, too broad and may fail to detect clinically significant errors. The study concludes that stricter tolerance criteria for IMRT quality assurance testing may significantly reduce the size of potentially undetected errors while still being clinically practical.

Other posters at the event in Harvey Morse Auditorium illustrated the breadth of cancer research conducted at Cedars-Sinai. Among the topics were the tumor microenvironment, the impact of obesity on ovarian cancer survival, myeloma, leukemia, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, calculation of chemotherapy dosing and Herceptin resistance in breast cancer.

Postdoctoral fellow Diptiman Choudhury, PhD, discusses his poster with Fartash Vasefi, PhD, a project scientist at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, at the 5th Annual Research Poster Presentation Day

Also on display were posters from the Cedars-Sinai research cores, a system of centralized laboratories and other facilities that offer scientific resources to investigators.

"The work presented today is a demonstration of our progress in cross-disciplinary collaboration," institute director Steven Piantadosi, MD, PhD, noted in his welcome to attendees. The event itself fostered more cooperative activity as scientists browsed posters in search of colleagues doing similar work.

Joshua Breunig, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the Regenerative Medicine Institute, for instance, found himself discussing his poster on modeling of pediatric glioma with Christopher Wheeler, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery and a research scientist at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute.

"We're trying to collaborate and just laying the groundwork," Breunig explained.