Sam C. Wang, MD, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, division of surgical oncology, University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, received the Jacobson Promising Investigator Award (JPIA) yesterday.
As a practicing surgical oncologist, Dr. Wang cares for patients with foregut malignancies. His lab work focuses on identifying novel diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for patients with liver, pancreas, and stomach cancers. He received the JPIA in recognition of his track record of high-impact publications and significant extramural grant support, including a National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 grant and awards from the American College Surgeons and the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract.
Dr. Wang joined the faculty at UT Southwestern in 2014 and worked as part of a research group led by Hao Zhu, MD, and Kern Wildenthal, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professorship of Pediatric Research, in a mentored setting to study the effects of mutations in ARID1A (AT-Rich Interaction Domain 1A)—an epigenetic regulator commonly altered in liver and pancreas cancers. The group’s first study found that ARID1A unexpectedly act both as a tumor suppressor and an oncogene in a context-dependent manner. This insight, along with multiple mechanistic findings, significantly advanced the researchers’ understanding of a molecule that was previously thought to be only a tumor suppressor. Dr. Wang was co-primary author of this report, which was published in Cancer Cell in 2018.
A second study showed ARID1A loss in pancreatic acinar cells led to pancreatic adenocarcinomas, whereas ARID1A deletion in the ducts resulted in intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN). Dr. Wang and his colleagues were able to identify a novel ARID1A downstream effector pathway when they determined that ARID1A-loss mediated IPMN formation acted through MYC overexpression and aberrant protein synthesis. Dr. Wang was co-primary author on this report published in Gut in 2018. These studies were the foundation of his funded K08 application, which started in July 2018.
Dr. Wang also was senior author of four clinical research projects. Most notably, he codirected a project reviewing the National Cancer Database and found that adjuvant therapy was associated with improved survival in gastroesophageal junction cancer patients who completed neoadjuvant chemoradiation and resection (CROSS protocol). This report was published in JAMA Oncology in 2018.
Along with his studies into ARID1A, Dr. Wang is pursuing a project that is based on his experience working at UT’s Parkland Hospital treating Hispanic gastric cancer patients. These patients have twice the incidence and mortality compared with Caucasian patients and present younger and with more advanced disease. To explore whether there is a biologic basis for these clinical disparities, Dr. Wang and his colleagues have collected samples from nearly 200 gastric cancer patients, with 40 percent coming from Hispanic patients, over the last four years. Dr. Wang’s team also has generated 35 lines of patient-derived xenografts, which are human tumors propagated indefinitely in mice for future studies.
Leveraging its gastric cancer bio-bank, the group recently completed whole-exome and ribonucleic acid sequencing on 83 Hispanic patient samples and found significantly different genomic profiles than gastric cancers from Asian and white patients. The researchers’ findings will likely be highly impactful given the dearth of ethnic and racial diversity in the samples analyzed by the cancer genomic field. For example, The Cancer Genome Atlas has performed the largest published sequencing study of gastric cancer and included only five Hispanic patients in their 443-patient cohort.
Because ethnicity has been linked to essential cancer properties, such as responsiveness to chemotherapy, the lack of patient diversity in previous analyses undoubtedly has skewed medicine’s understanding of gastric cancer genomics. Thus, the team’s analysis, which is the largest Hispanic cohort ever studied genomically in an integrated manner, will be a significant contribution.
Dr. Wang plans to leverage his team’s genomic findings and unique bio-bank to dissect the mechanisms that underlie the outcome disparities that Hispanic gastric cancer patients face. He anticipates that this project will be the basis of an R-level application to the NIH within the next two years. His professional objective is to become a leading cancer biology researcher, while maintaining a focused clinical footprint.
ACS accepting applications for the 2020 Jacobson Promising Investigator Award
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Surgical Research Committee is accepting applications for the 2020 Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson II Promising Investigator Award.
The award recognizes outstanding surgeons who are engaged in research to advance the art and science of surgery and who demonstrate early promise of significant contribution to the practice of surgery and the safety of surgical patients. The award is for surgeons who are at the tipping point of their research careers with a track record indicative of early promise and potential. Surgeon-scientists who are well established are not eligible candidates.
To be considered for the award this year, applications must be received no later than February 21, 2020.
For details on award criteria and nomination procedures, go to the Jacobson Promising Investigator Award website at www.facs.org/quality-programs/about/cqi/jacobson.