Fifth-Year Student Receives Inaugural NCI Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award

By Celia Gittelson,

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Brittany Woods, a fifth-year Gerstner Sloan Kettering student, recently received the National Cancer Institute’s Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award. This pilot award will support outstanding PhD candidates as they complete their dissertation research and during their transition to mentored, cancer-focused postdoctoral career development positions.

“This is a competitive award in which PhD degree-granting institutions were able to nominate just one student,” says GSK Dean Ken Marians.  We’re very proud of Brittany and are very excited about her future as a cancer researcher. The ability of a school as small as GSK to compete successfully on a national scale reflects the outstanding quality of our students and the strength of our curriculum.  

Brittany’s thesis research aims to understand the molecular evolution of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), a chronic hematologic disease characterized by the overproduction of mature myeloid cell types. Despite the development and FDA-approval of JAK2 kinase inhibitors for MPN treatment, these malignancies remain incurable.

The specific aims of her research are to develop novel mouse models of MPNs to investigate the contribution of specific blood cell lineages in JAK2V617F-driven MPN. She is specifically focusing on the role of Jak2-mutant megakaryocytes and platelets in MPN pathogenesis. Following her thesis work, Brittany intends to use her doctoral training to explore the role of the tumor microenvironment in myeloid leukemogenesis.

“I’m very fortunate to work in a collaborative environment where I routinely interact with the top clinicians and researchers in their respective fields,” Brittany says. “I chose the GSK graduate program for its commitment to training the next generation of cancer biologists, with a unique curriculum that emphasizes rigorous critical thinking about basic and translational research questions surrounding all facets of cancer science. I’m also deeply grateful to GSK for their steadfast support, as demonstrated by their nomination for this award. The NCI’s support will help me tremendously in forging an innovative, independent research career as a cancer biologist.”