IITI Awardees Announced

May 29, 2024 by Kate Strotmeyer

Clockwise from left: Dr. Lester-Coll, Dr. Sajisevi, and Dr. Adrianzen Herrera

Investigator-Initiated Therapeutic Trial Incentive

The Investigator-Initiated Therapeutic Trial Incentive (IITI) grant mechanism was created to support clinical investigators with clinical trial protocols and enrollments. 

In 2024, three UVM Cancer Center members received funding: 

Nataniel Lester-Coll, MD

Dr. Lester-Coll’s study aims to enhance the quality of life for patients with metastatic cancer through innovative radiation therapy. Traditional methods for palliative care often expose healthy tissues to high doses of radiation, causing side effects. Dr. Lester-Coll is testing a new "hybrid" radiation technique that combines advanced conformal arcs with conventional methods to better target cancer cells while protecting healthy tissues. This approach is expected to reduce side effects and improve patients' quality of life. Significantly, all radiation oncologists at our center, along with colleagues in medical and surgical oncology, are collaborating on this single-arm, single-institution phase II trial, which aims to enroll 77 participants over two years. If successful, this study could revolutionize palliative care in oncology, offering a new standard for precision and safety. 

Diego Adrianzen Herrera, MD 

Dr. Adrianzen Herrera’s study focuses on improving the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most common acute leukemia in adults. Patients who cannot tolerate high-dose chemotherapy often receive low-intensity therapies, which, although less toxic, still cause significant side effects like very low blood counts and severe fatigue. This study explores whether adding short-term steroids to these treatments will reduce these side effects. Ultimately, the trial aims to benefit AML patients by potentially lowering the burden of side effects, which can delay therapy and compromise care. The UVM Cancer Center is the only organization in the catchment area which can effectively treat acute leukemia, making this trial particularly significant for our patients.

Mirabelle Sajisevi, MD

Dr. Sajisevi’s phase II clinical trial will evaluate a de-intensified therapy for patients with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). These patients, typically young and fit, usually have a good prognosis, but the standard treatments cause significant side effects such as dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, nerve damage, neck stiffness, and jawbone damage. This trial aims to reduce these side effects while maintaining excellent disease control. By de-intensifying therapy, the team, including co-PIs Haveleh Gagne, MD and Maura Barry, MD, hope to enhance patients' long-term function and quality of life. Additionally, they will use advanced monitoring techniques, including HPV circulating tumor DNA testing, to detect recurrences early and potentially reduce the need for frequent imaging, benefiting both patients and the healthcare system. This trial, developed by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Vermont Cancer Center, addresses an urgent need and has the potential to contribute to new standards in the field of oncology for treating HPV-associated OPSCC.