Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network's (BCAN) Young Investigator Award Program - Elizabeth Plimack

January 28, 2022

Alicia Morgans is joined by Elizabeth Plimack to discuss the importance of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network's (BCAN) Young Investigator Award Program. BCAN is the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network which started as a small group of urology-based advocates and has grown to "the" organization for bladder cancer advocacy. The Young Investigator Award program strives to grow the science in bladder cancer and grow the field in bladder cancer by bringing people into bladder cancer research. BCAN encourages young investigators to focus their novel ideas and new therapies on ways to improve the lives of patients with bladder cancer.


Elizabeth Plimack, MD, MS, Chief, Division of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, Professor, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Director, Genitourinary Clinical Research, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA

Alicia Morgans, MD, MPH, Genitourinary Medical Oncologist, Medical Director of Survivorship Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

Read the Full Video Transcript

Alicia Morgans: Hi, my name is Alicia Morgans and I'm a GU Medical Oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I am so excited to have here with me today, a good friend and colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Plimack, who is the Chief of the Division of GU Medical Oncology and a Professor in the Department of Hematology & Oncology at Fox Chase in Philadelphia. Thank you so much for being here with me today, Betsy.

Elizabeth Plimack: Thank you for having me. Good to see you.

Alicia Morgans: Good to see you too. I wanted to talk with you a little bit today about an organization in which you've been heavily involved for years and a program that I know you are highly invested in. It's BCAN's Young Investigator Program. Can you tell us a little bit about BCAN and about the importance of the Young Investigator Award Program?

Elizabeth Plimack: Absolutely. BCAN is the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. It was formed by as Diane Quale will say, at the kitchen table in Baltimore about, I want to say almost 15 years ago now. It's really grown from a small group of really urology-based advocates to "the" organization for bladder cancer advocacy. I would hesitate to say even internationally, and I've been involved for a little over 11 or 12 years now.

I joined when I was just super happy to be rubbing elbows with the famous folks in bladder cancer who were attending and leading the sessions and since then, I've been becoming involved sort of on a leadership level. But as the chair of the BCAN Scientific Advisory Board, we really look to grow the science in bladder cancer, but also to grow the field. And where the Young Investigator Award comes in is we want to bring people into bladder cancer research. We want them to focus their novel ideas and new therapies on ways to improve the lives of patients with bladder cancer, right?

There are lots of cancers out there. We feel like if we give folks these opportunities and show them what a great community we are, bladder cancer researchers, that they will stick around and that has proven to be true. Having served on the YIA study section for many years, I can say the applications that we received were excellent. I think we only, most years, wish we could fund many more than we were ultimately able to.

The really nice thing about the BCAN Young Investigator Award is not only is it an award for a project for a young investigator, but it brings you into the community. You are brought to the meeting to present your work, and you are then sort of tapped for further volunteer opportunities through BCAN, and it is really, I think, a springboard for one's career.

Alicia Morgans: I could not agree more, and I think that the BCAN community is unique. I think we've talked before about how it is this really melding of clinicians, of researchers, of advocates, of patients, sometimes policy, and FDA folks. There are a lot of people from the community who come and really collaborate and come together, and the YI Award, as you said, does bring junior people in it.

It really not only brings them in, but it gives them that opportunity to have protected time and science that is dedicated to bladder cancer. You've been a mentor for these awards before. Can you tell us a little bit about how you see these awards changing the trajectory of careers from your perspective?

Elizabeth Plimack: Sure, absolutely. So, Phil Abbosh, I think I was technically a mentor for one of his YIA's that he's launched himself right into an independent investigator position here at Fox Chase.  He is one of our scientists, doing a lot of work in bladder cancer. It was sort of a privilege to be able to... He was still in the young investigator phase and we could get his project going. One of the nice things about this award is you can apply multiple times. The first time he had overlapping funding.

So the second time he reapplied, he was able to sort of refine the project to something different. Because again, the award is not just to support the project, but to support the person, someone who is really dedicated to the field. Dr. Abbosh is a urologic oncologist, so we definitely want to support that rare phenotype. And then more recently, our fellow Ben Miron, who is a medical oncology fellow here at Fox Chase, received the award for work in ctDNA and bladder cancer.

It was just a great experience for him to put together a grant, to have it go through various iterations and sort of reviews here on our campus with mentorship we have here, and then to submit and get funded is always a thrill. We certainly all get plenty of grants rejected, right? It's nice when some come through, especially early in your career.

Alicia Morgans: I could not agree more with that statement. So as you think about the BCAN Award, the Young Investigator Program, and the way that this whole process works, what would your message be to folks who are considering applying? Because remember everyone, the Young Investigator portal is open currently and it looks like the due date is February 22nd, 2022, consider applying. What would your message be, Dr. Plimack?

Elizabeth Plimack: My message would be if you're considering applying, please, we'd love to see your application. The award is much more than the monetary amount. It's really sort of a ticket to being part of the BCAN community, to having your research reviewed and vetted. I think the process of applying for grants early in one's career is really helpful. It sort of focuses your thought around a question or problem in the field that you might have in a very concrete way.

This award, the application is not terribly onerous. It's one that I think is a good place to get started. And again, if you're in bladder cancer, this is bladder and urothelial cancer only. You're not competing with other tumor types like some other young investigator awards, and we've seen some really great projects and careers launch from this. Please apply.

Alicia Morgans: Wonderful. Well, we hope to see lots of applications and we are really looking forward to another great BCAN meeting when it comes around the end of summer. Thank you so much for your time and for your good guidance for this organization.

Elizabeth Plimack: Absolutely. Thank you for taking the time to talk about this.

Alicia Morgans: Of course.