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UT Southwestern’s Dr. Todd Aguilera and Dr. Jeffrey Woodruff Win Big Funding Awards

Their research could be game changers for rectal cancer and infertility respectively.
By Plamedie Ifasso |

Dr. Todd Aguilera, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at UTSW, has received a Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award for his work in immunotherapy. The award grants Aguilera’s multidisciplinary team $600,000 to support their research. Damon Runyon will also repay up to $100,000 of an awardee’s medical school debt.

Aguilera’s team is investigating patients’ immune response to the combination of an immunotherapy drug with chemotherapy and radiation for advanced rectal cancer.

“The quality of research proposed by our new Clinical Investigators is exceptionally strong,” Dr. Yung Lie, Damon Runyon president and CEO, said in a press release. “We are thrilled to be funding brave and bold physician-scientists who are taking risks to experimentally address the most important questions in cancer research and then translate them into improving patients’ lives. We are helping to launch the careers of tomorrow’s brightest cancer researchers.”

The goal of the research is to optimize therapy for gastrointestinal cancers, and if successful could become an effective therapeutic standard that could improve survival, potentially avoid the need for surgery, shorten the treatment course, and lower risk of metastasis.

Dr. Jeffrey Woodruff, an Assistant professor of cell biology at UTSW, was chosen to join the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. As one of the 22 scientists selected by the Pew Charitable Trusts to join the program, Woodruff will receive four years of funding to investigate scientific breakthroughs that will advance human health.

“Pew is proud to support these promising researchers as they conduct world-class research to address biomedicine’s most complex questions,” Rebecca W. Rimel, Pew’s president and CEO, said in a press release  “They join a group of distinguished scientists who have worked for decades to advance science and protect public health.”

Woodruff is researching how human eggs maintain their quality during its dormant stage until fertilization. His investigation could help reverse age-related decline in female fertility and retain the eggs’ quality.

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