Providence cancer physician and scientist named as one of nation's 15 most promising young researchers

April 14, 2016

Kristina YoungJust a year into her career as a Providence Cancer Center radiation oncologist and scientist, Kristina Young, M.D., Ph.D., has been recognized as one of 15 most promising young researchers in the nation by the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research.

The Kimmel Scholar Award comes with a two-year, $200,000 grant to further her work on harnessing the patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer.

"It is a really exciting time to be working in cancer immunotherapy, particularly at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute, which has focused on this work for decades," said Dr. Young. "Our patients have access to life-saving treatments being developed in our labs. I am energized to come to work each day and ‘finish cancer’."

Specifically, Dr. Young is continuing research she began at Providence in her post-doctoral work on modifying the tumor microenvironment in combination with radiation to improve the outcome for patients with rectal cancer.

The funding that comes with this honor will allow her to move the research into its first clinical trial with rectal cancer patients. Dr. Young is one of five of the 15 researchers who were given translational scholarships. Translational research is also referred to as "bench to bedside" – meaning the science is moved quickly from conception to patient trials. Providence Cancer Center researchers are recognized for being international leaders in immunotherapy, with a strong bench to bedside commitment.

"The goal of the Kimmel Scholar Awards is for recipients to launch their first research laboratories and to support a new generation of leading cancer researchers," said Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., oncologist and director, Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center. "We are pleased Kristina has been recognized as the promising new scientist we know she is – she is part of the future of immunotherapy research."

Dr. Young’s clinical trial is for patients with stage II or III rectal cancer who need chemotherapy and radiation. Her early research found that combining radiation with a novel immune therapy greatly enhanced the treatment, which could result in better health outcomes for the patients.

Dr. Young was recognized in 2015 by the Conquer Cancer Foundation and the American Society of Clinical Oncology with a Young Investigator Award for the early stages of another promising research strategy. That honor came with a $50 thousand award to continue funding her studies.

Dr. Young serves in a joint position with The Oregon Clinic and the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center.