The TargetCancer Medical Student Research Fund at Harvard Medical School

The TargetCancer Medical Student Research Fund at Harvard Medical School

With a $25,000 grant, TargetCancer created The TargetCancer Medical Student Research Fund at Harvard Medical School in 2011. This fellowship program funds the summer studies of two Harvard Medical students per year for three years. These fellowships are awarded to students interested in studying rare cancers, as well as new and innovative approaches to treating them.

This grant allows TargetCancer to support an elite group of medical students at one of the earliest points of their training, creating future leaders in rare cancer research.

In Summer 2013, fellowships were awarded to students for the following projects:

Merkel cell carcinoma clinical presentation, treatment, and survival: a population study
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a very rare (about 1,500 cases in the U. S. per year) and aggressive skin cancer that arises from uncontrolled growth of merkel cells. These cells are found in the outermost layer of skin and are thought to be touch receptors crucial in the determination of discrete spatial details. MCC is fatal in roughly 30% of patients making it one of the most serious types of skin cancer. This project will look at a population of individuals diagnosed with MCC and seek to better understand the physical signs and symptoms of the disease and evaluate the use and effectiveness of existing treatment options.

Neurophysiology and Endocrinology of Hypothalamic Obesity in Craniopharyngioma: Development of Protocol for Bariatric Surgery
Craniopharygioma, a rare type of benign tumor typically affecting children ages 5-10, develops in the pituitary stalk and can extend into the hypothalamus resulting in hormonal imbalances, increased pressure on the brain, and damage of the optic nerve. Hypothalamic obesity can often result from hormonal imbalances that arise from the disruption of hormone regulation. Bariatric surgery can be an effective weight control method for those suffering from hypothalamic obesity. This project seeks to develop protocol for performing bariatric surgery on patients with this rare condition.

Previously, the first two fellowship recipients spent their summers studying these two important rare cancer research areas:

• Improved imaging techniques for better diagnosis and tracking of pancreatic and ovarian cancers
• Research into a specific cellular signaling pathway that is involved in ovarian cancer