National Cancer Institute awards UC Davis hematologist a prestigious research grant

A smiling hematologist Brian Jonas wearing eyeglasses, a white lab coat and white shirt, and a light blue and black checkered necktie.

National Cancer Institute awards UC Davis hematologist a prestigious research grant

Award to Brian Jonas to support his leadership in cancer clinical trials


UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center hematologist Brian Jonas was recently awarded the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Research Specialist Award (R50) to further his leadership in NCI-funded cancer research. This award supports exceptional scientists in advancing their careers by pursuing cancer research opportunities.

a smiling hematologist Brian Jonas wearing eyeglasses, a white lab coat and white shirt, and a light blue and black checkered necktie.
Hematologist Brian Jonas

“We are very proud of Dr. Jonas for successfully receiving this highly coveted NCI grant,” said Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr., director of the cancer center. “This R50 award will support his leadership role in our cancer center, allowing him to champion patient-centered cancer research and high-impact clinical trials.”

Jonas is a professor of medicine in the Division of Malignant Hematology, Cellular Therapy and Transplantation in the Department of Internal Medicine. His vision is to transform clinical care and research on blood cancer disorders, especially acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS).

As the chair of the Data and Safety Monitoring Committee at the cancer center, Jonas contributes to clinical trial infrastructure and ensures the highest quality and accountability in trials. He is also chair of the Hematology Disease Team Committee and oversees the management of the malignant hematology clinical trial portfolio, including several NCI-funded trials.

A leader in cancer clinical trials

Jonas is considered a leader in the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. He has built and leads a robust multidisciplinary clinical and translational research program. Over the last 10 years, he has served as the principal investigator on more than 40 clinical trials.

“I am very grateful for NCI’s support that would allow me to focus more on developing and running clinical trials to find better cancer therapies and care,” Jonas said.

Enrolling patients in clinical trials is critical for research and therapy development. Jonas has received multiple awards for his success in enrolling patients. As a researcher, he strives to make clinical trials accessible for all patients at all stages of their disease.

“It is crucial to give opportunities for cancer patients to receive new potential therapies through clinical trials,” he said. “These trials, many facilitated by academic-industry collaborations, can bring great benefits to cancer patients.”

Jonas is also a highly decorated scholar. He received a UC Regents Scholarship and multiple awards from the UC Davis School of Medicine. After joining UC Davis in 2013, he was awarded a California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) training fellowship. He was also named a K12 scholar in the NCI UC Davis Paul Calabresi Clinical Oncology K12 Mentored Clinical Research Program.

In 2020, Jonas received a two-year Cancer Center Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award from the NCI to help develop his clinical and translational acute leukemia and MDS research program. The program includes an outpatient clinic, a malignant hematology-focused inpatient service, and education and outreach missions.

Jonas will oversee the program, serve as a mentor to junior faculty and fellows, and engage in its community outreach efforts. The support from the R50 award will facilitate the continued growth of the program, with an emphasis on NCI-funded research.

Jonas is also working with UC Davis hematologist Aaron Rosenberg, who is developing machine-learning models. Among many potential applications, the models may help identify and evaluate disparities and gaps in recruiting underrepresented minorities and women to clinical trials. The aim is to develop better targeted recruitment strategies and optimal trial designs, including for NCI-funded trials.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit