Home Membership Publications Overview AUA Investigator AUA Invesitgator 2020 August Issue

Research Articles

Urology Care Foundation Research Honors Program – 2020 Special Publication

The Urology Care Foundation Research Honors Program and Reception is an annual event held during the AUA Annual Meeting. This special occasion is dedicated to celebrating Foundation-supported research awardees and announcing several Awards of Distinction that honor career-long contributions to urology research. Despite the cancellation of this year’s meeting, the AUA and its Urology Care Foundation are excited to present a special digital publication to help recognize the achievements of these outstanding individuals. Within these pages you’ll find:

  • Introduction from the Urology Care Foundation and AUA Research Council
  • Acceptance Notes from the 2020 Awardees of Distinction
  • Celebration of the Graduating Research Awardees
  • Recognition of the New and Currently-Funded Researchers
  • Acknowledgement of New Research Award Endowments
  • Special Thanks for Exemplary Service to the AUA Research Council and Committees

We welcome you to join us in celebrating our Foundation-funded researchers, their research teams and sponsors who make this work possible.

AUA’s Research Advocacy Committee Provides Recommendations for the NIDDK Strategic Plan

Members of the AUA’s Research Advocacy Committee (RAC) orchestrated efforts to respond to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK) call for strategic plan input. Over recent years, the AUA has worked to build partnerships with several institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help support and grow critical research programs needed to help patients with urologic diseases and conditions. The AUA’s response aimed to recognize that non-oncologic urological diseases and conditions are extraordinarily prevalent; widely underdiagnosed due to access issues and patient unawareness; undervalued as they are not immediately life threatening; underrepresented in regard to minorities’ participation in trials; and tremendously important to the patient’s quality of life. Additionally, recommendations encouraged urology to be recognized as a central component of the strategic plan. This effort is a key component of the RAC’s initiative to pursue, attain, and maintain urology representation on all relevant NIH institute advisory boards.

The NIDDK Strategic Plan encompasses a five-year time projection and includes planning for longer term efforts. The full Request for Information and list of the Strategic Plan Working Group can be found here. The AUA applauds the recent inclusion of a urologist-scientist to this working group and feels the addition of Hunter Wessells, MD will elevate the vision in aligning the identified strategic themes with submitted ideas in the diverse area of “benign” urologic diseases and conditions. The addition of Dr. Wessells will supply a broad vision in solving diverse urologic problems using interdisciplinary scientific approaches.

The AUA continues to play a role on the Advisory Board of the Friends of National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (FoNIDDK) coalition. In September, the coalition aims to host a congressional briefing with NIDDK Director, Dr. Griffin Rodgers, to highlight NIDDK’s research portfolio, specifically work being conducted to reduce health disparities. The AUA’s Research Advocacy Committee will continue working proactively with NIDDK and provide comments and recommendations as requested.

Help Advance Advocacy for Urologic Research!

Did you know that the AUA’s Research Advocacy Committee champions for public, private, and philanthropic support of urologic research by collaborating with an array of urology stakeholders? If you are active in research-related service with a strong track record of achievement in urologic research and/or research advocacy, you are encouraged to join this committee that has a proven track record of ensuring that urology remains a top strategic focus among federal agencies including NIH and congressional lawmakers. To learn more about the committee structure and ways you can contribute to this valuable effort, please reach out to Jessica Bateman, Sr. Manager Patient & Research Advocacy at

Making an IMPACT

Urology Care Foundation Awardees: Advancing Patient Care from the Bench to the Bedside

It can take over 15 years and more than $2.5 billion for a new drug or therapy to be developed and approved for patient use. Although these figures seem overwhelming, the Urology Care Foundation provides support for only the best and most-promising studies across every stage of development. This ensures that early research discoveries have the best chance to ultimately reach patients and improve their lives. Our commitment to kidney cancer research illustrates the impact of this investment strategy for improving patient care.

Basic Research

Vijaya Vemulakonda, MD

Brian Chapin, MD
Research Scholar, 2010-2011
Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (such as Sunitinib), a class of anti-cancer drugs, have been effective in treating kidney cancer through anti-angiogenesis, a process that kills blood vessels that surround the cancer cell, leading to stabilization or regression of the disease. Unfortunately, these effects can be short lived as the cancer develops resistance and continues to progress. To determine the cause of this resistance, Dr. Chapin focused on the response of endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood vessels and are necessary for their formation, to a particular group of tyrosine kinase inhibitors as a mechanism of angiogenic escape. His work laid the foundation for better understanding molecular changes in developing resistance to therapy, which may lead to the discovery of new targets for future drug intervention.

Translational Research

Vivek Narayan, MD

Vivek Narayan, MD
Research Scholar, 2017–2018
Dr. Narayan sought to develop a non-invasive method to predict a patient’s response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy during the early stages of treatment for metastatic kidney cancer. He designed a blood test that measures important changes in a patient’s T cells, circulating tumor material and other clinical findings. Dr. Narayan’s early successes supported by the Foundation have enabled him to serve as the Principal Investigator on three early-phase clinical trials looking at immuneoncologic agents for advanced kidney cancer.

Clinical Research

Vijaya Vemulakonda, MD

Brandon Manley, MD
Research Scholar, 2018–2020
There are a number of drugs that use the body’s immune system to help fight cancer, also known as immunotherapy, that have been successful in treating patients with kidney cancer. Unfortunately, these treatments aren’t effective for everyone. Dr. Manley analyzed tissue samples from kidney cancer tumors to discover genetic and immunofluorescence markers that could signal which patients will respond to a given drug. This will help doctors identify patients who could benefit most from these treatments early in their disease, thereby maximizing its effectiveness. It will also allow patients who are unlikely to benefit from immunotherapy drugs to go straight to targeted treatments that are more likely to be effective for their individual disease.

Outcomes Research

Shannon Cannon, MD

Shannon Cannon, MD
Residency Research Awardee, 2016–2017
Dr. Cannon designed a study to understand how disparities in access to kidney cancer care are associated with an established disparity in cancer-specific outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities. Her research explored different variables and practice patterns that impact a patient’s access to nephron-sparing surgery, a treatment that is considered optimal for most patients. Dr. Cannon has decided to continue her emphasis on health disparities into her fellowship where she now focuses on pediatric urology.