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Jennifer R. Eads, MD, is the young investigator of the year for the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group (ECOG-ACRIN)—one of the Group's highest distinctions. Dr. Eads is a medical oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center in Philadelphia, and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in UPenn's Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Medicine. She is an international disease expert in neuroendocrine tumors and gastroesophageal malignancies.
Group Co-Chairs Peter O'Dwyer, MD, and Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, announced the award on May 5 during the General Session of the Spring 2022 Group Meeting in Chicago and virtually. The ECOG-ACRIN Young Investigator Award recognizes extraordinary scientific achievements and research leadership contributions made by investigators during the early years of their careers (under the age of 46). 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. Eads will present her research at a future Group Meeting.
Dr. Eads' involvement within ECOG-ACRIN is a key element of her career since becoming an attending physician. She joined the Group in 2012 as a member of the ECOG-ACRIN Gastrointestinal Cancer Committee and chaired its Neuroendocrine Task Force for several years. She has succeeded as a clinical investigator, bringing therapeutic studies forward from the initial concept to approval in ECOG-ACRIN. In addition, she is a champion for these studies across the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored NCI Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) and National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Here, we highlight three such trials:
- Metastatic Adenocarcinoma of the Pancreas: Dr. Eads oversaw EA2131, a phase I and randomized phase II trial to evaluate nab-paclitaxel/gemcitabine with or without the Wee1 inhibitor adavosertib (MK-1775 or AZD1775) for initial treatment (NCT02194829)
- Neuroendocrine Neoplasms of the Gastrointestinal Tract or Pancreas: Recently, Dr. Eads reported the results of EA2142, her randomized phase II trial for patients with high-grade neuroendocrine neoplasms—one of the first prospective trials conducted for this patient population. This trial compared temozolomide and capecitabine chemotherapy to standard chemotherapy in patients with G3 non-small cell gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (NCT02595424).
- Esophageal and Gastroesophageal Junction Adenocarcinoma: EA2174 is a randomized phase II/III trial enrolling patients. It seeks to define a role for immunotherapy in the setting of early-stage disease. The trial will evaluate adding peri-operative immunotherapy (nivolumab and ipilimumab) to the usual treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) in patients with local or locally advanced disease who are planning to undergo surgery (NCT03604991).
"Several trials have demonstrated a role for immunotherapy in managing metastatic esophagogastric malignancies," said Dr. Eads in this EA2174 Trial Spotlight. "Recently, adjuvant nivolumab was also shown to confer benefit in patients with resected esophageal cancer following neoadjuvant chemoradiation. Now in EA2174, we look to take this a step further by evaluating the role of immunotherapy in the peri-operative setting." Dr. Eads also described the EA2174 trial for advocates.
Given her involvement within ECOG-ACRIN and her familiarity with the NCI and NCTN, Dr. Eads is currently serving as the ECOG-ACRIN Principal Investigator for the University of Pennsylvania/Abramson Cancer Center (an institutional member of ECOG-ACRIN since 1972). In this role, she participates in the governance of ECOG-ACRIN as a voting member of the Principal Investigator Committee.
Colleagues of Dr. Eads describe her as an invaluable mentor to more junior investigators. She has a reputation for being the consummate team player who does not seek special attention, someone who enjoys coaching more junior (or even senior but less experienced) colleagues from the sidelines.
In recognition of her success in trial development, she is now a member of the NCI's Neuroendocrine Task Force of the GI Steering Committee. In addition, she serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation, which focuses on funding neuroendocrine research, and she is active in the North American Neuroendocrine Tumor Society.
Ten years ago, when Dr. Eads joined ECOG-ACRIN, she was already on a remarkable career trajectory. First, she attended the University of California, Davis, where she graduated with a degree in genetics with the highest honors. Tufts University School of Medicine came next, where she discovered she was an excellent fit for internal medicine. She completed her internship, residency in internal medicine, and fellowship in hematology and oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University (an institutional member of ECOG-ACRIN since 1971). She was both a chief resident and chief fellow during her tenure there.
Upon completion of the fellowship, Dr. Eads accepted a junior faculty position as a gastrointestinal (GI) oncologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Neal Meropol, a significant leader in GI medical oncology, clinical investigator, and a former ECOG-ACRIN Young Investigator Awardee (2005). As both a hematology/oncology fellow and a junior faculty member, Dr. Eads took a particular interest in drug development and clinical investigation and pursued specific training at the highly competitive AACR/ASCO (American Association for Cancer Research/American Society of Clinical Oncology) Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop in 2010. She also received official certification in a Clinical and Translational Oncology Research Program as a Scholar recipient of the NCI's Paul Calabrese Career Development Award for Clinical Oncology (K12). During these formal training programs, the skills learned were invaluable in Dr. Eads' development as a superb and leading clinical investigator.
ECOG-ACRIN salutes Dr. Eads for being a dedicated clinician, a committed educator and international thought leader, and a creative clinical investigator who brings new concepts into clinical trials and expertly executes them to advance cancer care for patients with GI cancers.
Watch the video below, in which Dr. Eads' mentors discuss her attributes.
George A. Fisher, Jr., MD, PhD (Stanford University), Howard S. Hochster, MD (Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey), and Neal J. Meropol, MD (Flatiron Health) contributed to this story.