A year after winning a Merit Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, Keck School of Medicine of USC hematology/oncology fellow David Park has won a Young Investigator Award from that organization.
ASCO grants Young Investigator Awards to physicians in their final year of a fellowship program or in the first year afterward. This year, ASCO bestowed the honor on only 45 of 148 researchers who applied.
Park, whose colleagues at USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center recognize him as a bright, creative and energetic physician-scientist, will receive a one-year grant of $35,000 to fund his studies.
“He has been outstanding,” said gastrointestinal oncologist Heinz-Josef Lenz, associate professor of medicine and Park’s mentor. “He is a new star in the sky of molecular biology: He’s smart, innovative and interested in details.”
As Park puts it: “I like asking interesting questions and figuring out ways to answer them.”
Park came to the Keck School in 1999 for a residency in internal medicine at LAC+USC Medical Center after getting his medical degree at Mt. Sinai Medical College in New York.
He followed his residency with a fellowship in hematology/oncology, which he expects to complete in 2006.
He started with Lenz before the second year of his internal medicine residency, investigating the role of pharmacogenomics in the treatment of colorectal cancer.
“Working with Dr. Lenz has been an amazing experience,” he said.
Early on, Park was involved in some small projects with the thymidylate synthase gene, a key focus of Lenz’s lab. “Then I worked more on DNA-repair genes and their impact on platinumchemotherapy-treated patients,” he said.
With his Young Investigator Award, Park will take his research a step further. He will study the epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR, a target for a number of new agents, including the well-known new drug Erbitux.
Park said that the EGFR gene seems to play a role in DNA repair, and researchers know that one way cancerous cells resist and escape the onslaught of platinum-based chemotherapies (such as oxaliplatin) is by repairing their own DNA.
He would like to see if variations in the EGFR gene influence outcome after platinum-based therapy.
Park’s curiosity has led him to work with Leslie Bernstein, holder of the AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research and professor of preventive medicine, and Wendy Cozen, assistant professor of preventive medicine, on an epidemiologic study of cancer incidence among Koreans in Korea and Los Angeles County. The study uses data from various cancer registries.
He is also collaborating with Alexandra Levine, holder of the Ronald H. Bloom Family Chair in Lymphoma and chief of hematology, to design a pilot study looking at the role of pharmacogenomics in the treatment of HIV-related lymphoma.