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We are delighted to share the exciting news that Dr. Kathryn Gessner, MD, PhD, a Clinical Fellow specializing in Urologic Oncology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been honored with the esteemed Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network’s (BCAN) 2023 Young Investigator Award. This recognition underscores Dr. Gessner’s dedication as an emerging researcher in the field of urologic oncology. The award acknowledges her potential and commitment to making meaningful contributions to the understanding and treatment of bladder cancer, marking a significant milestone in her early career.

UNC Urology extends heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Kathryn Gessner for this well-deserved recognition. Her pioneering work exemplifies the commitment to excellence and innovation that defines UNC Urology. We look forward to witnessing the future impact of Dr. Gessner’s efforts.

About Dr. Gessner’s Research

Dr. Gessner’s awarded project, titled “Dissecting the impact of E-cadherin loss on the immune microenvironment and response to immune checkpoint blockade in plasmacytoid urothelial carcinoma,” addresses the challenges posed by plasmacytoid urothelial carcinoma (PUC), a rare and aggressive subtype of bladder cancer. Her research aims to unravel the complex interplay between E-cadherin loss, immune microenvironment, and response to immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) in PUC.

The investigation involves employing novel techniques such as spatial transcriptomics to understand the consequences of E-cadherin loss on the immune microenvironment in primary human tumors. Additionally, mechanistic studies utilizing a bladder cancer mouse model with CDH1 knockout will shed light on how E-cadherin loss regulates the response to ICB.

Dr. Gessner’s work holds the potential to foster therapeutic advances for this challenging bladder cancer subtype.

“We are grateful to BCAN for the opportunity to study how molecular changes in plasmacytoid urothelial carcinoma influence the tumor microenvironment and response to immunotherapy. Through improved understanding of this aggressive variant of bladder cancer, our ultimate goal is to identify more effective treatment options for patients.”

Kathryn Gessner, MD, PhD
Urologic Oncology Fellow

Kathryn Hacker Gessner, MD, PhD


About the Young Investigator Awards

BCAN’s Young Investigator Awards, launched in 2013, aim to support the professional development of early career research scientists and clinical cancer research investigators committed to improving the lives of bladder cancer patients. Dr. Gessner is among the distinguished recipients of this year’s $75,000 grants, which fund researchers working in various scientific and research fields. The award recognizes not only their exceptional work but also the transformative potential of their research in the field of bladder cancer.

This year’s cohort of awardees includes another UNC Postdoctoral Fellow – Dr. Sean Clark-Garvey, MD, MPH as well as Dr. Jonathan Chou, MD, PhD (University of California, San Francisco) and Dr. Soonbum Park, PhD (Columbia University Medical Center).

About BCAN

Founded in 2005, the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) stands as the sole national advocacy organization dedicated to advancing bladder cancer research and supporting those affected by the disease. BCAN tirelessly advocates for increased public awareness and funding to identify effective treatments and ultimately find a cure for bladder cancer.