BCAN Announces the Five Awardees of Its Prestigious 2023 Young Investigator Awards

Outstanding early-career researchers acknowledged for novel studies to enhance the well-being of bladder cancer patients

(May 24, 2023, Bethesda, MD) – Today, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) announced the five recipients of its prestigious Young Investigator Awards, recognizing exceptional early-career scientists and clinical cancer investigators who are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of bladder cancer patients.

Each Young Investigator Award includes a $75,000 grant to support one year of bladder cancer research. Over the years, BCAN has provided more than $5 million in grants to promising scientists and researchers, underscoring the urgent need to advance our understanding of bladder cancer.

The distinguished recipients of this year’s Young Investigator Awards are: Jonathan Chou, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Hematology/Oncology at the University of California, San Francisco; Kathryn Gessner, MD, PhD, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Urologic Oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Sean Clark-Garvey, MD, MPH, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Medical Oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Soonbum Park, PhD, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist focusing on Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Chou’s project is titled “Targeting advanced bladder cancer with NECTIN4-directed CAR T cell therapy,” while Dr. Gessner’s project explores “Dissecting the impact of E-cadherin loss on the immune microenvironment and response to immune checkpoint blockade in plasmacytoid urothelial carcinoma.” Dr. Clark-Garvey’s is titled, “Investigating novel mechanisms and therapeutic options for metastatic bladder cancer,” and Dr. Park’s project focuses on “Unveiling novel therapeutic targets for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer.”

The 2023 Patient-Centered Clinical Research Young Investigator Award is presented to Rishi Sekar, MD, a Postdoctoral Fellow and Clinical Instructor of Urologic Oncology at the University of Michigan. Dr. Sekar’s project is titled “Identifying Individual and community-level drivers of disparities in bladder cancer clinical trials participation.”

“We are delighted to invest in the innovative ideas and approaches of today’s promising bladder cancer researchers who are dedicated to improving the lives of patients and caregivers,” said Andrea Maddox-Smith, the CEO of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. “These awards are made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of our donors.”

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.


Mark Story
Director of Communications and Marketing
301-215-9099, ext. 208