Ilia Droujinine, PhD and Katja Lamia, PhD
Credit: Scripps Research

Scripps Research scientists Ilia Droujinine, PhD, assistant professor and principal investigator in the Department of Molecular Medicine, and Katja Lamia, PhD, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, have received a Discovery Grant from Curebound. Under the award, they will also collaborate with Reuben Shaw, PhD, professor,  William R. Brody Chair, and Director of the Salk Cancer Center at the Salk Institute, to decode and validate new therapeutics for cancer.

Curebound awards Discovery Grants to researchers who are exploring early-phase work that aligns with the organization’s vision: a world without cancer. Droujinine, Lamia and Shaw received one of the 20 Discovery Grants given this year. This includes a $250,000 award to identify new treatment options that target cancer-associated cachexia—a complicated metabolic syndrome characterized by weight and muscle mass loss. While many patients with cancer experience cachexia, little is understood about the syndrome, and there are no available treatments that directly address it.

Droujinine, Lamia and Shaw will investigate how the communication between organs can impact cachexia—specifically, how lung tumors impact organ-to-organ communication and the muscular system. They aim to identify new diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutics that can treat the underlying cause of cachexia, to ultimately improve how cancer is treated. 

At Scripps Research, Droujinine’s work focuses on the proteins that form communication networks between organs, and how this inter-organ communication goes awry in disease, while Lamia is researching how our internal circadian “clocks” regulate physiology, metabolism and disease, including cancer.  At Salk, Shaw studies the pathways involved in cancer and metabolic diseases, and his discoveries have led to several new therapies in these areas. “Our team is extremely grateful for receiving this Curebound Discovery Grant, which provides critical seed funding to enable a new partnership between three synergistic investigators,” Droujinine says. “The generous funding from Curebound will transform the way mediators of cachexia are identified, and in the future may lead to the development of new drugs to reverse the devastation caused by the disease.”