Andy Hill CARE Fund Awards $100,000 to ISB Assistant Professor Dr. Wei Wei
The COVID-19 pandemic has put cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their families at particular risk. To address this problem, the Andy Hill Cancer Research Endowment (CARE) Fund has created a grant program seeking to advance research at the intersection of COVID-19 and cancer.
ISB Assistant Professor Dr. Wei Wei has been awarded a $100,000 grant to study chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), one of the most commonly diagnosed leukemias in the Western world that mainly affects older individuals.
“Patients with chronic CLL are among the most vulnerable populations to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and they have a more severe clinical phenotype and a higher fatality rate relative to patients with solid organ tumors,” Wei said. “With the generous support from the Andy Hill CARE Fund, we will leverage biospecimens and data from the COVID-19 Immune Response Study to interrogate CLL-associated dysregulated immune cell functions that have drastic consequences for host protection against SARS-CoV-2 and other viral infections.”
The research aims to provide an improved understanding of how the altered epigenetic landscape and transcriptional reprogramming in CLL patients influences the activation, differentiation, and function of immune cells upon COVID-19 infection, and how these dysregulated processes lead to a compromised antiviral response.
“The knowledge obtained from this study holds the promise to inform and improve cancer treatments in leukemia patients at serious risk of secondary infections,” Wei said.
Two other cancer researchers also received $100,000 in funding: Dr. Garnet Anderson at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to assess COVID-19-related cancer care disparities among an aging population, and Dr. Chaitra Ujjani of the University of Washington to examine the efficacy of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in CLL patients.
The Andy Hill CARE Fund is a public-private partnership that supports cancer research in Washington state. Past awards to ISB include a $500,000 grant to Wei in 2019, and a $500,000 grant to ISB President and Professor Dr. Jim Heath in December 2017.