Iris Jaffe, MD, PhD

The Elisa Kent Mendelsohn Professor of Molecular Cardiology

Study Title: “Credentialing a cross-species platform to investigate cancer therapy associated cardiovascular toxicity”

Can you tell us a little about yourself, what you do, and what research project brought you to the Tufts CTSI Research Studio? 

I’m Iris Jaffe, Executive Director of the Molecular Cardiology Research Institute and I run a research lab studying mechanisms of vascular disease. Several years ago now, in collaboration with Cheryl London, we were looking to put in a pretty large proposal to the NIH in response to an RFA about new ways to model cancer. We were proposing a relatively innovative approach to integrate across species. So from cell models and mouse models, which is what I worked on in my lab, to canine cancer models in the veterinary school, to human patients with cancer. And to try to use that cross-species platform to study why cancer drugs cause cardiovascular side effects. This is when I was introduced, the idea of this CTSI Research Studio as a way to get some perspective and really assistance with how to do the modeling across three species.


Can you tell us about the overall value of the experience? 

We presented this idea to a pretty diverse group of people in the CTSI. We got a lot of feedback. Predominantly, what we were looking for was help with the statistical analyses across species, but we also got a lot of feedback just about our presentation, and the project in general, which I think again getting feedback from multiple different people from different points of view, was really helpful, and I think that made the grant better. I thought the value of the experience was twofold. One was to get sort of feedback from diverse investigators and people with diverse expertise, and then they also helped us to actually build the statistical plan which we put into the grant, which ultimately got funded. And we’re now working with folks in the CTSI to do the statistical component of that project.


How did your studio presentation help you connect with collaborators across Tufts CTSI? 

So we already had a lot of collaborators on the grant, but we didn’t, at the time of the presentation have people in the CTSI to help with the  statistical part. And so, after our presentation, we were connected with specific individuals with expertise and the type of statistical analyses that we needed to do. And those folks helped us to craft both the language for the grant, and then also once we got the grant to help us to execute it. And so those members of the CTSI became collaborators, co-investigators, on the grant, as well as collaborators, and we’ve published with them since then.


Are there aspects to the studio experience that could be added to improve the value for participants like yourself? 

I’m not sure that I have other ideas. The one thing I will say is that I didn’t really know about itat the time. I think it was because Cheryl was a collaborator on the grant that she brought up the idea, and so I remember at the time, it being a total surprise to me that it existed like this particular mechanism, so I guess what I would sayis greater, sort ofdissemination of what this program actually is, the fact that it exists, and what you need to do to get involved, I guess by the time we did get involved it was relatively close to the deadline for the grant. Again, because I didn’t know about it, I didn’t do it sooner. So, I think that the other thing is that greater awareness of the program might allow people to get involved sooner, and then have more time to sort of incorporate the benefits of this into their proposal.


Who do you think within the research community would benefit from participating in a studio? And why specifically would you recommend participating in a studio?  

Again, I have this one limited experience, but what I found most beneficial was the help with the statistical support, particularly in a setting where we had really a complicated proposal that was going to require statistics across species. So, I think anybodywho either is trying to put in a proposal where they don’t have sufficient statistical expertise or mentoring, depending on what level they are right in their career would benefit, because it would help them to get hooked up into the right people to do that, and I think also doing it prior to submission, would be really helpful like we did. You could imagine also doing this afterward, but that would have limited your opportunity to sort of build that into the proposal.


When we think about the sort of spectrum of people that could benefit do you think there’s a bias to junior faculty submitting their first RO1 or in the setting of a resubmission? Do you really think they would benefit from this more than senior faculty? Or is it sort of an equal opportunity for feedback?

Certainly, junior investigators have more needs right, they may need more expertise, and they also may be less plugged into collaborators to help them with things. So by the time you’re senior investigator, maybe you have the person that you reach out to for the statistical things, and you have the person to reach out to. That being said, when you and I did this together, we were both pretty senior investigators, and I still think it was super helpful. So, I think senior investigators would benefit in specific circumstances where they really need the expertise of the CTSI, Statistical Support, BERD, and other things that they don’t already have. I think junior investigators could benefit almost at any level because of that other component of presenting your work to a diverse group of people and getting feedback and suggestions. You know there’s a lot more feedback and suggestions that the junior investigators could learn from, and maybe they also don’t have a community to do that. The senior investigators have people to sort of bounce their ideas off of in their grants, the juniors, maybe not so much.