Research Grants

Collaboration is essential to the success of any research program. The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation chooses grant recipients carefully to ensure that they will build working relationships between researchers, institutions, and industry and share information, samples, and expertise with others in the field.

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Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Research Philosophy research

Our objective is finding a cure.    This gives us a different perspective and informs our philosophy. We believe a cure relies on:

  • Research that provides essential resources and knowledge for the field (e.g. model systems, understanding genetic underpinnings, annotated patient specimens)
  • Innovative research that opens new pathways for diagnosis and drug discovery

We want our research dollars to make a difference

  • We support promising projects that are less likely to get traditional funding such as:
    • Seed funding that could yield breakthrough benefits for patients
    • High quality projects proposed by young investigators with demonstrated commitment to cholangiocarcinoma research
    • Foundational projects with an important but long-term payoff
  • Our research dollars should never substitute for or displace other funding (i.e. preference for new projects over existing well-funded efforts)
  • We prioritize proposals that aim on finding a cure

We believe we can find a cure together

  • We value research that involves and catalyzes collaboration
  • We value open-access research (rapid sharing of reagents and models with the research community)

Our goal is a rigorous, yet efficient, process to find and fund high quality projects

  • For rigor, all proposals must undergo a comprehensive peer-review
  • For efficiency, proposals need only provide sufficient detail to facilitate a peer-review

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Research Fellowship Program

The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Research Fellowship Program is aimed at supporting early career researchers focusing on studies in cholangiocarcinoma. The goal is to raise awareness about cholangiocarcinoma and inspire innovative, quality research.



2018 Research Fellowship Recipients

2018 Tommy J. West Memorial Research Fellowship 

Role of PlGF/Nrp1 Pathway in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma Cell Survival, Tumor-associated Fibrosis and Abnormal Vasculature

Amount: $50,000 

Researcher: Shuichi Aoki, MD, PhD – Harvard University

Aoki“PlGF/Nrp1 pathway is often activated in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas and is a potential mediator of the progression of these tumors. PlGF/Nrp1 promotes abundant extracellular matrix deposition (desmoplasia)—produced by CAFs—and formation of an abnormal vasculature in cholangiocarcinoma. We propose that anti-PlGF therapy could improve the delivery of chemotherapeutic agents and enhance the tumor immunity by reprogramming these microenvironmental abnormalities, and could also impact the clinical development of immune-checkpoint blockade in this intractable disease.”

Shuichi Aoki, MD, PhD
Harvard University


2018 Andrea Marie Fuquay Memorial Research Fellowship

Developing Organotypic Slice Cultures as a New Model System in Cholangiocarcinoma

Researcher: Iris Sze Ue Luk, PhD – Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Amount: $50,000 

Luk"We propose to use ’tumor slice cultures’ (TSCs) to evaluate the effects of new targeted therapies for the subset of cholangiocarcinomas with mutations in a gene called isocitrate dehydrogenase 1. Ultimately, the goal of this proposal is to establish TSCs as a new experimental system which can be used cancer centers world-wide to rapidly determine drug sensitivity of tumors from patients with cholangiocarcinoma."

Iris Sze Ue Luk, PhD
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center


2018 Andrea Scott Memorial Research Fellowship

Developing FGFR2 Degrader with PROTAC Technology to Target Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Researcher: Tinghu Zhang, PhD – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Amount: $50,000 

Zhang"The altered activation of Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 2 (FGFR2) has been found in many ICC patients. A selective FGFR2 inhibitor has not been discovered and non-specific FGFR2 inhibitors have shown toxicities mainly due to FGFR1 inhibition in clinical trials. We will explore the PROTAC (Proteolysis targeting chimera) technology with a pan-FGFR inhibitor to develop a selective FGFR2 degrader. Our study will have great potential in developing a novel therapeutic strategy to improve the outcome of ICC patients."

Tinghu Zhang, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


2018 Jacques Dupont  Memorial Research Fellowship

Single-cell Immunogenomic Profiling of Neoantigen-reactive T Cells in Human Cholangiocarcinoma

Researcher: Chunhong Zheng, PhD – Providence Portland Medical Center

Amount: $50,000 

Zheng"Immunotherapies that harness the T-cell response against mutated neoantigens can mediate regression of cancers including cholangiocarcinoma, but there is large variability in efficacy between patients. My project is to characterize the molecular profiles of neoantigen-reactive T cells infiltrating cholangiocarcinoma using single-cell sequencing technologies, which may lead to the development of more effective T-cell based immunotherapies for patients with cholangiocarcinoma."

Chunhong Zheng, PhD
Providence Portland Medical Center


2017 Melissa Manza Memorial Research Fund

Targeting YAP as a Novel Therapeutic Approach for Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: John Gordan, MD, PhD - University of California San Francisco

John Gordon"Biliary growth is regulated by the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway, but this control is disrupted in cholangiocarcinoma. My research aims to discover how this pathway interfaces with common oncogenic mutations in cholangiocarcinoma in hopes of finding therapeutic approaches to restore its function."

John Gordan, MD, PhD
University of California San Francisco


2017 Andrea Scott Memorial Research Fellowship

Identifying Therapeutic Strategies for FGFR inhibition in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Lipika Goyal, MD - Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University

Lipika Goyal"FGFR2 fusions are thought to be driver mutations in 10-20% of patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, and selective FGFR inhibitors are showing promise for these patients. My project is to study genetic and non-genetic mechanisms of FGFR resistance with an eye towards identifying therapeutic strategies that can give patients longer term responses."

Lipika Goyal, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University


2017 Elisabeth Dardenne Stefanini Memorial Research Fellowship

Trans-ABC06: Understanding the role of DNA-damage repair mechanisms in patients with cholangiocarcinoma: translational research in the context of the ABC06 randomised phase III clinical trial

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Angela Lamarca, MD, PhD - The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

Angela Lamarca“This project will explore the prevalence of mutations in DNA-damage repair genes in tumour samples from patients diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma and their impact on patients’ outcome and response to platinum-based chemotherapy. Our results may be able to identify early on those patients most likely to benefit from platinum chemotherapy, in order to inform clinicians of the most suitable treatment selection.”

Angela Lamarca, MD, PhD
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust


2016 Innovation Award

Contribution of Hepatic Stellate Cells to Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Silvia Affo, Columbia University

Silvia Affo“With this project, I seek to elucidate the contribution of hepatic stellate cells to the desmoplastic stroma of cholangiocarcinoma. Hopefully this study will represent a breakthrough in understanding the biology of this tumor and will provide a rationale for targeting the tumor stroma in addition to the tumor cells themselves.”

Silvia Affo, PhD
Columbia University


2016 Andrea Marie Fuquay Memorial Research Fellowship

2-HG as a Biomarker in Patients with IDH-mutant Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Lipika Goyal, Massachusetts General Hospital

Lipika Goyal“The goal of the study is compare the performance of the novel biomarkers serum and urine 2-HG to the currently used serum biomarker CA19-9 in diagnosing, monitoring, and predicting survival in patients with IDH-mutant cholangiocarcinoma.”

Lipika Goyal, MD
Massachusetts General Hospital


2016 Andrea Scott Memorial Research Fellowship

A Hippo and Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor Autocrine Pathway in Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $45,000

Researcher: Sumera Rizvi, Mayo Clinic

Sumera Rizvi“Our goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the crosstalk between the oncogenic Hippo and FGFR signaling pathways in cholangiocarcinoma. We will investigate inhibitors directed against these pathways to determine if this results in a chemotherapeutic effect in our animal models of CCA.”

Sumera Rizvi
Mayo Clinic


2016 Christopher J. Wilke Memorial Research Fellowship

Metabolic Reprogramming by IDH Mutation in Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher:  Lei Shi, Massachusetts General Hospital

dsia“Metabolism to a cell is like gas to a car and much more complicated. With the generous support from the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, I am excited to investigate the reprogrammed metabolism that fuels cancer cell growth and tumor formation in IDH mutated cholangiocarcinoma, which will allow us to develop novel metabolic drugs to improve treatment options and stop this notorious “car”.”

Lei Shi, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital


2015 Innovation Award

A Balancing Act: Dysregulated Differentiation and Proliferation as a Novel Mechanism of Cholangiocarcinoma Formation

Amount: $60,000

Researcher: Chad Walesky, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

cwalesky“With the support of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, I will investigate the interplay of two molecular signals, WNT and HNF4α, which regulate the identity and growth of bile duct cells. I am extremely excited about the support of the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, and am confident that our work can contribute to finding better treatment options for this devastating disease.”

Chad Walesky, PhD
Department of Medicine - Genetics Division
Brigham and Women's Hospital


2015 Andrea Marie Fuquay Memorial Research Fellowship

Implementation of Precision Medicine Approaches in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Daniela Sia, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

dsia“Our study will explore the role of FGFR2 fusions in cholangiocarcinoma and develop minimally invasive screening approaches and robust platforms for the analysis of molecular biomarkers. We hope that our results will effectively fill the existing gap between the recent scientific discoveries and the first biomarker-driven clinical trials leading to a significant improvement of patients’ outcome.”

Daniela Sia, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai


2015 Andrea Scott Memorial Research Fellowship

Determining the Cellular Origins of Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $50,000

Researcher: Allyson Merrell, University of Pennsylvania

amerrellMy research will investigate the earliest events in cholangiocarcinoma formation to determine what cell types give rise to cholangiocarcinoma and if changes in cell fate induce cholangiocarcinoma. Understanding where and how cholangiocarcinoma develops will improve our understanding of cholangiocarcinoma development and in turn help us identify genetic targets for therapy.

Allyson Merrell, PhD
University of Pennsylvania


2015 Christopher J. Wilke Memorial Research Fellowship

Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor FGFR Family Gene Aberrations in Cholangiocarcinoma

Amount: $40,000

Researcher: Katsuyuki Miyabe, Mayo Clinic

kmiyabeIdentification of additional novel Fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) target aberrations and determination of their relative sensitivities will allow us to personalize the therapeutic options for patients with cholangiocarcinoma by selecting the specific FGFR inhibitor that is most likely to achieve a clinical effect, and therefore enhance patient outcomes.

Katsuyuki Miyabe, M.D., Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic


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International Cholangiocarcinoma Research Network (ICRN) Biorepository

Term and Amount:

2017: $71,100
2016: $30,798
2014: $25,000
2013: $41,607
2012: $40,000

Researcher: Lewis Roberts, MD Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

Purpose: To develop a network of collaborating institutions pooling information for studies of the risks and outcomes of cholangiocarcinoma

The ICRN is a global collaboration of research groups from renowned institutions that are working in concert to improve knowledge about cholangiocarcinoma etiology, prevention, early detection, treatment and prognosis. The network is comprised of highly talented individuals from a spectrum of disciplines, perspectives, and research methods who share the passion to make significant scientific advances that improve outcomes for patients with cholangiocarcinoma.



“Families can provide very powerful information on genetic variations that confer risk for cancer and the information is usually transferable to the general population as well. If there is a way to obtain DNA from as many family members as possible, both affected and unaffected, this would substantially enhance our research efforts.”

Dr. Lewis Roberts
Mayo Clinic



The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)

Term and Amount:
2015: $ 24,210.37

Researcher: Richard Wilson, McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) projects have the goal of providing comprehensive molecular analysis of different cancer types on multiple platforms. This study will fund exome sequencing of 15 cholangiocarcinoma samples which passed the DNA qualification criteria for TCGA but not the RNA qualification criteria.

To significantly boost ability to make clinically-relevant, analysis-based suggestions for possible personalized drug combinations

Learn more


Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS)

A Program of the International Cholangiocarcinoma Research Network

Term and Amount:
2013-2017: $296,000

Researcher: Lewis Roberts, MD Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

A genome-wide association study is an approach that involves rapidly scanning markers across the complete sets of DNA, or genomes, of many people to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. Once new genetic associations are identified, researchers can use the information to develop better strategies to detect, treat and prevent the disease. Such studies are particularly useful in finding genetic variations that contribute to common, complex diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illnesses.

To accelerate research through the power of combining large amounts of data about genetic variations


  • To advance understanding of factors that influence health and disease by helping scientists uncover associations between individuals and disorders that are passed from one generation to the next
  • To determine an individual's risk of developing a particular disorder.
  • To help prioritize genes or genomic regions for further investigation

Learn more



Targeting BAP1 in Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma

mjavle“Our grant will explore cholangiocarcinoma cases that have BAP1 mutations with tumor spread to the bones and poor survival. We will examine the clinical course and outcome of these cases and also develop a mouse model that can be used for clinical studies of new drugs. We hope that through these experiments we get a better understanding of this group of cholangiocarcinoma patients and can identify better therapies.”

Dr. Milind Javle,
MD Anderson Cancer Center

Term and Amount:
2014-2015: $50,000

Milind Javle, MD
MD Anderson Cancer Center

Purpose: To identify molecular subgroups of cholangiocarcinoma


  • Estimate the frequency of BAP1 mutations in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
  • Examine BAP1 and other genes in cholangiocarcinoma to link with diagnosis and patient outcomes
  • Develop a mouse model of BAP1 cholangiocarcinoma that can be used for further study
Second-Line Chemotherapy in Advanced Biliary Tract Cancers: A Retrospective, Multicenter Analysis of Outcomes

Term and Amount:
2015-2016: $ 38,825

Researchers and Collaborating Institutions:
R. Kate (Katie) Kelley, M.D. - UCSF-Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Maeve Lowery, M.D. - Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
Laura Williams Goff, M.D. - Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


  • To study outcomes for cholangiocarcinoma patients who did not respond to standard regimen of gemcitabine plus cisplatin
  • To design future chemotherapy trials for cholangiocarcinoma at multiple institutions





"This team and project arose from the first CCF Annual Conference in Utah in February 2014. We are extremely excited to initiate this important analysis to guide upcoming clinical trials of novel agents in cholangiocarcinoma, an enormous unmet clinical need in oncology. We all would like to express our deep appreciation to the CCF for fostering our collaboration and supporting this important work."

R. Kate (Katie) Kelley, M.D.
UCSF-Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

UCSF Hepatobiliary Tissue Bank

Term and Amount:
2012-2013: $40,000
2012: $40,000

Researcher: R. Kate (Katie) Kelley, MD University of California, San Francisco

Purpose: To support translational science in cancers of the biliary tract


  • To create a biorepository of human tissue and blood specimens to advance understanding of this rare and under-studied disease
Young Investigator Award

Print The Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Young Investigator Award (YIA) provides funding to promising investigators to encourage and promote quality research in clinical oncology. The purpose of this award is to fund physicians during the transition from a fellowship program to a faculty appointment. The Young Investigator Award is intended to support proposals with a clinical research focus on cholangiocarcinoma.

2018-2019: $16,000 American Society of Clinical Oncology

The total award ($60,000) was funded in collaboration with our non-profit partners: AMMF, Bili Project, and Target Cancer Foundation

Marina Baretti, MD Johns Hopkins University

To raise awareness and trigger progress against cholangiocarcinoma, while providing critical early funding for physician-scientists at the beginning of their careers

To test the hypothesis that the HDACi entinostat primes the TME by reducing MDSCs, leading to an influx of reactive T cells sensitive to ICI therapy.

To improve patient survival, by utilizing HDACi agents to reduce MDSC function when given with anti-PD1 therapy.

2012-2013: $60,000 American Society of Clinical Oncology

Supriya Saha, MD, PhD Massachusetts General Hospital

We are proud to have supported the research leading to the publication of this paper. Our sincere thanks to our donors who made this ground-breaking research possible.


To raise awareness and trigger progress against cholangiocarcinoma, while providing critical early funding for physician-scientists at the beginning of their careers

To develop animal models, including gene mutations, to better understand cholangiocarcinoma in humans


  • To publish findings to promote interest in scientific community and encourage investigators to focus their careers on bile duct cancer
 “Even though thousands of new patients are diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma each year in the United States alone, many patients have only heard of the disease for the first time upon diagnosis.  Unfortunately, the lack of national attention and publicity that this important disease receives means that there are only very limited funding opportunities available.  The Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation is playing an absolutely critical role, not only in reversing that lack of national attention but also in funding research specifically aimed at helping patients with this diagnosis.  The Young Investigator Award that I received has been critical in making our foundational efforts possible.  With this funding, we have compiled what we believe is the largest cholangiocarcinoma cell line bank in the world and implemented a collaborative effort to generate more cell lines that have been genetically characterized.   In addition to a number of other studies, we used these funds to hire technician support which effectively doubled our research efforts and allowed us to develop and characterize a new mouse model of cholangiocarcinoma that can be used both to understand the fundamental mechanisms that cause cholangiocarcinoma but also to rapidly test novel potential therapies against this disease.   We hope that our work, funded by the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, will have a “multiplier effect,” encouraging other scientists to focus on biliary cancers as well as other philanthropic organizations to join the cause.   In short, I am extremely grateful to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation for their absolutely critical support of our work.”   Supriya Saha, MD, PhD Massachusetts General Hospital
 “I am very grateful to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation for supporting Dr. Supriya Saha through the Young Investigator Award.  Dr. Saha is an outstanding physician-scientist who has made a deep commitment to studying cholangiocarcinoma. He has developed an impressive series of model systems that are key to solving the biological and genetic processes that go awry during the progression of this cancer type. Dr. Saha has already made important insights into one of the major gene mutations found in cholangiocarcinoma patients.  With these insights and model systems in hand, he is poised to make the important next step of defining ways to combat this terrible disease. The support from the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation has been vital in helping him to create this impressive program.” Dr. Nabeel Bardeesy Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center


2011-2012: $57,500 American Society of Clinical Oncology Rocha,Flavio

Flavio G. Rocha, MD, FACS Virginia Mason Medical Center

To raise awareness and trigger progress against cholangiocarcinoma, while providing critical early funding for physician-scientists at the beginning of their careers

  • To identify biomarkers (CEACAM6 ) that can be used for diagnosis, prognosis and as potential targets for the development of novel therapies
  • To collect fluid from bile ducts to compare the levels of tumor markers and their association with presence and extent of cholangiocarcinoma
  • To help place patients in the appropriate clinical trials.
  • To design better imaging tools
  • To develop new drugs to kill cancer cells
 “As a surgical oncology fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, I became interested in the surgical management of cholangiocarcinoma but was discouraged by the minority of patients I could help with an operation. I realized that early detection is critical and that current diagnostic techniques were unreliable.  Therefore, I proposed to study proteins in the bile of patients with cholangiocarcinoma to identify novel tumor biomarkers.  With funding from an ASCO Young Investigator Award, I established a bile bank.   Upon moving to a faculty position at Virginia Mason, we identified a protein, CEACAM6, is secreted in significant quantities in the bile of cholangiocarcinoma patients compared to those with benign biliary disease.  It is currently being investigated as a tumor biomarker in a prospective clinical trial.  I was absolutely thrilled to develop a research idea from the laboratory to clinical application.  I am indebted to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation for providing me with the initial support to launch my academic career and help find better treatments for cholangiocarcinoma patients.” Flavio G. Rocha, MD, FACS Virginia Mason Medical Center
Long-term International Fellowship (LIFe)

2011-2012: $60,000

Dr. Suebpong Tanasanvimon University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center

To determine differences in genetic profiles due to the presence of liver fluke

To use microRNA expression patterns to investigate their relevance in cancer therapy and prognosis

To further the understanding of the etiology of cholangiocarcinoma

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