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2018 Cancer Center Director's Awards

November 27, 2018

The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s annual Director’s Awards program was founded in 2016 to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to reduce the burden of cancer.

Roy Jensen, MD, director of KU Cancer Center, personally considers and selects recipients for each Director’s Award category.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have such a committed set of individuals supporting our cancer research and treatment efforts,” Dr. Jensen said. “This year’s recipients are working on some of our most exciting endeavors.”

Basic Science
Andrew Godwin, PhD, deputy director

Dr. Godwin’s laboratory has played a significant role in the molecular characterization of multiple tumor types and has identified several biomarkers that have proven critical in the management of cancer patients. His work has also consistently been published in top tier journals and garnered extensive extramural peer-reviewed funding.

Dr. Godwin is also the recipient of the 2018 Chancellors Club Research Award.

William Jewell Team Science
Linheng Li, PhD, co-leader, cancer biology program, and Tara Lin, MD, medical director, clinical trials office

Drs. Li and Lin have worked together to translate important basic science findings regarding cancer stem cells into a potential, new therapeutic approach for patients with hematologic malignancies. This work has resulted in an important new proof-of-concept trial for adult patients with acute leukemia. They intend to extend it to pediatric patients, as well.

Civic Leadership & Philanthropy
The Sunderland Foundation, Charlie Sunderland and Kent Sunderlund

The Sunderland Foundation donated $66 million to The University of Kansas Health System in 2018, the largest gift ever given to the Health System. The transformative donation will go toward a new inpatient care unit for the Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program and Division of Hematologic Malignancies & Cellular Therapy (HMCT).

Learn more about The Sunderland Foundation’s Historic Gift.

Clinical Science
Prateek Sharma, MD, medical oncologist

Dr. Sharma’s groundbreaking work on Barrett’s esophagus, a precursor to esophageal cancer, has had a global impact on the way clinicians diagnose and treat people with this condition. He has led multiple investigator-initiated trials (IIT’s) and authored more than 350 papers on the subject.

Clinical Trial Accrual
Qamar Khan, MD, medical oncologist

Dr. Khan has leveraged KU Cancer Center support for multiple investigator-initiated trials to address important clinical questions regarding the management of breast cancer patients. These efforts have not only significantly increased our accruals to clinical trials, but the efforts have also served as the basis for many abstracts and presentations at high-profile national clinical research meetings.

Closing Disparities
Nikki Nollen, PhD, associate professor

Dr. Nollen’s research on African Americans and tobacco use has the potential to shift the way clinicians approach tobacco cessation with this minority group. She has worked closely with members of the Kansas City community as well as the broader catchment area served by KU Cancer Center.

Community Clinical Trial Accrual
Manana Elia, MD, assistant clinical professor of medicine, and Marc Hoffman, MD, medical oncologist

Drs. Elia and Hoffman have done an outstanding job promoting clinical research and accrual to clinical trials and they have the highest number of accruals among physicians practicing at KU Cancer Center’s community sites.

Vicki Schmidt, Kansas insurance commissioner, former Kansas state senator

Vicki Schmidt has been an outstanding advocate for multiple Cancer Center legislative issues over the last decade and she has been a true champion of these efforts. While we will miss her presence in the Senate, we congratulate her on her recent election to the position of Kansas State Insurance Commissioner where she will continue her robust efforts on behalf of cancer patients.

Young Scientist
Sufi Thomas, PhD, associate professor

Dr. Thomas’s laboratory has made important recent contributions to the understanding of the role of secretory autophagy in invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. This work has resulted in several high-impact publications in prominent journals and the awarding of a recent R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Danny Welch, PhD, associate director, Education

A defining characteristic of Dr. Welch’s career is his commitment to training the next generation of scientists as evidenced by the fact that he has multiple former trainees playing important roles in industry and academic institutions all over the world.

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