UNC Lineberger awards more than $1.5 million for cancer research

Twelve cancer researchers have won awards from the spring cycle of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Developmental Grants program for basic science, clinical/translational and population-based cancer research.

The more than $1.5 million in funding will support projects ranging from an exploration of a potential new cancer vaccine approach to a study of the role of stress from social relationships in patients’ risk of cancer death.

The grants are made possible by the University Cancer Research Fund, a state-funded program awarded by the N.C. General Assembly for cancer research, as well as by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Core Grant and private donations. 

“We had a large number of very strong proposals for this competitive grant cycle,” said Anne Menkens, PhD, assistant director for collaborative research at UNC Lineberger. “These grants are important in helping our faculty advance new research, bringing teams of researchers from across campus together, and stimulating significant outside funding.”

UNC Lineberger awards developmental grants as part of its mission as an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. In a move that was well-received by the NCI, UNC Lineberger leaders updated the developmental awards program in the past year to make the solicitation and review process more efficient, and to better stimulate and support proposals that may lead to external funding. Changes included the addition of external reviewers, and the addition of internal pilots to promote large, multi-project initiatives.

The grants are awarded in the fall as well as in the spring. Proposals for the fall cycle will be due Sept. 15. The grants are used to advance basic, clinical/translational, and population-based cancer research through three tiers of funding.

The $50,000, Tier 1 Pilot Awards are designed to support research by one principal investigator or by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill trainee or fellow with sponsorship from a UNC Lineberger faculty member. Tier 2 Stimulus Awards provide up to $200,000 for one to two principal investigators for larger projects taking up to two years.

New this year, the Tier 3 Multi-Project Awards go to teams of at least three researchers who are aiming to create new multi-investigator research programs. Tier 3 proposals are made up of three different, but related projects. Teams may request up to $600,000 across two years, with the second year of funding contingent upon progress toward developing a strong extramural program project grant. These multi-project grants will not be supported every round. The next call for Tier 3 grant proposals will be in the spring of 2016.

Along with the general call for proposals, the spring cycle included two targeted requests for applications. One request was for project proposals that integrate both chemistry and cancer biology, and the other was for projects addressing cancer disparities in North Carolina.

Awardees for the grant program’s spring 2015 cycle included faculty from across UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Lineberger:

Janelle C. Arthur, PhD, research assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine. “High-throughput in vivo approach to identify and quantify tumor-associated resident microbes.” Tier 1 Pilot Award of $50,000

Leah Frerichs, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in social medicine and Dan Reuland, MD, MPH, faculty sponsor, a clinical professor in the UNC School of Medicine. “Development of a Decision Aid and Patient Navigation Intervention to Address American Indian Colorectal Cancer Screening Disparities.” Tier 1 Pilot Award of $50,000. (Cancer Disparities RFA)

Yanzhe Gao, PhD, postdoctoral research associate, and project faculty sponsor Cyrus Vaziri PhD, a professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Laboratory and Pathology Medicine. “Validating Hormad1 as a Novel Therapeutic Target in Radio-resistant Cancer Cells.” Tier 1 Pilot Award of $50,000.

Yang Claire Yang, PhD, associate professor of sociology and a UNC Lineberger member. “Social Relationships and Cancer Mortality: The Role of Inflammation. Tier 1 Pilot Award of $50,000. (Cancer Disparities RFA)

Carey K. Anders, MD, associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine and a UNC Lineberger member. “Dissecting the biology of breast cancer brain metastases.” Tier 2, one-year award of $100,000.

Jeannette T. Bensen, MS, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Medicine and a UNC Lineberger member. “Understanding the relationship between environmental inorganic arsenic and prostate cancer.” Tier 2, two-year award of $50,415.

William Kim, MD, associate professor of medicine and genetics in the UNC School of Medicine and a UNC Lineberger member. “Combinatorial mTOR / SRC inhibition overcomes acquired everolimus resistance.” Tier 2, two-year award for $200,000.

David S. Lawrence, PhD, Eshelman Endowed Professor of chemical biology & medicinal chemistry, chemistry and pharmacology and a UNC Lineberger member. “Photochemotherapy.” Tier 2, two-year award for $200,000. (Chemistry/Cancer Biology RFA)

Chad Pecot, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and a UNC Lineberger member. “Fate-Mapping Cancer Cells from Lymph Nodes to Uncover Novel Metastatic Biology.” Tier 2, two-year award for $200,000.

Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD, research professor in the UNC School of Medicine and assistant director of the UNC Lineberger immunotherapy program. “Exploiting the iC9 safety switch to pharmacologically modulate CD19.CAR-T cell function. Tier 2, two-year award for $197,466.

Marcey L. Waters, Ph.D. Gordon and Bowman Gray Professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Chemistry. “Development of Stapled Peptide Inhibitors of the MBD2-NuRD Interaction to Target DNA Methylation Dependent Gene Silencing.” Tier 2, one to two year award for $100,000. (Chemistry/Cancer Biology RFA)

Victor Garcia-Martinez, PhD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine and a UNC Lineberger member. “Non-canonical approaches to cancer vaccine development.” Tier 3 award for up to $600,000 over two years.

Please contact Anne Menkens or send an email to  with questions about the program.