The Foundation Dedicated to Discovering a Cure for Neuroendocrine Cancer

Caring for Carcinoid Foundation

Mary Terese Hartzheim Award for Neuroendocrine Tumor Research

ChoiCFCF is funding a Young Investigator Award for NET research through the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA).  This Award is made possible by a partnership with the MTH Foundation.  The “Mary Terese Hartzheim Award for Neuroendocrine Tumor Research” is the first of its kind to attract young investigators to research the biology of NETs and the development of novel therapeutics for NETs. 

To learn more about Mary Terese Hartzheim and the MTH Foundation please click here.


Massachusetts General Hospital


Michael Choi, MD

2 years
Research Objectives: 

Molecular mechanisms involved in enteroendocrine cell differentiation and neuroendocrine tumorigenesis


The technology of cellular reprogramming from the stem cell field offers us a novel method to investigate the neuroendocrine tumor (NET) biology.  We hypothesize that new insights will be gained by reprogramming cellular identity of both normal and tumor cells by forcibly expressing a correct set of transcription factors, genes that turn on or off other genes.  Such change in cellular identity could result in transdifferentiation where one cell lineage type changes to another or in dedifferentiation where cells acquire potential to become many different cell types, similar to stem cells.  Broadly, we propose to investigate the biology of endocrine cells and their counterpart NET cells by inducing transdifferentiation or dedifferentiation

This research plan will not only enhance molecular understanding of enteroendocrine cell and NET biology, but will also serve as a vehicle for me to successfully enter the field of NET research as an independent physician-scientist.  The Mary Terese Hartzheim Award will provide the means necessary for this critical transition in my research career.


The Mary Terese Hartzheim (MTH) Foundation Young Investigator Award made Dr. Choi’s innovative neuroendocrine tumor research possible. Dr. Choi elucidated the nature of normal and tumor neuroendocrine cells through the cells’ ability to reprogram.  His research showed three key points. One, differentiated cells can be partially reprogrammed to gastrin producing cells.  Two, the capacity to reprogram a cancer cell line is cell line dependent. Three, a gastrinoma does not express any more Nkx6.3, an essential transcription factor for gastrin production, than the normal stomach tissue. His research stemming from the MTH Foundation Young Investigator Award allowed subsequent funding from non-governmental sources, although the topics of those research projects are not directly related to neuroendocrine tumor.

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