University of Vermont

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Van Der Velden’s Lung Cancer Research Earns Francis B. Parker Fellowship

Jos Van Der Velden, Ph.D., University of Vermont Assistant Professor of Pathology and member of the Vermont Cancer Center at UVM/Fletcher Allen
Jos Van Der Velden, Ph.D., University of Vermont Assistant Professor of Pathology and member of the Vermont Cancer Center at UVM/Fletcher Allen (Photo: COM Design & Photography)

Jos Van Der Velden, Ph.D., University of Vermont assistant professor of pathology and a member of the Vermont Cancer Center at UVM/Fletcher Allen, has been named to the 2014 class of Francis B. Parker Fellows in recognition of his research focused on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). 

The Francis B. Parker Fellowship program, founded in 1976 and funded by the Francis Families Foundation, supports the development of outstanding investigators planning careers in pulmonary research with three years of funding totaling $156,000. A total of 62 applicants from the U.S. and Canada were considered for the 2014 program and Van Der Velden, along with his identified fellowship mentor –UVM Professor of Pathology Yvonne Janssen-Heininger, Ph.D. – was among 11 junior investigators selected for the program. 

Van Der Velden aims to advance understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in NSCLC and apply that knowledge to the development of a novel therapeutic approach for a disease whose five-year survival rate has remained largely unchanged over the last three decades. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer and each originates in a different type of lung cell and multiplies and metastasizes in a different manner. The three types are: squamous cell carcinoma or epidermoid carcinoma; large cell carcinoma; and adenocarcinoma.

Van Der Velden’s fellowship research will determine the role of an identified molecular mechanism, known as GSTP1, in the development and propagation of NSCLC with the goal of introducing a novel therapeutic approach and clinical trial. Thanks to previous research findings, scientists know that 25 percent of all NSCLCs are found in a specific gene mutation (the KRAS mutation), which provides an opportunity for targeted investigation. Van Der Velden plans to seize that opportunity through the fellowship program and ongoing collaborations with investigators across the Vermont Cancer Center and at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Preliminary findings from research conducted by Van Der Velden and his team demonstrate a link between a specific protein and NSCLC. A known inhibitor for this protein, which is expressed in a high percentage of lung cancer tumors, already exists. His study aims to determine if inhibition of this protein prevents tumor development in patients with the KRAS mutation, and could lead to further research and clinical application of the protein inhibitor as a novel therapy for NSCLC.

Van Der Velden hopes to take the expertise gained during his Francis B. Parker Fellowship, and through collaboration with Janssen-Heininger, and build a career in lung tumor biology research with the aim of advancing diagnostic and therapeutic tools in the treatment of lung cancer. As a Francis B. Parker Fellow Van Der Velden joins a cadre of more than 800 Fellows who, since the program’s inception in 1976, have built careers and made significant contributions in advancing pulmonary research.

For more information about the Francis B. Parker Fellowship program: http://www.francisfellowships.org/.