Dr. Christopher Donnelly Announced as 2018 John J. Bonica Trainee Fellowship Recipient

Jun 30, 2018

IASP has chosen Dr. Christopher Donnelly, DDS, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at University of Michigan, USA, to receive its 2018 John J. Bonica Trainee Fellowship, an honor that includes funding of up to US$50,000 annually for two years. The prestigious award was established in 1998 in memory of the founder of IASP to support training in pain research. 

The IASP Fellowships, Grants, and Awards Working Group chose Donnelly’s pain research project, “Neuroimmune Mechanisms Underlying Chronic Pain Pathologies,” as outstanding from a very strong array of 22 submissions. Reviewers lauded Donnelly for his high publication productivity, dedication to basic science research, success in pre-doctoral grants, superb work ethic, and “imaginative and compelling proposal.”

They also noted that the proposal has a strong scientific premise, provided good detail on experimental aims, and is supported by an outstanding mentor—Dr. Ru-Rong Ji, PhD, chief of pain research in the Department of Anesthesiology, Duke University School of Medicine—and co-mentor—Dr. William Maixner, DDS, PhD, vice chair of research, Duke University School of Medicine, and president of the American Pain Society.

“Cancer pain is a particularly complex pain pathology, involving inflammatory, neuropathic, compression, and ischemic mechanisms, depending on the subtype, stage, location, and duration of the underlying disease process,” wrote Donnelly in his proposal. “Despite occurring in 60% to 80% of advanced cancer patients, cancer pain is often undertreated, remaining moderate to severe throughout the disease process in >50% of patients….

“We aim to identify the role of currently utilized cancer immunotherapies in cancer pain and neuropathy, results that have the capacity to inform cancer treatment regimens. Additionally, by exploiting the intrinsic propensity of different cancers to inhibit or produce pain, we aim to identify novel mediators of nociceptor excitability and pain avoidance or propagation. These studies will broaden our understanding of cancer pain and have the capacity to expand our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying chronic pain pathologies.”

The research will be conducted at Duke University Center for Translational Pain Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA. The fellowship has been historically awarded to trainees starting what would be the equivalent of a postdoctoral fellowship.

Donnelly completed his undergraduate biochemistry degree at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and his DDS and PhD training in neurobiology concurrent with clinical training as a dentist in 2018 under Dr. Brian Pierchala at University of Michigan, Oral Health Sciences, Neuroscience. As a board-certified dentist-scientist with a research interest in chronic pain, Donnelly has won numerous awards and has been first author and co-author on seven articles in such publications such as Cell Reports and The Journal of Cell Biology.