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The Cancer Research Foundation is pleased to announce the 2022 Fletcher Scholars

Matthew Johnson

November 3, 2022

The Cancer Research Foundation is pleased to announce two new 2022 Fletcher Scholars Awards: Dr. Megan McNerney, MD, PhD and Dr. Yan Chan Li, PhD. Although both scientists are Associate Professors at the University of Chicago, these talented researchers and their proposed projects are a great example of an endowed estate gift’s broad and continual impact.

Dr. McNerney will use her Fletcher Scholars grant to continue to pursue why Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) develops and why some AMLs are so difficult to treat, focusing on DNA repair mistakes that leave part of the 7th chromosome deleted. Dr. McNerney is a past CRF Young Investigator and was a part of the Cancer Research Foundation grant addressing team science on therapy-based AML. Dr. McNerney’s work is supported by a long-standing relationship with the Cancer Research Foundation and the Fletcher Scholars Award represents an opportunity to build on work we’ve already seen bear new insights into possibly reasons and new treatments for cancer. The original gift from Dorothy and Eugene Fletcher allows us to continue a collaboration with a talented scientist.

Dr. Li, a scientist the Cancer Research Foundation has not had an opportunity to support until now, is pursuing cancer knowledge and possible treatments using both microbiomics and metabolomics, both exciting new fields being applied to cancer research. Dr. Li notes that acetate, one of the short chain fatty acids generally found in the gut, has been linked to other cancers and can be handily converted to carbon to power cancerous growth. He’s identified an enzyme related to this conversion and now plans to investigate if cancer can be affected by removing this enzyme. This project leverages novel fields of study and allows the Cancer Research Foundation to support innovative and original ways of thinking about cancer problems. The Fletcher endowment gift gives the CRF the flexibility to respond to these types of innovations in cancer research as they evolve.

Without the original 1989 bequest from Eugene and Dorothy Fletcher, the Cancer Research Foundation would have far less ability to invest further in scientists making the newest discoveries in cancer research, both those researchers we’ve already supported and those that we only now have the opportunity to fund. These are researchers who are bringing the newest and most exciting ideas to bear in the fight against cancer. We hope that as you learn about these newest projects, you share in our feelings of gratitude to the Fletchers and their generous estate gift that continues to have such an impact.

The 2022 Cancer Research Foundation Fletcher Scholars Awards

Yan Chun Li, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Medicine
University of Chicago
Gut Microbiota-Derived Acetate as a Novel Therapeutic Target for Colon Cancer
Dr. Li will focus on an enzyme that allows a prevalent short chain fatty acid in the gut to convert into a carbon nutrient which may be promoting cancer growth in the colon. This target is particularly exciting because the enzyme he is investigating is not required by healthy cells and thus might provide a new cancer drug target with few side effects.

Megan McNerney, MD, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology and Department of Pediatrics
University of Chicago
Uncovering Drug Resistance Mechanisms in Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Dr. McNerney will build on her previous YIA work identifying Cux-1 to further understand how multiple gene deletions on chromosome 7 might cooperate with each other to promote leukemia development and drug resistance.