• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Receive $4 Million in Grant Awards for Exceptional Junior Scientists

Will fund radiation oncology and CAR T cell cancer therapy research

  • New York, NY
  • (October 07, 2021)

Two Mount Sinai cancer researchers will be awarded $4 million in total costs from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund, which supports exceptionally high-impact programs and research by junior scientists around the country.

Deborah Marshall, MD, MAS, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at The Tisch Cancer Institute and The Blavatnik Family Women’s Health Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Jalal Ahmed Khan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Precision Immunology Institute and The Tisch Cancer Institute, each received an Early Independence Award worth $2 million given out over five years. The NIH Early Independence Award, established in 2011, provides an opportunity for exceptional junior scientists to skip traditional postdoctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.

Dr. Marshall’s study seeks to define novel predictors of female sexual dysfunction and to identify quantitative imaging and microbiome-based biomarker indices associated with damage to specific sexual organs from radiation oncology treatments. Results of the study will rapidly provide transformative data and inform innovative, personalized interventions to preserve female sexual function or mitigate the effects of radiation in this understudied population.

Dr. Ahmed Khan’s study seeks to advance the cancer therapy known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy for solid tumors by manipulating CAR T cell interactions with the immune tumor microenvironment. CAR T cell therapy involves the transfer of hundreds of millions of tumor-specific T cells into a patient, some of which travel to the tumor site where they interact with target as well as nontarget cells that make up the tumor microenvironment. The lab will use tumor models to understand the parameters driving the activity and fate of CAR T cells, and design novel CAR T cell therapies that capitalize on the immunobiology of solid tumors to form durable anti-tumor responses.

“The science put forward by this cohort is exceptionally novel and creative and is sure to push at the boundaries of what is known,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, said of the grants given out in October to outstanding scientists at all career stages through NIH’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program. “These visionary investigators come from a wide breadth of career stages and show that groundbreaking science can happen at any career level given the right opportunity.”

In addition to providing advanced radiotherapy to a diverse population of cancer patients, Dr. Marshall directs a laboratory aiming to advance the understanding of the impacts of radiotherapy on sexual function in women and female-bodied cancer patients across the lifespan. The lab applies radiobiologic, imaging, and multi-omic methods in human research to prevent and mitigate the effects of radiotherapy on sexual function and improve quality of life after cancer treatment.

Dr. Ahmed Khan leads the Ahmed Khan lab, which is part of the interdisciplinary Precision Immunology Institute and The Tisch Cancer Institute at Icahn Mount Sinai. The lab is recruiting student and postdoctoral researchers in immunology and immunotherapy.

This work is supported by the NIH Common Fund under award numbers DP5OD031876 and DP5OD031828 to Drs. Marshall and Ahmen Khan, respectively.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals, receiving high "Honor Roll" status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children's Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties.

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