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Young Investigator: Charlene Iltis, PhD

By January 3, 2023December 18th, 2023Awards & Grants, NF1, Science & Research

The Young Investigator Award (YIA) provides two-year salary support to early career NF researchers to help them get established as independent NF investigators. Since its inception, several YIAs have made groundbreaking research findings and notable publications through this program, and many have advanced to become leaders in the NF research and clinical communities.

We’re pleased to introduce some of these researchers from the latest class of awardees: Charlene Iltis tells us how meeting a little girl living with NF2 fueled her desire to dedicate her professional life to neurofibromatosis research .


What are you hoping to learn from this project?

I hope to learn how cancer stem cells can be maintained in NF1-associated MPNST, what the identity of these cells is, and ultimately be able to target them.


What are your long-term research goals?

My long-term research goal is to develop a new treatment paradigm by combining anti proliferative therapy with cancer stem cells targeting. 


Tell us about life in a research lab. What's a typical day look like?

A typical day starts by checking my emails and my schedule for the day. I work with different mouse models that recapitulate the tumor progression of MPNST, so it is important to keep an eye on my mouse colony. Therefore, I usually check my mice in the morning. In between managing the mouse colony, cell culture and various other types of experiments, I read articles and plan my next experiments.

I work in a scientific research institute where there is always a conference, I can attend to continually educate myself and question how I can make progress on my project.


What brought you to the NF research field?

Someday, in France where I came from, I met a wonderful little girl who suffered from NF2. As a budding researcher, I discussed with her parents and was devastated to learn that to date, there was no treatment that could permanently cure this child of this tragic condition. This meeting took place when I was about to finish my thesis and I was wondering about my future, especially about the pathology I was going to study. The choice was quickly made, I wanted to work in the NF field, and I found the laboratory of Dr Luis Parada, a pioneer in NF1, where I’m a now a research scholar.


What do you like to do when you're not in the lab?

I am an explorer not only in my professional life but also outside the lab. That’s why, living in an amazing city like New York, I’m always doing something. Biking around the city, enjoying a yoga class in nature, going museums to admire Art, spending time with my friends, meeting new people. I am enjoying life as much as I can.


What does it mean to you to receive this funding from CTF?

It is an honor to be supported by the Children's Tumor Foundation, which works tirelessly to enable young scientists to create and follow exciting projects. This award gives me more confidence and pushes me to do even more to unravel the mysteries about NF1.


The Children’s Tumor Foundation Discovery Fund is an $8-10 million initiative supporting the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to driving and funding the best and most promising neurofibromatosis (NF) research. Discovery Fund researchers will focus on NF drug development, including basic science to pre-clinical and early-stage clinical trials, with the goal of developing new treatments and potential cures for NF1, NF2, MPNSTs and schwannomatosis.

Learn more about the Young Investigator Awards here.