ThyCa News

ThyCa's Research Grant Awards - Researchers, Institutions, Projects


At ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc., we’re committed to funding research to help cure all types of thyroid cancer. Thanks to generous contributions, ThyCa has awarded new thyroid cancer research grants every year since 2003.


  • Trevor Angell, M.D., Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, for the project titled “Assessment of Circulation Immune Suppressor Cells for Predicting Treatment Response in Follicular Cell Derived Thyroid Carcinoma.” In this study, prospectively enrolled patients will have peripheral blood myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSC) measured before and after therapy for thyroid cancer. This will permit the examination of its role providing new personalized data to patients and their doctors to determine whether the cancer is present or spreading after treatment, in order to aid decisions about treatment or monitoring. Dr. Angell is an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and is on the staff of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is a graduate of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he also completed a residency followed by a fellowship in which he focused on mechanisms of immune suppression in thyroid cancer.

  • Viswanath Gunda, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, for the project titled “Combining Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors with BRAF Targeted Therapy in Thyroid Cancer.” The research seeks to understand the role of immune checkpoint receptors, PD-1/PD-L1 in thyroid cancer combinatorial and to combine therapies of these inhibitors with MAPKinase inhibitors (BRAF and MEK proteins) and multi-kinase VEGFR inhibitors to examine their synergistic effect on the treatment of aggressive thyroid cancer and their mechanism of action, with a focus on immune system interactions. Dr. Gunda is an Instructor in Cell Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital committed to translational research in thyroid cancer. A graduate of Sri Ramachandra University in India with high distinction, he completed his Ph.D. dissertation in Molecular Endocrinology, followed by a fellowship at the University of Utah. Next, he joined the staff of Massachusetts General Hospital as a Research Fellow. Dr. Gunda also coordinates the Endocrine Tumor Repository in the Surgery department at Massachusetts General Hospital.

  • Nikita Pozdeyev, M.D., Ph.D., University of Colorado, Aurora, Colorado, for the project titled “Rational combination therapies with lenvatinib for advanced thyroid cancer.” This grant is the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant. This project aims to develop rational drug combinations with lenvatinib to further improve the efficacy of systemic treatment for advanced progressivethyroid cancer. This multidisciplinary project combines functional genomics, high-throughput pharmacology, and bioinformatics to identify drugs and drug targets that will have synergistic anti-proliferative effects in combination with lenvatinib on thyroid cancer cells. Dr. Pozdeyev is on the staff of the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado. His research focuses on the study of pharmacogenomics relationships in thyroid cancer and the development of rational combination therapies for progressive metastatic thyroid cancer. A graduate of Saint Petersburg Pavlov State Medical University in Russia, he completed internship and residency programs at MedStar Harbor Hospital Center in Maryland, and a fellowship at the University of Colorado.


  • Carrie Lubitz, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, is the recipient of the 2015 Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake. Dr. Lubitz’s research is examining the clinical utility and cost-effectiveness of a novel blood-based assay for circulating BRAFV600E mutation in patients with papillary thyroid cancer, in order to enhance risk stratification, and identify patients who are likely to benefit from more aggressive interventions, and enable more targeted and efficient care. Dr. Lubitz completed her medical training at the University of Michigan Medical School, followed by further training at Weill-Cornell Medical College, and through the National Cancer Institute-sponsored Program in Cancer Outcomes Research Training, as well as earning her Master’s Degree in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health.  
  • Sarah Oltmann, M.D., is the recipient of a 2015 grant for Medullary Thyroid Cancer Research. Her project will examine cancer progression and therapeutic response in a unique mouse model, with emphasis on increasing understanding of the natural history of metastatic disease and responses to treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Dr. Oltmann is director of endocrine surgery at University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. She earned her medical degree at Texas Tech University Health Science Center, with further training at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and University of Wisconsin. 

  • Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., is awarded a grant for the project titled “Studying the Genetic Basis of Advanced Differentiated Thyroid Cancer by Forward Genetics Screening with Thyroid-specific Random Transposon Insertional Mutagenesis.” Dr. Ming Li completed his medical training at Beijing Medical University, Beijing, China, earned his Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine, and received further medical training at the University of Minnesota. He is now staff physician and assistant professor at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, where his focus is thyroid cancer. 

  • Juan Nicola, Ph.D., National University of Cordoba, Cordoba, Argentina, is receiving a grant for his research on “Uncovering Na+/I- Symporter (NIS) interacting proteins: Implications for radioiodide therapy efficiency and diagnosis of radioiodide-avid thyroid tumors.” Dr. Nicola earned his Ph.D. at National University of Córdoba, Cordoba, Argentina, and received the Latin American Thyroid Society young investigator award. He received postdoctoral training at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven Connecticut and then returned to the National University of Córdoba, where he is Research Assistant Professor.


  • Elizabeth G. Grubbs, M.D., M.S., The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, for the project titled “Fusion Oncogenes as Drivers of Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” This project focuses on the role of RET fusion in MTC tumorigenesis, with the overall goal of showing that this gene rearrangement may predict biological behavior in MTC and that this pathway may be a viable target to (1) predict responses to targeted MTC therapy, (2) better stratify MTC patient outcomes and, for non-RET driven tumors, and (3) potentially offer a more rational approach to individualization of therapy. 

  • Jason D. Prescott, M.D., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland for the project “Development of a High Throughput in vivo Screening System for Small Molecule Activators of Thyroid Differentiation: Identification and Targeting of New Molecular Pathways Involved Thyroid Cancer Progression.” This project seeks to (1) identify new molecular pathways and mechanisms contributing to aggressive thyroid cancer and progression involving the BRAF protooncogene and (2) assess compounds in a large drug library for their anti-thyroid tumor activity and their molecular actions. 

  • Brian R. Untch, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, for the project titled “Mechanisms of response and resistance to farnesyltransferase inhibition in HRAS-driven thyroid tumors.” Dr. Untch notes that HRAS mutations are the second most common type of RAS mutation found in thyroid cancer and can be found in different types of cancer. Building on prior research with poorly differentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer, the study will explore a class of drugs that are preferentially active against HRAS as compared to other mutations, to explore the mechanisms of adaptive and acquired resistance to a drug targeted against RAS in vitro and in vivo in a genetically accurate model of cancer. Dr. Untch’s group is also developing clinical trials with these drugs specifically for HRAS-mutant disease. This grant is this year’s Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant, named for ThyCa Co-Founder Ric Blake, in honor of his dedication and commitment to ThyCa and to our goal of better futures for everyone with thyroid cancer, everywhere in the world. 


  • Nicole Chau, M.D., Harvard Medical School and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, for the project “Overcoming Resistance to RET inhibitors in Medullary Thyroid Cancer.” Dr. Chau is a medical oncologist and the goal of this project is to compare the efficacy of current and novel RET inhibitors against specific oncogenic RET mutations in Medullary Thyroid Cancer and to predict and study acquired resistance mechanisms. 
  • Brittany Bohinc, M.D., Duke University Hospital, Durham, North Carolina, for the project “Overexpression of LGR4 and LGR5 in Human Thyroid Cancer Promotes Wnt/β-Catenin Signaling and is Associated with Tumor Aggressiveness.” This project will focus on understanding the role of specific pathways and markers in nodal metastases and aggressive tumor behavior, with this understanding aiding potential development of novel therapeutics in metastatic papillary thyroid cancer that is unresponsive to current therapies. This grant is the 2013 Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant.
  • Jaroslaw Jendrzejewski, M.D., Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio for the project “Analysis of locus 14q13.3 in search of mutations predisposing to Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma (PTC).”  This two-step project aims to uncover mutations by combining second-generation sequencing with bioinformatic analysis of 14q13.3 locus, which genome wide association studies have identified as one of the most important in genetic predisposition to PTC.


  • Niklas Finnberg, Ph.D., Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the project titled "Sorafenib and Quinacrine as Potential Combination for Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma."
  • Aime Franco, Ph.D., University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, for the project titled "The Role of RAS versus RAF in Thyroid Cancer Development and Progression."
  • Andreas Lundqvist, Ph.D., Cancer Center Karolinska, Stockholm, Sweden, for the project titled "Study the Role of Natural Killer Cells in Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma." Dr. Lundqvist is the recipient of the Ric Blake Memorial Thyroid Cancer Research Grant.


  • Naifa L. Busaidy, M.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Endocrine Neoplasia & Hormonal Disorders at the University of Texas – M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, for the project titled “A PI3K Based Phophoproteome Signature To Predict Prognosis and Response to Therapy in BRAF Mutant Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma."
  • Joanna Klubo-Gwiezdzinska, M.D., Ph.D., Endocrine Research Fellow, Washington Hospital Center/Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., for the project, “The Role of the Translocator Protein (TSPO) in the Thyroid Cancer Response to Treatment.”
  • Carmelo Nucera, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, for the project “Targeting BRAFV600E with an Orally Available Selective Inhibitor in Novel In Vitro and In Vivo Preclinical Models of Human Papillary Thyroid Cancer.


  • Rozita Bagheri-Yarmand, Ph.D., University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer, Houston, Texas, for the project titled “Center Activating Transcription Factor 4 (ATF4), a Novel Putative Tumor Suppressor Gene in Medullary Thyroid Cancer."
  • Tania Pilli, M.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, for the project titled “The Role of MADD, an IG20 Gene Splice Variant, and Its Potential Use as Therapeutic Target in the Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer.”


  • Dingxie Liu, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, for the project titled “Dually Targeting the MAP Kinase and PI3K Pathways in Thyroid Cancer – Testing of a Novel Therapeutic Approach.”
  • Martin Walter, M.D., University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland, for the project titled “Somatostatin-coupled Nanoparticles for Imaging and Therapy of Medullary Thyroid Cancer.”


  • Mike S. Fenton, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)/Veterans Affairs West Los Angeles Health Care System, Los Angeles, California, for project on promoter gene regulation of the sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) gene expression in papillary thyroid cancer.
  • Libero Santarpia, M.D., Ph.D., University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, for project on identifying the target genes of six microRNAs (miRNA) in medullary thyroid cancer.


  • Krystian Jazdzewski, M.D., Ph.D., Medical University of Gdansk, Poland, and Visiting Scientist, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, for research on the role of miR146a in papillary thyroid carcinoma.
  • Mabel Ryder, M.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York, for research on the role of Tumor-Associated Macrophages (TAMs) on thyroid cancer progression.


  • Lionel Groussin, M.D., Ph.D., Cochin Institut, Paris, France, for research focusing on two specific enzymes in thyroid cells and their possible roles in suppressing thyroid cancer.
  • Xianmin Xia, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, for research on the effect of a small portion of a tumor suppressor protein on the proliferation of human medullary thyroid cancer cells, as well as poorly differentiated papillary thyroid cancer cells and anaplastic thyroid cancer cells.


  • Matthias Schott, M.D., Heinrich-Heine University of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, Germany, for project titled “Induction of Cytotoxic Immunity in Medullary Thyroid Carcinoma by Dendridic Vaccination.”
  • Erich M. Sturgis, M.D., University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, for project titled “Radiation Response Genotype and Risk of Papillary Thyroid Cancer: A Case-Control Study.”


  • Sareh Parangi, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, for project titled "Antiangiogenic Therapy of Thyroid Cancer."


  • Xiulong Xu, Ph.D., Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. Chicago, Illinois, for project examining the relationship between a gene mutation and papillary thyroid cancer.

ThyCa’s grants are the first-ever thyroid cancer research grants to be funded entirely by thyroid cancer patients, caregivers, and friends. The grant recipients are selected by an independent expert panel of the American Thyroid Association. The ThyCa grants are open to researchers and institutions worldwide.

You’re invited to help support the Rally for Research. For details, visit the Rally for Research page.