Graduate Student in Cancer Research is First at Dartmouth to Receive Prestigious NCI Award

Jichang Han, BS
Jichang Han, BS

Jichang Han, BS, is the first at Dartmouth to receive a Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Han, a student of the Dartmouth College Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) PhD Program at the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth College, works in the Turk Research Laboratory at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC).

The F99/K00 award is to encourage and retain outstanding graduate students recognized for their exceptional potential and strong interest in pursuing careers as independent cancer researchers and leading high-impact academic research labs. Uniquely, the NCI does not require applicants for this award to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The grant is designed to identify the very best graduate students from around the world and encourage them to continue on the academic research track in the U.S.

“Making this grant available to all graduate students is an effort to keep the best and the brightest here in the U.S.,” says Steven N. Fiering, PhD, Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy researcher and director of Education at NCCC, who mentored Han through the highly competitive grant application process. “Recipients are almost guaranteed acceptance as postdoctoral fellows in almost any lab and become highly sought-after for faculty positions following a successful fellowship.”

During the 1–2-year predoctoratal dissertation (F99) phase of the grant, Han will study the long-lasting tumor protective immune responses from immunotherapy that some melanoma survivors with certain immune skin conditions such as rash and vitiligo experience. In the 4-year mentored postdoctoral career development (K00) phase of the grant, Han hopes to understand the mechanisms of key immune responses that could effectively treat cancers such as pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma that are resistant to current immunotherapies.

“I’m very proud of Jichang and all he has accomplished at Dartmouth,” says Han’s mentor, Mary Jo Turk, PhD, co-director of NCCC’s Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy Research Program and the O. Ross McIntyre, MD, Endowed Professor at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “It is both affirming and reassuring to know that he will have this NIH support during the next stage of his research career.”

Han is honored to be recognized and nominated by NCCC for this competitive grant awarded to only 24 applicants. “The huge support from my mentor, Dr. Mary Jo Turk, and other faculty members and from Geisel all together made this difficult and competitive grant possible, which is very exciting,” says Han. “This grant will facilitate my transition into successful cancer research postdoctoral appointments, and provide opportunities for career development activities relevant to my long-term goal of becoming an independent cancer researcher.”

About the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, founded in 1797, strives to improve the lives of the communities we serve through excellence in learning, discovery, and healing. The nation's fourth-oldest medical school, the Geisel School of Medicine has been home to many firsts in medical education, research and practice, including the discovery of the mechanism for how light resets biological clocks, creating the first multispecialty intensive care unit, the first comprehensive examination of U.S. health care cost variations (The Dartmouth Atlas), and the first Center for Health Care Delivery Science, which launched in 2010. As one of America's top medical schools, Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine is committed to training new generations of physician leaders who will help solve our most vexing challenges in health care.

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Norris Cotton Cancer Center, located on the campus of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, NH with the highest level of high-quality, innovative, personalized, and compassionate patient-centered cancer care at DHMC, as well as at regional, multi-disciplinary locations and partner hospitals throughout NH and VT. NCCC is one of only 52 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation, the result of an outstanding collaboration between DHMC, New Hampshire’s only academic medical center, and Dartmouth College. Now entering its fifth decade, NCCC remains committed to excellence, outreach and education, and strives to prevent and cure cancer, enhance survivorship and to promote cancer health equity through its pioneering interdisciplinary research. Each year the NCCC schedules 61,000 appointments seeing nearly 4,000 newly diagnosed patients, and currently offers its patients more than 100 active clinical trials.