Sharp Tank Award Goes to Multiple Myeloma Research - Stand Up To Cancer


Posted October 1, 2020

Sharp Tank Award Goes to Multiple Myeloma Research

Catherine Marinac was awarded $100,000 from SU2C to study health disparities in multiple myeloma as part of a “Shark Tank”-style competition

LOS ANGELES – October 1, 2020 — Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) has awarded the 2020 SU2C Sharp Tank Award to Catherine Marinac, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to support research that focuses on interventions in patients with precursor multiple myeloma. In particular, Marinac plans to study how interventions can be tailored to the preferences and needs of a range of patient populations, with a particular focus on underserved populations.

“We have to develop interventions that people will engage with and that will meet the population where they are,” said Dr. Marinac. “Research in other cancer types has shown that not all interventions are of value to all populations.”

Multiple myeloma is a rare and incurable blood cancer that disproportionately affects people of color. Black people are two to three times more likely to develop precursor conditions to multiple myeloma, and two times more likely to develop the cancer itself, compared to Caucasians. Hispanics also have a slightly elevated risk.

Dr. Marinac is a member of the SU2C Multiple Myeloma Dream Team, a group of researchers focused on the early detection of certain conditions that can lead to multiple myeloma—called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and smoldering multiple myeloma (SMM)—as well as creating new ways to prevent the development of these conditions into cancer. The idea of early intervention and treatment for people with MGUS or SMM has been controversial given that not all patients with MGUS and SMM will develop cancer in their lifetime and the possibility that an intervention could cause unnecessary toxicity and harm. Moreover, studying minority populations with cancer, or those at risk for cancer, has been challenging due to the fact that only 4 percent of all cancer clinical trial participants are Black and 5 percent are Hispanic.

For several years, SU2C has focused on increasing diverse participation in clinical trials through a Health Equity Initiative. This initiative requires all future teams seeking SU2C funding to address issues related to diversity in clinical trials. This focus on inclusion is considered especially important during COVID-19, which—like many cancers—disproportionately affects people of color.

The 2020 SU2C Sharp Tank Award was designed to challenge early-career researchers to propose their most cutting-edge, high-risk ideas that have the greatest potential to impact cancer patients of all races. Early-career investigators, currently or previously involved in SU2C-supported grants, were invited to submit a brief project summary and 30-second video pitch. Three finalists were selected to present their proposals in-person in front of more than 400 researchers, scientific leaders, advocates and collaborators attending the annual SU2C Scientific Summit in late January.

Marinac was among the finalists, and proposed a project that she will lead alongside the existing Multiple Myeloma Dream Team to better understand the wants and needs of Black communities when it comes to early intervention in precursor multiple myeloma. She plans to use statistical methods widely used in market research to find the most appealing intervention approaches for specific groups of people.

“We invest considerable research dollars in finding interventions to change a patient’s disease course, but just because its available doesn’t mean it will be adopted by those who might need it most,” said Dr. Marinac. “It’s not going to be effective if it’s something the population won’t use.”

On the afternoon of the competition, Dr. Marinac was chosen as the winner of the $100,000 award, which was named after Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Nobel laureate, institute professor at David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and chairperson of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee.

“The fast-paced nature of this competition exemplifies SU2C’s commitment to fostering rapid research breakthroughs and breaking down traditional silos that have existed in the medical community,” said Dr. Sharp. “SU2C’s dedication to its researchers is also evident through this process, and we’re proud to continue supporting our researchers and encouraging their innovative work in unconventional ways.”

By bridging the work that is already being done through the SU2C Health Equity Initiative to address health disparities in cancer, as well as the push toward multiple myeloma early intervention being studied by the SU2C Dream Team, Marinac’s research was considered a perfect example of the kind of creative research that the Sharp Award was designed to find.

“We are confident that Dr. Marinac’s work as a result of this award will pave the way for breakthrough research and improved patient outcomes,” said SU2C CEO Sung Poblete, PhD, RN. “Not only does this further solidify our commitment to improving minority health outcomes, but more importantly affirms our dedication to inspiring early-career investigators to pursue cutting-edge research and bring us one step closer towards our goal of turning all cancer patients into survivors.”

About Stand Up To Cancer

Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by media and entertainment leaders who utilize these communities’ resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, to increase awareness about cancer prevention, and to highlight progress being made in the fight against the disease. As of June 2020, more than 1,600 scientists representing more than 180 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects.

Under the direction of our Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., SU2C operates rigorous competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and ensure collaboration across research programs.

Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser are also co-founders. Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., serves as SU2C’s CEO. For more information, visit

Stand Up To Cancer
Mirabai Vogt-James


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