Research we fund


Over the last four decades NFCR created and sustains five specialized cancer research centers around America. NFCR funded science programs include 50 top research laboratories in the United States and around the world. The scientists that we support are conducting leading-edge research around the clock on all major types of cancer. They are leading the way in the most critical areas of cancer research.

Click here to view the research achievements accomplished by NFCR scientists in 2014



University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute
Center Director:
Danny R. Welch, PhD

Associate Director, Basic Science, The University of Kansas Cancer Center,

Chair and Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, The University of Kansas School of Medicine

The NFCR Center for Metastasis Research provides a platform for scientists from different research institutions and with different expertise to work together in the search for more effective ways to stop the lethal spread of cancer. Under the direction of Dr. Danny Welch, the Center is uniting efforts of leading investigators from six research institutions, including the University of Kansas Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, The Pennsylvania State University, Utah State University, The University of Delaware, and Virginia Commonwealth University.



Case Western Reserve University
Center Director:
Jim P. Basilion. Ph.D.

Professor, Radiology and BioMedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

The NFCR Center for Molecular Imaging at Case Western Reserve University is focused on developing new diagnostic tools, which can "see" cancer cells at the molecular level by visualizing cancer-specific biomarkers. Directed by James P. Basilion, Ph.D., work on developing this advanced technology is allowing doctors to detect cancer at early and more treatable stages. Because this approach is non-invasive (no tissue samples need to be taken from the patients), molecular imaging has also become a critical tool for evaluating treatment efficacy, monitoring the earliest signs of cancer recurrence, and developing new anti-cancer therapies that are more tailored to individual patients.



Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School
Center Director:
Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor, Cancer Immunology and AIDS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

The NFCR Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering is focused on targeted immunotherapy treatment through engineered human antibodies. Led by Dr. Marasco, researchers a focusing on proteins that bind only to cancer cells through recognition of unique antigens. This biding then produces an immunological response against the cancer cell, generating tumor-fighting effects that are less harmful to normal cells than traditional cancer treatments.



Translational Genomic Research Institute
Center Co-Director:
Daniel Von Hoff, M.D.

Physician-in-Chief and Director of Translational Research at Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona.

Center Co-Director:
Laurence Hurley, Ph.D.

Howard J. Schaeffer Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, The University of Arizona, Tucson

The NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona, is dedicated to discovering novel and effective therapeutics to treat pancreatic cancer. The center is co-directed by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, one of the top oncologists in the United States and, and Dr. Lawrence Hurley, a renowned medicinal chemist in the field of drug screening and development. The Center is developing new therapies which block the growth of pancreatic cancer cells by interfering with pancreatic cancer-promoting molecules - an approach called targeted cancer therapy.



M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Center Director:
Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

Professor of Pathology, Professor of Cancer Biology, Department of Pathology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Professor, Department of Cancer Biology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The NFCR Center for Cancer Systems Informatics at M.D. Anderson, led by Director Wei Zhang, Ph.D., provides a dedicated computational environment for NFCR supported cancer genome projects. The critical efforts of this bioinformatics approach are invaluable in helping researchers develop new hypotheses about cancer biology – like which genes are promising targets for new drugs. To meet the need for experimental validation of bioinformatics results, the Center also contains an experimental arm that conducts laboratory experiments for data validation.


This program is currently providing long-term and flexible funding to the distinguished and well-established scientists who are leaders in their respective research fields with close connections to research hospitals.

This unique funding approach enables NFCR Fellows to perform innovative research in the laboratories and collaborate with clinicians in the hospitals to convert the potential life-saving discoveries into actual applications to benefit cancer patients.

Webster Cavenee, Ph.D.

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

San Diego, California

Web Cavenee’s research is directed at defining the genetic lesions in human cancer, determining their physiological significance and using that information for therapeutic approaches.

Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D.

Yale University School of Medicine

New Haven, Connecticut

Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D., is a leading expert on biochemical and molecular pharmacology, specializing in cancer and viral chemotherapy.

Curt I. Civin, M.D.

University of Maryland School of Medicine

Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Civin is a pioneer in cancer research who is known for developing a way to isolate stem cells from other blood cells, a field-opening discovery that is now used extensively in leukemia and stem cell biology research, clinical stem cell transplantation and leukemia diagnosis.

Harold F. Dvorak, M.D.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Dvorak's research is concerned with the steps and mechanisms of pathological angiogenesis – the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

Waun Ki Hong, M.D.

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Dr. Hong is a world renowned scientist and the foremost authority on the treatment and prevention of lung, head and neck cancers.

Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Bronx, New York

Susan Horwitz’s research focus is on identify new agents that can circumvent the problem of Taxol drug resistance.

Rakesh K. Jain, Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Boston, Massachusetts

Rakesh Jain’s research focuses on Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and deadliest malignant primary brain tumor in humans.

Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.

The Scripps Research Institute

La Jolla, California

Paul Schimmel’s research focuses on the components in cells that are responsible for protein synthesis and the genetic code – aiming to learn how they might be used to turn off a variety of disease processes, including infectious microorganisms, viruses, and cancers.

Helmut Sies, M.D.


Dusseldorf, Germany

Dr. Sies is a leading expert in cancer prevention research through nutrition.

W. K. Alfred Yung, M.D.

MD Anderson Cancer Center

Houston, Texas

Dr. Yung and his team of researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center are working to develop a smarter, individualized, patient-oriented approach to GBM therapy.


This program is designed to encourage outstanding scientists to explore previously uncharted territories in search of the hidden causes of cancer. This research approach cultivates healthy academic competitions and provides scientists a precious opportunity to validate their most innovative ideas.

Robert Bast, Jr., M.D.

MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Dr. Robert Bast is a world leader in ovarian cancer research who discovered the first clinically useful tumor biomarker for monitoring the course of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer.

Kathryn Horwitz, Ph.D,

University of Colorado
Denver, Colorado

Kathryn Horwitz research into breast cancer is committed to understanding the role that sex hormones play in the development and progression of the disease and the cause of resistance to anti-estrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen.

Esther H. Chang, Ph.D.

Georgetown University
Washington, DC

Esther Chang, PhD, a microbiologist at Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., has focused her research efforts on testing new therapies while administering existing, proven medications.

Jin Jen, M.D., Ph.D.

Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota

Dr. Jin Jen is a leading lung cancer researcher with extensive experience in genetic and gene expression analysis. As the director of the Gene Expression Core (GEC) at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, she is a specialist in Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) approaches to cancer research.

Laurence J. N. Cooper, M.D., Ph.D.

MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, Texas

Dr. Laurence Cooper is an innovative researcher focused on developing a novel immunotherapy which kills leukemia and lymphoma cells by boosting a patient’s own immune attack.

Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.

VCU School of Medicine and the Massey Cancer Center
Richmond, Virginia

Dr. Paul Fisher is a leading microbiologist who has developed an engineered virus to create a novel gene therapy approach for treatment of cancer. The laboratory and preclinical results of this gene therapy have been encouraging in pancreatic cancer, and will be extended to treatment for prostate cancer.

Alice Shaw, M.D., Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. Alice Shaw is a leading thoracic oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Shaw is working to develop targeted strategies to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), particularly how certain types of NSCLC become resistant to genetically targeted therapies.

Daniel A. Haber, M.D., Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
Charleston, Massachusetts

Dr. Daniel Haber focuses mainly on identifying genetic abnormalities in tumors. His research team recently designed a new cutting-edge microchip-based device which can pick up very rare cancer cells that have entered the blood from their originating organs, such as the lungs.

Michael Sporn, M.D.

Dartmouth Medical School
Hanover, New Hampshire

Dr. Michael Sporn is a molecular biologist and pharmacologist at Dartmouth Medical School whose central research focus has been chemoprevention, or the use of medications to stop the development of cancer. Dr. Sporn has served as the head of the Lung Cancer Unit and Chief of the Laboratory of Chemoprevention at the National Institutes of Health.