Ruth Leff Siegel Award

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2020 Ruth Leff Seigel Awards for pancreatic cancer research, Tannishtha Reya, PhD and Iok In Christine Chio, PhD. Each year, The Siegel family entrusts the Pancreas Center to identify the investigator, or team of investigators, who has had the most impactful contribution to the understanding/treatment/advancement of pancreatic cancer. They consider efforts in pancreatic cancer research, including but not limited to basic biology, population biology, public health, and/or translational science. Not only do the winners of the Ruth Leff Siegel Award have a track record of high-quality work in the field, they have also contributed to our understanding of pancreatic cancer in the past year, and will continue to do so in the future.


2020 National Awardee

Tannishtha Reya, PhD

Tannishtha Reya, PhDDr. Reya leads a laboratory focused on studying the signals that control self-renewal of stem cells, and how these signals are hijacked to fuel cancer growth. The lab has three primary areas of interest: analyzing the role of developmental signals in stem cells and cancer, defining mechanisms that initiate stem cell regeneration after injury and developing high-resolution imaging strategies to visualize the behavior of living stem cells during growth, regeneration, and cancer formation. These studies have implications not only for understanding the basic mechanisms that regulate normal and oncogenic self-renewal, but also for enhancing stem cell based therapies for human disease.

Past National Awardees
  • Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, 2019
  • Dr. Harvey Risch, 2018
  • Dr. George Miller, 2017
  • Dr. Raghu Kalluri, 2016
  • Dr. Steven Leach, 2015
  • Dr. Alex Kimmelman, 2014
  • Dr. Ralph Hruban, 2013

2020 Columbia University Irving Medical Center Awardee

Iok In Christine Chio, PhD

Iok In Christine Chio, PhDDr. Chio studies Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) that represents the third leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Lethality of PDA owes largely to the advanced disease stage at the time of diagnosis and to its profound resistance to existing therapies. Targeted therapy is a cornerstone of precision medicine, and is currently the focus of much anticancer drug development. However, in the context of pancreatic cancer, no chemical inhibitors exist for the most common KRAS mutations (G12D, G12V) even though it is well established that the oncogenic KRAS promotes drug resistance. Thus, a detailed understanding of the role of specific genetic lesions and their signaling surrogates in the initiation and progression of PDA is critical to improving treatment efficacy and patient outcome for this disease. Using genetically engineered mouse models and ex vivo culture systems, the Chio lab seeks to understand the basic mechanisms underlying PDAC biology such that vulnerabilities can be identified and tested for therapeutic intervention.

Past Columbia University Irving Medical Center Awardees
  • Dr. Andrea Califano, 2019
  • Dr. John Chabot, 2018
  • Dr. Susan Bates, 2017
  • Dr. Timothy C. Wang and Professor Jeanine Genkinger, 2016
  • Dr. Kenneth Olive, 2015
  • Dr. Gloria H. Su, 2014
  • Dr. Robert Lance Fine, 2013