ECOG-ACRIN Names University of Pennsylvania’s Bonnie Ky As Its Young Investigator of the Year

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ECOG-ACRIN Names University of Pennsylvania’s Bonnie Ky As Its Young Investigator of the Year

Bonnie Ky, MD headshot

Bonnie Ky, MD, MSCE, is a rare find. Even though she completed her medical training barely a decade ago, Dr. Ky is already among the most influential thought leaders in cardio-oncology, an emerging medical discipline with a small but growing number of experts. She is the recipient of the 2020 ECOG-ACRIN Young Investigator Award, the Group's highest distinction. Dr. Ky is a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the ECOG-ACRIN Cardiotoxicity Subcommittee's founding chair.

Group Co-Chairs Peter O'Dwyer, MD, and Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, announced the award on October 22nd during the General Session of the Virtual Fall 2020 Group Meeting. The Young Investigator Award recognizes extraordinary scientific achievements and research leadership contributions made by investigators during the early years of their careers. A committee composed of previous recipients and ECOG-ACRIN scientific leaders selects one awardee annually. The award was established in 1992 and is funded by the ECOG Research and Education Foundation.

As part of the honor, Dr. Ky will present her research at a future Group Meeting.

At the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ky directs a highly active, NIH-funded, internationally recognized research program in cardio-oncology and is a highly sought collaborator. She leads multiple investigator-initiated cohort studies and clinical trials studying cardiotoxic effects of various cancer therapies (doxorubicin, trastuzumab, sunitinib, proteasome inhibitors, and radiation therapy) in numerous cancer types (breast, renal cell, lung, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma). Her programmatic objectives are to improve cardiovascular outcomes in cancer patients by determining individual patient risk. This research involves "deep phenotyping" cancer patients by defining each individual's clinical characteristics, biologic markers, and echocardiography-derived measures of cardiac mechanics and function.

Her fundamental goals are to uncover mechanisms and predictors of cancer therapy cardiotoxicity and to translate this understanding to clinical care. She has substantial expertise and experience in advanced epidemiologic methods and in the use of biomarkers and imaging tools to understand cardiac remodeling, function, and risk prediction.

Dr. Ky is co-principal investigator (PI) and chairs the Clinical Events Center of the RadComp study (NCT02603341), which focuses on cardiovascular outcomes in breast cancer patients with funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). RadComp is a comparative effectiveness trial of proton versus photon radiation therapy. She is the PI for multiple NIH-funded cohort studies and clinical trials. These studies seek to improve our understanding of the functional and biological changes caused by cancer therapy and to evaluate strategies to reduce cancer patients' risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Examples include NCT04023110, NCT04305613, and a RadComp ancillary study NCT04361240.

Leaders in the Children's Oncology Group, part of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) are in an ongoing collaboration with Dr. Ky. In this initiative, they are exploring the use of echocardiography and biomarkers to study cardiotoxicity in children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) undergoing therapy with anthracyclines.

Dr. Ky has authored over 140 peer-reviewed manuscripts—12 as senior author and two as the penultimate author in 2019 alone. She is an inducted member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and holds several additional leadership positions at the institutional and national levels.

These research initiatives speak to Dr. Ky's unique contributions as a leading physician-scientist in cardio-oncology clinical and translational research. They also attest to her strong leadership skills, research expertise, innovative thinking, collaborative mindset, and drive.

The discipline of cardio-oncology has been expanding in recent years due to a growing recognition of the short- and long-term complications from various systemic and radiation therapies. Competing causes of morbidity from aging and other cardiovascular risk factors play a crucial role in cancer survivors' quality and quantity of life. Under Dr. Ky's leadership, the ECOG-ACRIN Cardiotoxicity Subcommittee is now an established forum for discussions of these issues among junior and senior investigators working in ECOG-ACRIN's nine large disease-oriented committees and three smaller working groups. It is a resource for those designing cardiotoxicity objectives and endpoints for their studies.

In only seven years, Dr. Ky's contributions have had a tangible impact on ECOG-ACRIN. At the time of her appointment in 2013, the Group had no research activities in cardio-oncology. Today, her initiatives ensure that ECOG-ACRIN research responds directly to priorities defined by the NCI. Notably, her leadership and involvement in ECOG-ACRIN was a significant factor in the success of the Group's recent NCORP Research Base grant renewal.

The NCI highly values collaboration across NCORP Research Bases, and Dr. Ky is elevating ECOG-ACRIN's program in this area. Her efforts have resulted in multiple partnerships with the NCI, the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and leading NIH investigators nationwide. One notable group collaboration is with the Wake Forest NCORP Research Base, focusing on the PREVENT (NCT01988571) and UPBEAT (NCT02791581) trials for women with breast cancer.

Recently, Dr. Ky received NIH funding to conduct innovative cardiotoxicity research through ECOG-ACRIN. In this grant, she places a priority on understanding and mitigating cardiotoxicities from novel therapies. She is also a multi-PI on a recently funded NIH grant (R34) that will test a simple yet mechanistically and clinically relevant intervention to mitigate the cardiotoxic effects of tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy, the CARISMA trial.

In September, ECOG-ACRIN opened Dr. Ky's CARISMA trial (EAQ191), which seeks to determine the feasibility of an aggressive blood pressure management approach for patients with metastatic renal cell or thyroid cancer on anti-angiogenic tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Dr. Ky developed this trial in collaboration with members of the NHLBI Heart Failure Network while engaging multiple leaders across ECOG-ACRIN's Cancer Control and Outcomes Program and Therapeutic Studies Program, demonstrating her ability to engage leaders and arrive at a consensus to advance cardiology and oncology research.

ECOG-ACRIN salutes Dr. Bonnie Ky for being a highly collaborative, thoughtful, and internationally respected cancer researcher with a mindset for innovation.

Watch the video below, in which Dr. Ky's peers discuss her attributes.

Ruth C. Carlos, MD, Naomi B. Haas, MD, Lynne I. Wagner, PhD, and Antonio C. Wolff, MD, contributed to this story.

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