(Boston) The Joanna M. Nicolay Melanoma Foundation (JMNMF) presented Elizabeth Shenk, a student in both the Boston University Biomedical Engineering Department and the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Pharmacology Training Program with one of ten, nationally competitive, 2013 "Research Scholar Awards" (RSA). The $10,000 grants support exceptional graduate student melanoma research and also provide distinction to lab directors, universities and cancer research institutions across the U.S.
The JMNMF is the first program in the U.S. to fund graduate student melanoma researchers. The Research Scholar Award program was initially piloted with the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in 2006, and expanded nationally to benefit the broader academic, scientific, clinical and patient communities and encourage larger numbers of students to choose melanoma research as their professional career path. To date 146 students and 47 cancer research centers are distinguished through their active involvement in this nationally-renowned program.
Shenk graduated with honors and high distinction from Penn State in May 2010 and subsequently enrolled in the two Boston University PhD programs. She works under Rhoda Alani, MD, BUSM's Herbert Mescon Chair of Dermatology, and collaborates with Joyce Wong, PhD, and Mario Cabodi, PhD, both of BU's College of Engineering Biomedical Engineering department.
Shenk's research aims to determine which tumors, specifically melanomas, are likely to metastasize using a three dimensional engineered platform. She has been instrumental in creating the cellular model of this system, which is expected to be used to develop novel therapies targeting the metastatic progress on an individualized basis for patients at risk for metastasis.
According to Regina Shannon Bodnar, JMNMF Chair, "Our Foundation's 'Research Scholar Awards' are invaluable at the grassroots level, to specifically grow interest in melanoma research, at leading cancer research centers nationwide. If we can attract the brightest young minds, that are considering or are already within the nation's cancer research pipelines, to pursue a career in melanoma research - we're that much closer to better understanding the disease, identifying the means for effective treatments and, most importantly, finding a cure for this deadly and increasingly prevalent disease."