Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network Announces $600,000 in Funding to Accelerate Bladder Cancer Research

Awardees recognized for creative approaches to propel breakthroughs in bladder cancer research

(July 11, 2022: Bethesda, MD) Today, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) announced the 2022 recipients of its prestigious Bladder Cancer Research Innovation Awards. This year’s awardees are Tyler Curiel, MD, MPH, Gmelich Chair in Cancer Immunology Research at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic and John Sfakianos, MD, Assistant Professor of Urologic Oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. These grants, which provide $300,000 over two years, are part of the nearly $7 million in research grants that BCAN has awarded to address important problems and critical barriers to progress as well as significant knowledge gaps in the field of bladder cancer research.

Dr. Tyler Curiel
Tyler Curiel, MD, MPH

The need for research is critical: the National Cancer Institute estimates that there are more than 712,000 people living with bladder cancer in the United States, more than the populations of Vermont or Wyoming.  Moreover, it is estimated that more than 81,000 people will receive a bladder cancer diagnosis in 2022 and upwards of 17,000 will not survive their disease.

“BCAN is delighted to provide funding for Dr. Sfakianos’s and Dr Curiel’s novel research. These two awards fuel the type of high-risk, high-reward projects that can be tomorrow’s breakthroughs in bladder cancer research,” said Andrea Maddox-Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.  “They would not be possible without the generosity of BCAN’s donors and corporate partners and we are very grateful to them.”

John Sfakianos, MD

Dr. Curiel’s project aims to use a specially engineered version of Interleukin-2 (IL2), a protein that has great potential as a cancer immunotherapy, to stabilize the protein and direct its action towards immune cells that support tumor immunity. This will improve anti-cancer immunity and avoid toxicities that typically occur after treatment. The researchers will use the novel engineered IL2 to treat local and metastatic bladder cancer in mouse models and test tumor control, immunity and safety.

Dr. Sfakianos’s project will utilize two novel and complementary technologies, spatial transcriptomics and imaging mass cytometry in patient tumor samples before and after treatment with BCG to better understand BCG resistance. These novel technologies will enable investigators to measure the gene and protein activity in a patient tissue sample and map where the activity is occurring to provide more information about the role of the immune response in resistance to BCG in patients with non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.

Drs. Curiel and Sfakianos are recognized experts in their fields. Among other disciplines, Dr. Sfakianos’s research focuses on the approach to treating urothelial and prostate cancers in personalized medicine, including genomic analyses of tumors, to predict risk and response to therapy. He has published more than 20 research articles in peer-reviewed publications, written book chapters on urothelial carcinoma and is a reviewer for the Journal of Urology and Urologic Oncology.  Dr. Curiel’s work is in understanding immune dysregulation in cancer as a means to understand cancer immunopathogenesis and develop novel cancer immunotherapies.  He has authored or co-authored more than 15 peer-reviewed articles in prominent medical and research publications.

The Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network’s (BCAN’s) mission is to increase public awareness about bladder cancer, advance bladder cancer research and provide educational and support services for the bladder cancer community.

Contact:  Mark Story

Director of Communications and Marketing