The Kansas City Chiefs and The University of Kansas Health System announced on Monday that Mary Markiewicz, Ph.D. at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, has been awarded a $200,000 junior investigator grant from the V Foundation for Cancer Research, a top-rated cancer research charity founded by ESPN and Jim Valvano.
The grant was made possible through a collaboration between the V Foundation, ESPN, the Kansas City Chiefs and The University of Kansas Health System that was announced in early October. It supports young tenure-track researchers early in their careers by funding projects that are either laboratory-based fundamental research or translational research. Markiewicz is working to increase the effectiveness of the body's own immune cells (called Natural Killer Cells) in fighting cancer cells. In particular, her lab is looking at the role of binding receptors on the Natural Killer Cells, which appear to make Natural Killer Cells more effective when activated.
"I am immensely grateful for the grant to support our research," Markiewicz said. "This grant will allow us to expand and quicken our research on Natural Killer Cells, which have the potential to target all different types of tumors in cancer. Like work with T cells, which you might have heard of already, we are working to activate NK Cells to target tumors. One day, NK Cells might be used to target a broader range of tumors and fight even more cancers."
Markiewicz is the Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Immunology at The University of Kansas. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in microbiology from Ohio State University, received her Ph.D. in immunology from the University of Chicago and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis until 2014. She joined The University of Kansas Cancer Center in June 2014. She has been published 32 times.
As part of the awarding of the grant, Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones visited Markiewicz's lab to learn more about her part in helping defeat cancer. Footage highlighting her work as well as Jones' visit to the lab will air during ESPN's Monday Night Football telecast this evening.
"We truly enjoyed having Chris Jones come visit our lab and learn more about our work," Markiewicz said. "He was quite enthusiastic, and we appreciate his interest and his support as we all work together to fight and destroy cancer." The Chiefs and Hunt Family Foundation contributed $50,000 and The University of Kansas Health System raised $50,000; with that $100,000 being matched by the V Foundation for the grant to be awarded to The University of Kansas Cancer Center. The partnership brings V Foundation resources to the Kansas City area and marks the first time the V Foundation has joined forces with an NFL team to advance its goal of achieving victory over cancer.