15:36 PM

BioE’s David Gau Receives NIH Career Transition Award to Treat Kidney Cancer


David Gau, a lecturer in the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering, has received a K99/R00 Career Transition Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for his work on clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). The award provides $126,047 per year during his two-year fellowship, which proposes a new treatment method for ccRCC.

“More than 75% of renal cell carcinoma is ccRCC and patients with this disease have a five year survival rate of around 14 percent,” said Gau, who is a member of Professor Partha Roy’s Cell Migration Lab. “Our lab wants to investigate the underlying mechanisms associated with this disease so that we can develop more effective treatments.”

ccRCC is characterized by a highly vascular tumor microenvironment within the kidneys and responds well to anti-angiogenic therapies—drugs that block cancer blood vessel growth. Unfortunately, almost all patients develop resistance to these therapies over time. Research has demonstrated that a protein called Profilin1 is linked to human ccRCC and poor clinical outcomes. Gau’s project, “Profilin as a Novel Target for Vascular Normalization in Renal Cancer," aims to further develop their previously developed Profilin1 inhibitors as a potential RCC therapy. 

“We will also be studying the novel aspects of Profilin1 functionality in endothelial cell biology inside the blood vessels,” he said. “Completion of this project would provide foundational evidence for targeting Profilin1 as a potential treatment for kidney cancer and demonstrate direct impact of Profilin1 on regulation of vessel formation in clear cell renal cell carcinoma.”

The K99/R00 award is the gold standard for training awards for individuals interested in academia and funds two years of mentored training in the K99 phase and three years of independent research in the R00 phase. Gau hopes to continue his training in contrast-enabled ultrasound and immunobiology as he pivots to the R00 stage of the project.