Sep 14, 2021 9:00 AM

Read Time: 2 minutes

Author: Carley Lehauli

Photo of Sheetal Hardikar, PhD, MBBS, Prasoona Karra, MS, and Mary Playdon, PhD
Sheetal Hardikar, PhD, MBBS, Prasoona Karra, MS, and Mary Playdon, PhD

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) predoctoral fellow Prasoona Karra, MS, was selected to receive the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award (F99/K00). These highly competitive awards are presented to “outstanding predoctoral researchers” and are designed to support them in the late stages of PhD training through transition to postdoctoral position. The award provides up to six years of funding. Only a handful are awarded each year from the NCI.

Karra’s award will be used to advance her research program in understanding how changes to metabolism in obesity can influence risk of cancer, as well as survival after a cancer diagnosis.

Karra’s primary mentor, Mary Playdon, PhD, MPH, HCI researcher and University of Utah (U of U) assistant professor of nutrition and integrative physiology, says, “Prasoona’s receipt of this award recognizes her as a promising early career researcher who is tackling critical, unanswered questions that could have a high impact on obesity-related cancers in Utah and beyond.”

“I am delighted for Prasoona to receive this award,” says one of Karra’s co-mentors, Sheetal Hardikar, PhD, MBBS, HCI researcher and U of U assistant professor of population health sciences. “Her innovative project will help improve our understanding of the role of metabolic dysfunction in cancer risk and prognosis. Having been an international student myself, I know that the opportunities to get federal funding are limited, which makes this achievement even more remarkable.”

Karra’s research will focus on metabolic health and 13 obesity-related cancer types. Using data from a large group of adult Utahns followed over decades, Karra will evaluate whether people in the normal weight range who have abnormal metabolic markers, like blood glucose, have similar obesity-related cancer risk to those who are obese. She will also look at how a new diagnosis of type 2 diabetes after cancer can affect survival outcomes in women.

“I feel honored to receive this award,” says Karra. “My ultimate research goal is to work with doctors to identify individuals at risk of cancer using sophisticated metabolic data, and help these patients reduce their cancer risk.”

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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