2023 Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School Travel Award Winners

The Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School Travel Awards are intended for individuals who will attend the program in person. The award amount, up to $1,000, will be reimbursed for eligible expenses associated with travel to attend the 2023 Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School program in person and/or registration for the Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School program.

We are pleased to announce the 2023 Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School Travel Award winners below. Thank you to everyone who applied. 

Two of the five travel awards will be reserved for those who self-identify as individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the Biomedical Sciences according to the NIH definition.The information collected in response to the self-identifying process will only be viewed by SITC staff and Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School program organizers.

Program Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) understands the value of diversity, equity and inclusion and is committed to closing gaps within all facets of the organization, as well as ones in the field of immuno-oncology and biomedical sciences. Since 2018, SITC has been proactively following the NIH Statement on Diversity for those in underrepresented Populations in the U.S. Biomedical Sciences across planning, solicitation and implementation of all programming, including SITC’s Cancer Immunotherapy Winter School. In 2021, SITC formed the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force to ensure participation from nationally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and women from biomedical sciences throughout all society programs and initiatives.

Alex Benton

Travel_Winner_-_Benton.pngAlex Benton graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, receiving his BA in biochemistry. As an undergraduate he gained translational research experience through working in many industry and academic labs. This included highly competitive internship positions and AbbVie and Pfizer, and research fellowships in the labs of Gary J. Patty and Scott J. Hultgren. Alex is currently a 4th year PhD candidate at The Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. He joined the Daniel J. Powell Jr. Lab in 2020, where he received funding from a T32 grant for pharmacology. Alex’s research focus is on developing safer and more potent cellular immunotherapies using cutting edge genome engineering techniques. This work is the subject of his recently accepted manuscript to be published in Cancer Cell.

Vinh Dao MD, Phd

Travel_Winner_-_Dao.pngDr. Dao completed his undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley in 2006, then worked as a research associate at UCSF under the mentorship of Dr. Lawrence Fong. There, he was exposed to cancer immunology research, specifically the use of anti-CTLA for the treatment of prostate cancer. It was this sense of advancement in both science and medicine that defined his plan to pursue a combined MD/PhD degree at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. While there, he worked under the mentorship of Dr. Tyler Curiel to show that the drug rapamycin (sirolimus) could enhance gamma-delta T cells to prevent cancer entirely in mouse models of colon and skin cancer. His graduate research was funded by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F30 fellowship). Having completed his residency training in internal medicine at Stanford, Dr. Dao is now in his final year of hematology-oncology fellowship. As part of Stanford’s Translational Investigator Program, Dr. Dao was initially pursuing a lab-based career with a focus on cancer immunology research but recently decided to pursue a different path related to clinical trial design and implementation for patients with GI malignancies.

Chinwe Ewenighi-Amankwah, PhD, MSc, BSc

Travel_Winner_-_Dao.pngDr. Chinwe Ewenighi-Amankwah, Ph.D., MSc., BSc., is an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, College of Medicine, at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Chicago, IL. As a postdoctoral research fellow, her study aims to understand how single nucleotide polymorphism in the ACKR1 gene affects leukocyte infiltration in triple-negative breast cancer. Dr. Ewenighi-Amankwah conducted her Ph.D. research study at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology (UIC). Subsequently, she earned a Ph.D. in Immunology from Nnamdi Azikiwe University Nigeria. Her Ph.D. research study at UIC was focused on ‘A Mother-to-Child Transmission Study’ where she assessed the impact of maternal HIV infection and HAART on plasma immunoglobulins, cytokine profiles, and infant outcomes.

Aside from research activities, Dr. Ewenighi-Amankwah has taught Summer Pre-matriculation lectures in physiology at UIC. Dr. Ewenighi-Amankwah is one of the Executive Board members and Director of External Relations at the UIC Postdoctoral Association. She has served on several organizing committees including Organizing Committee Member at ‘Your Future in Science seminar series planning’ where she represents the UIC postdoctoral association, Organizing Committee for the 5th and 6th UIC Career Development Symposium held in 2021 and 2022, and Organizing Committee Member at UIC Inaugural Cardiovascular T32 trainee Symposium in 2021.

Sepideh Gholami, MD, PHD

Travel_Winner_Gholami.pngDr. Gholami is a board-certified surgeon scientist at Northwell Health Cancer Institute/Coldspring Harbor Laboratory with dual fellowship training in Complex General Surgical Oncology and Hepatopancreatobiliary Surgery. As a translational clinical researcher, Dr. Gholami’s research explores the tumor microenvironment and mechanism of immunologic resistance of colorectal cancer liver metastases with the goal to develop novel immune-augmenting therapies. Dr. Gholami has also a vested interest in developing novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers through designing high-impact clinical trials to improve patient outcomes in CRLM.

Daniel Haldar, MD

Travel_Winner-Haldar.pngDr. Daniel Haldar is a second-year Medical Oncology fellow at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. He graduated magna cum laude with an A.B./A.M. degree in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Harvard College. He subsequently received an M.D. degree with honors from the Health Sciences and Technology Program at Harvard Medical School. As a medical student, he studied the molecular mechanisms of thalidomide derivatives in the laboratory of Dr. Benjamin L. Ebert at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Haldar is the recipient of multiple research awards including the ASH Physician-Scientist Career Development Award, St. Baldrick’s Summer Research Fellowship, and the J. Mario Molina Physician-Scientist Scholarship. His academic interests include early-phase clinical trials and translational immuno-oncology research focused on cancer vaccines and novel combinatorial immunotherapies for gastrointestinal malignancies. Currently, under the mentorship of Drs. Nilofer S. Azad and Elizabeth M. Jaffee, he is leading two phase I trials studying a mutant KRAS-targeted vaccine for the treatment and prevention of pancreatic cancer.