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Fellows fighting cancer at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Nine new cancer researchers will receive funding through the 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship.

5 For The Fight, a global movement inviting everyone to give $5 for the fight against cancer, today announced the inaugural recipients of the 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship in partnership with Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U).

The nine fellows were chosen through a highly competitive process to find promising researchers who are early in their careers. These individuals are investing in new, innovative research directions that are poised to make major impacts in the fight against cancer. Adding to an established team in Ireland, this Fellowship brings the total number of 5 For The Fight researchers hired to 12.

To date, 5 For The Fight has raised more than $25 million. Those funds have fueled several efforts including 13 premier cancer research centers globally. The cause was started by Qualtrics and has spread across the world with donors and corporations in more than 50 countries and every US state. Funding for the fellowship program comes at a time when securing cancer laboratory grants is more challenging than ever and is thanks to thousands of donors who have participated in 5 For The Fight campaigns. Fellowships of this nature are rare, particularly for cancer researchers early in their careers.

“We started 5 For The Fight with a dream to change the game for cancer research,” said Ryan Smith, founder of Qualtrics and co-founder of 5 For The Fight. “With $5 donations from all around the world—and some larger gifts from partner institutions and generous donors—we have been able to work with Huntsman Cancer Institute to launch this fellowship program to invest in top talent in the field of cancer research. We are so excited to see the amazing discoveries these researchers will make—both during their fellowship and in the many years ahead of them.”

The nine 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship recipients:

  • Katie Basham, PhD is fighting adrenal cancer with less toxic treatment options. She is an assistant professor of oncological sciences. While completing her scientific training at the University of Michigan, she received a Postdoctoral Fellowship Award from the American Cancer Society.
  • Sam Cheshier, MD, PhD, is fighting brain tumors in kids. He is an associate professor of neurosurgery. He completed his clinical and laboratory training in pediatric neurosurgery at Stanford University, and a clinical pediatric cancer fellowship at Sweden’s Lund University.
  • Adriana Coletta, PhD, MS, RD, is fighting for better cancer outcomes through diet and exercise. She is an assistant professor of health and kinesiology. Her training includes graduate work in kinesiology at Texas A&M University, and postdoctoral training in behavioral science and exercise oncology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. She previously worked as a pediatric dietitian at Johns Hopkins University Children’s Center.
  • Sheetal Hardikar, PhD, is fighting colorectal cancer and its connection to chronic disease. She is an assistant professor of population health sciences and an epidemiologist with a Master of Public Health in Biostatistics from The Ohio State University.
  • Siwen Hu-Lieskovan, MD, PhD, is fighting cancer with immunotherapy. She is an assistant professor of internal medicine who specializes in caring for people with skin cancers. She completed her clinical training at the University of California, Los Angeles. She develops clinical trials to test new approaches to using immunotherapy to improve outcomes for patients diagnosed with melanoma and other solid cancers.
  • Robert Judson-Torres, PhD, is fighting melanoma with a focus on cancer in people of color. He is an assistant professor of dermatology. He completed his graduate work in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. He studies a rare type of melanoma that has higher rates in people of color and is associated with poor outcomes. He works to identify new ways to target this disease.
  • Ben Myers, PhD, is fighting for the next generation of drug treatments for cancer. Heis an assistant professor of oncological sciences. He completed his PhD training at the University of California, San Francisco, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. He studies how cells communicate with each other and how cancer cells develop drug resistance.
  • Sonam Puri, MD, is fighting lung cancer bench to bedside. She is an assistant professor of internal medicine and a medical oncologist who specializes in caring for patients with lung cancers. She completed a clinical fellowship at the Moffitt Cancer Center.
  • Charles Rogers, PhD, MPH, is fighting to prevent cancer for medically underserved populations. He is an assistant professor of family and preventive medicine. Rogers completed his PhD in health education and behavior at Texas A&M University, followed by postdoctoral training in cancer-related health disparities and community-based participatory research at the University of Minnesota Medical School. His research focus is on colorectal cancer awareness and prevention among Black men.

“I am so thrilled that 5 For The Fight and Huntsman Cancer Institute are partnering on this innovative fellowship, helping to increase the pipeline and opportunities for cancer researchers who are early in their careers,” said Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO of Huntsman Cancer Institute. “This diverse group of scientists at HCI are eager and committed to making a major impact in cancer. We are grateful to 5 For The Fight, Qualtrics, and the thousands and thousands of donors who make groundbreaking research possible.”