The 2021 Dr. Richard and Vera Siegel Translational Award Presented to Scholar Katherine Masih

The Dr. Richard and Vera Siegel Translational Award was generously endowed by NIH M.D./Ph.D. Partnership Program co-founder, Dr. Richard Siegel and his wife, Vera. First awarded in 2016, this annual award recognizes advances in the field of medical science that move fundamental discoveries from the bench to the bedside.  The recipient of the Translational Award this year was 2019 NIH-Cambridge M.D./Ph.D. Scholar Katherine Masih.  Katherine is mentored by Dr. Javed Khan at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Professor Richard Gilbertson at the University of Cambridge.

Katherine’s main project involves investigating the tumor intrinsic mechanisms of resistance cell therapy to CART targeting CD19 in childhood leukemia using clinical samples. Through this research she has discovered that 1) Responders to CART cells have T cells with increased fitness in the bone marrow, and 2) The leukemia cells in the resistant tumors are more stem-like, have increased proliferation capacity, increased plasticity, and preexisting clones with alternative splicing of CD19 that may lead to resistance under CART selection pressure. Katherine is also working on multiple projects exploring the tumor immune microenvironment of pediatric solid tumors using highly multiplexed imaging techniques on over 700 patient tumor samples. 

Katherine’s nomination included the following quote from her nominator: “Katherine is intelligent and quick to pick up concepts and apply them to her research. She has learned how to code and handles high-dimensional data analyses with ease. She reads and presents complex research articles and her verbal and writing skills are outstanding. I have seen her give impressive presentations nationally and internationally (currently virtual).  In summary, in all the over 20 years I have been a PI at the NIH, Katherine is one of the best and ranks in the top 1%”

“I was completely surprised and honored to have my work be recognized by the Siegel Translational Award in Medical Sciences. The possibility of unraveling the biology of these deadly diseases to improve the lives of children with cancer is the driving force behind my research.  I am so thankful to both Dr. Khan and Prof. Gilbertson for continually supporting me personally and my growth as a scientist, to OxCam for the opportunity, and Dr. and Mrs. Siegel for endowing this award.”

Katherine recently moved to Cambridge and is studying the dynamics of the tumor immune microenvironment in pediatric brain tumors. She will spend the final two years of her Ph.D. in the UK, before returning to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for her final year of medical school and apply to residencies in pediatrics. Katherine hopes to be a physician-scientist in pediatric oncology, translating laboratory discoveries to improve outcomes for children with childhood cancer.