NETRF Accelerates Research With $2.62 Million in New Grant Awards

The Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF) has awarded $2.62 million in grants to advance research aimed at finding new and innovative treatments for neuroendocrine tumors (NETs).

NETRF made the awards to nine investigators who are dedicated to bringing new hope to patients by advancing the scientific knowledge and understanding of NETs.

The awards support three international awardees from the global NET research community and six of the nine awardee institutions received NETRF support for the first time. NETRF’s latest round of awards provides critical funding for unique projects on NETs, addressing both basic and translational research. Three of the grants focus on research on gastrointestinal NETs, three on pancreatic NETs, two on multiple NETs types, and one on pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

The latest round of grant support brings the total NETRF research investment to $30 million over the past 15 years.

Supporting transformational ideas

Innovative and transformative research ideas that can bring the field of NET closer to more effective therapies are the cornerstone of NETRF’s annual research awards. The Foundation offers four different neuroendocrine cancer research grants (Accelerator, Investigator, Mentored, and Pilot Awards), with awards ranging from $100,000 to $1.2 million.

NETRF granted its Petersen Accelerator Award to Martyn Caplin, DM, FRCP, of the University College London, to study mesenteric fibrosis in NETs originating from the small intestine.

“This collaborative study across two European NET Centers addresses an important unmet need in NET research,” said NETRF Director of Research John Kanki, PhD. “A better understanding of fibrosis and its role in the clinical outcomes of NET patients may have a significant impact on clinical care.”

Two of the studies funded by NETRF at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark focus on improving a therapeutic approach called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy that is used to treat some types of NETs. This therapy specifically targets radioactive therapeutics to specific molecules on the cell surface of the tumor cells in order to kill them.

The Foundation also funded a diverse set of projects exploring many new areas of NET research and different types of NETs. These research projects include studies on epigenetics and genomics, inhibitors of glucose consumption in NETs, digital image analysis in NETs, targeted neuron-cancer interactions, and disease cell line models to better understand the molecular and genetic basis of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas.

“The projects supported this year by NETRF address innovative approaches and offer the hope of better therapies in the future,” said Elyse Gellerman, NETRF chief executive officer. “And despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, these novel projects demonstrate scientists’ commitment to NET research.”

Awards and recipients

More than half of the grants were awarded to research institutions that are new to NETRF. Six of the nine grants awarded fund innovative NET research at academic institutions in the U.S., including Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, CA; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY; University of California, Los Angeles, CA; The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, TX; University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, TX; and UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX. In addition, an NETRF award will support research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, part of University Health Network in Toronto, Ontario.

“These awards are made possible through the financial generosity of numerous individuals and foundations that continue to support NETRF’s research and education endeavors,” Gellerman said.  A generous gift from the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation provides critical support for several of the new projects. Additional support was provided by Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals, the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation, Karpus Family Foundation, and Katherine Mueller NET Research Fund.

The following is a list of investigators who received the 2020 NETRF grant awards, as well as their research projects.

Petersen Accelerator Award
Martyn Caplin, DM, FRCP, University College London
Mesenteric fibrosis in small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors: pathogenesis

Investigator Awards
Patricia Dahia, MD, PhD, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
New models to study neuroendocrine tumors

Jeffrey Frost, PhD, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Enhancing somatostatin agonist radionuclide therapy in GEP-NETs

Andreas Kjaer, MD, PhD, DMSc, Copenhagen University Hospital
uPAR-targeted PRRT: new radionuclide-based therapy

Mentored Award, supported by Ipsen Biopharmaceuticals
Parijat Senapati, PhD, Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope
Epigenetic dysregulation of transposons in pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors

Pilot Awards
Peter M. Clark, PhD, UCLA, Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging
Discovering new inhibitors of pancreatic NET glucose consumption

Trevor Pugh, PhD, FACMG, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, part of University Health Network, Toronto, and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research
Establishment and genome characterization of PNET mouse models

Michelle Kang Kim, MD, PhD , Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Digital image analysis in NETs

Guiyang Hao, PhD, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Target neuron-cancer interactions in NETs by non-invasive imaging of SV2A