Three researchers from the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center are part of the newest class of the American Association for Cancer Research grant and award recipients for dedicating their careers to advancing the detection, prevention and treatment of cancer. The awards were announced during second part of the association’s annual meeting, which this year was held virtually.

The 2020 award recipients from UCLA were:

Dr. Cristina Puig Saus, adjunct assistant professor of medicine and hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, received the NextGen Star Award that recognizes early-career investigators for their cancer research. Puig Saus was honored for her efforts to make immunotherapies work better for more people. She is currently studying how T cells respond to mutations in tumors after immune checkpoint blockade treatment. Understanding the T-cell responses induced after therapy in people with or without response will inform the design of personalized adoptive T-cell therapies.

Dr. Tracy Daniels-Wells, adjunct assistant professor in the department of surgery and division of surgical oncology, received the AACR Minority and Minority-serving Institution Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research Award. This award helps increase the scientific knowledge base of minority faculty members and faculty members at minority-serving institutions.It encourages them and their students to pursue careers in cancer research. Daniels-Wells is a member of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi. Her research focuses on the development of new antibody-based therapeutics that can either directly eliminate cancer cells or can “teach” the immune system to fight cancer.

Dr. Willy Hugo, assistant professor of dermatology, was recognized with the AACR-Bayer Innovation and Discovery grant. This award goes to researchers providing new treatment options for cancers with a high unmet medical need that encourages collaboration between academic groups and the pharmaceutical industry to help translate ideas from basic research to new drugs. Hugo is studying the role of the interaction between tumor cells and the immune/stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment and how such interaction influences the development of resistance toward targeted- and immunotherapies in cancer.