Kirsten Baecher, Michael Turgeon, and Jessica Keilson named Elkin Fellows

July 2020

Emory general surgery residents Kirsten Baecher, MD, Jessica Keilson, MD, and Michael Turgeon, MD, are the 2020 recipients of the Nell W. and William Simpson Elkin Fellowship. These awards are given out annually to extraordinary physician-scientists enrolled in eligible Emory training programs who have career goals in the research and treatment or prevention of cancer. Each award comes with an endowment of up to $35,000 to help cover salary, laboratory costs, and other expenses related to recipients' research proposals, such as travel to conferences and meetings.

Dr. Baecher will be studying the cell autonomous role of FcγRIIB in human CD8+ T cell responses in melanoma. Prior studies have shown that increased expression of the inhibitory receptor FcγRIIB can alter the body's immune response and affect transplant graft tolerance. Dr. Baecher's primary aim is to evaluate the possibility that regulating FcyRIIB could have a similar effect in the pathogenesis of malignancy. Her co-mentors are transplant immunologist Mandy Ford, PhD, scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center, and Michael Lowe, MD, MA, surgical oncologist, melanoma expert, and director of extramural studies for the Emory general surgery residency.

Dr. Keilson's study will focus on evaluating molecular targets that are responsible for immune-mediated recognition and evasion of cholangiocarcinoma tumor cells in order to identify potential novel therapeutic targets. More details about the study can be found in this story on Dr. Keilson's acceptance into the Georgia CTSA training program.

Dr. Turgeon's project is a Phase II, randomized control trial to determine the ideal time for hepatitis C virus treatment as it relates to liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma. Dr. Turgeon received virtual mentoring to develop the proposal for this study at the 2020 ACCR/ASCO Clinical Trials Workshop; read the story here.

Dr. Keilson and Dr. Turgeon are both being co-mentored by Shishir K. Maithel, MD, scientific director of Emory's Liver and Pancreas Center, and Gregory B. Lesinski, PhD, co-director of the Translational GI Malignancy Program at Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Turgeon's co-mentors also include surgical oncologist Maria Russell, MD.