34 New Members Join DF/HCC

December, 2017

Congratulations to 34 individuals from our seven member institutions who have recently joined DF/HCC.

We randomly selected several new members to make welcome videos which can be seen below. We hope these help in making connections with your fellow members. If you'd like to make a video for your DF/HCC member profile, please contact us.

  • Madina ​Agénor, ScD, MPH,
    Madina ​Agénor, ScD, MPH (Harvard T.H. Chan School Of Public Health)
    Cancer Risk and Disparities, Gynecologic Cancers

    I am a social epidemiologist and health services researcher who uses quantitative and qualitative research methods to examine cervical cancer screening and prevention disparities in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, and immigrant status. My current research uses national survey data and in-depth interviews to investigate how individual- (e.g., HPV risk perceptions), interpersonal- (e.g., patient-provider communication), and state- (e.g., Medicaid expansions) level factors influence Pap test use and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination among sexual minority women, an underserved population at elevated risk of acquiring HPV and developing cervical cancer. Using survey, focus group, and interview data, I am also ascertaining the multilevel social determinants of access to and utilization of Pap tests and other sexual and reproductive health services among transgender men, an understudied and underserved population.

  • Bruno Bockorny, MD,

    I am a laboratory-based physician-scientist in the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center with primary focus on pancreatic cancer. My research efforts focus on the development of an assay for early detection of pancreatic cancer employing a high-throughput technology that quantifies circulating exosomes directly from blood samples. If implemented, this approach may allow affordable screening tests for patients with pancreatic diseases at high risk of developing pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In addition, our laboratory is implementing a patient-derived organoids platform to allow the discovery of effective drug combinations providing personalized therapeutic options for individual patients with pancreatic cancer when standard clinical options have been exhausted.

  • Kira Bona, MD, MPH,

    I am a pediatric oncologist and investigator focused on improving disease outcomes for pediatric cancer patients by systematically intervening on social determinants of health. I have formal training in health services and outcomes research, and clinical expertise in pediatric oncology with a specific focus on hematological malignancies. As an early career investigator, I have developed content expertise in the areas of financial hardship and measures of poverty in pediatrics. My work to date has demonstrated an association between community-level poverty and higher risk of early relapse in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). I am currently conducting an embedded investigation of household material hardship to investigate the impact of poverty on relapse, overall survival and chemotherapy adherence in the context of a multicenter therapeutic clinical trial for pediatric ALL. My career goal is to reduce residual morbidity and mortality in pediatric cancer through the design of interventions targeting poverty as a determinant of child health outcomes.

  • Yin Cao, ScD,
    Yin Cao, ScD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Data Sciences, Cancer Epidemiology

    I am a cancer epidemiologist and junior investigator with broad interest in lifestyle, medication, and genetic factors that are related to the early detection, prevention and prognosis of major cancers. Cancer risk prediction modeling is one of my research focuses. I developed an absolute risk assessment tool for advanced colorectal adenoma that incorporated age, family history, and lifestyle factors, which can be used to provide guidance regarding individual/population strategies for colorectal cancer screening. Utilizing data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute Breast and Prostate Cancer Cohort Consortium and advanced statistical methods, I demonstrated that IGF pathway was significantly associated with prostate cancer mortality. I continue work in risk prediction, chemoprevention, and lifestyle risk factors for cancers, with a particular focus on colorectal cancer and young-onset colorectal cancer. I am utilizing molecular, genomic, and metabolomic technologies as well as tools in health outcomes research, to develop personalized cancer prevention and early detection strategies.

  • Stefan A. Carp, PhD,

    My research focuses on the development of novel optical instrumentation for non-invasive tissue monitoring and the translation of these techqniques for clinical use. In particular, I am interested in the application of near-infrared diffuse optical tomography techniques for breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy guidance. We have recently shown that dynamic changes in tissue blood volume during fractional mammographic-like compression can be used to assess the early response of malignant lesions to neoadjuvant chemotherapy. I am currently preparing to conduct a follow-up study, that uses a multi-modal optical imaging system combined with digital breast tomosynthesis to characterize the outcome early prediction performance of dynamic optical biomarkers assessed during a multi-stage breast compression maneuver for HER2+ and TNBC patients undergoing NACT.

  • Ed Chouchani, PhD,
    Ed Chouchani, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Angiogenesis, Invasion and Metastasis, Cancer Cell Biology

    Our research focuses on deciphering the molecular mechanisms of metabolic disease and dysfunction, and using this information to develop targeted therapeutic strategies. Dysfunction in a particular cellular locale – the mitochondrion – is implicated most age-related disease pathology including cancer. We apply mass spectrometry, biochemical, and genetic approaches to identify mitochondrial metabolic pathways that control the protective and pathological cascades initiated by this organelle. Our work to date has focused on elucidating these mechanisms of damage and protection in pre-clinical models of cardiovascular, metabolic disease, and cancer.

  • Atish Choudhury, MD, PhD,

    I am a medical oncologist and clinical/translational investigator within the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and currently serve as a Co-Director of the Prostate Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber/Brigham & Women’s Cancer Center. My research interests include investigation of genetic and epigenetic biomarkers from circulating free DNA from patients with metastatic cancer, biomarker studies from other banked human specimens from patients participating in clinical trials, and clinical investigation in novel therapeutics for genitourinary malignancies.

  • Loan Dao, PhD,

    I have been a faculty member in Asian American Studies and Transnational Cultural and Community Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston since 2011. With a doctorate in Comparative Ethnic Studies, I have been trained in both a specialization in Asian American Studies with an emphasis on Southeast Asian/Vietnamese refugee migration and community development, and to conduct comparative research with other historically under- represented and underserved populations, including African American, Latinos (Hispanic), and Native Americans, using interdisciplinary methodologies as a holistic approach to research questions. I approach to this area of research holistically, investigating the multiple, socio-cultural as well as political and structural factors. I have conducted qualitative interviews, focus groups, ethnographic observations, and survey research on Vietnamese female student leadership, and clinical trials on Vietnamese cancer prevention and health disparities as a Research Associate at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, including Reducing Disparities in Colorectal Cancer Screening in Vietnamese Americans. 

  • Kevin Elias, MD,

    My lab focuses on the pathogenesis, early diagnosis, and novel therapy of gynecologic cancers.  Most of our work centers around ovarian cancer, but we also have a strong interest in gestational trophoblastic disease and choriocarcinoma.  We study miRNAs and their roles in cancer initiation and as possible biomarkers for early detection.  We also work on nucleic acid nanotherapeutic delivery systems.  As a surgeon-run lab, we are translational research focused, with an emphasis on clinically impactful problems.   Our research uses animal models, primary human tissues, and in vitro systems.

  • Leigh Ellis, PhD,

    Work within my laboratory focuses on dissecting underlying genetic/epigenetic mechanisms of progression to aggressive CRPC-NE. For this work we utilize in vitro genetically modified human and mouse cell lines, 3D organoid cultures, in vivo genetically engineered mouse models, and clinical samples coupled with innovative technology including next generation sequencing approaches. Our overall goal is to identify these novel genomic/epigenomic mechanisms which will lead to discovery of biomarkers and therapeutic targets for clinical testing.

  • Aaron Hata, MD, PhD,
    Aaron Hata, MD, PhD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Developmental Therapeutics, Lung Cancer

    I am a laboratory-based physician-scientist in the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital. The overall goal of my research is to gain a better understanding of the biological underpinnings of sensitivity and resistance to kinase inhibitor targeted therapies in lung cancers with specific oncogenic driver alterations (EGFR mutations, ALK translocations, KRAS mutations, etc.). In particular, I seek to understand how cancer cells adapt and evolve mechanisms of resistance during the course of therapy in order to identify vulnerabilities of drug tolerant cells that might be exploited to prevent drug resistance from developing. The work in my laboratory is highly translational and includes analysis of clinical samples, generation of patient-derived cell culture and mouse PDX models, and basic mechanistic cell-based and in vitro assays.

  • Kelly E. Irwin, MD, MPH,
    Kelly E. Irwin, MD, MPH (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Care Delivery Research, Cancer Risk and Disparities

    My research interests focus on understanding health disparities for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI). I am interested in understanding why people with SMI including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are more likely to die from cancer and in developing interventions to improve cancer outcomes throughout the continuum of cancer care including prevention, early detection, treatment, and end-of-life care. I am investigating communication about smoking cessation, perceptions of cancer risk, and cancer screening in individuals with schizophrenia. With support from the American Cancer Society, I piloted an intervention incorporating proactive psychiatry consultation and case management for individuals with severe mental illness and cancer and is now preparing to lead a follow-up randomized trial.

  • Oliver Jonas, PhD,

    I develop microdevices that are implanted directly into tumors and measure how the tumor responds to 30 different chemotherapies. These devices carry microdoses of each therapy which are released into small confined regions of tumor. Each therapy interacts with the tumor in its native microenvironment. The effect of each therapy is then assessed using a variety of readouts, including immunohistochemistry, mass spectrometry and RNAseq. This data can then be used to identify which therapy works optimally for a given patient.

  • Peter Kharchenko, PhD,

    We are interested in understanding the impact of intra-tumoral heterogeneity on disease progression and treatment response. In particular, we are focused on analysis of transcriptional, epigenetic and microenvironment differences leading to intra-tumoral heterogeneity.

  • Brad McGregor, MD,

    I serve as the clinic director for the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. My practice encompasses medical oncologic care for all genitourinary malignancies to include kidney, bladder, prostate, testicular and rare tumors. In collaboration with others, we are exploring the role of combination immunotherapy in rare genitourinary cancers (non-traditional bladder and prostate cancer, adrenocortical cancer, treatment refractory testicular cancer, penile cancer) I am leading trials exploring novel combinations of immunotherapies with other agents in a variety of tumor types while also exploring the role of anti-body drug conjugates in heavily treated cases of kidney and bladder cancer. I also am involved in efforts to better elucidate prognostic and predictive markers exploring different mutations on the tumor as well as blood based markers that may assist in future treatment decisions.

  • Meghan J. Mooradian, MD,

    I am a member of the Thoracic and Cutaneous Oncology Centers. I am a clinical investigator whose main area of interest is the study of the efficacy and toxicity of immune therapeutics. My key research effort is to better define immune-related toxicities, characterize the patients that develop them and ultimately work to identify patients at risk for these adverse events.

  • Taru Muranen, PhD,

    My laboratory studies how tumor microenvironment influences drug responses in pancreatic and breast cancer. Our laboratory uses co-culture models, tumor organoids, 3D model systems and proteomics to study how cancer cells develop drug resistance and how tumor microenvironment and the extracellular matrix microenvironment influence tumor cells responses to therapies. Our goal is to develop novel more effective therapies to abrogate tumor microenvironment mediated drug resistance.

  • Zachary David Nagel, PhD,

    My laboratory’s research is focused on measuring and modeling the role of DNA repair in human health, with the long-term goal of advancing personalized cancer therapy and prevention. We use functional assays, including recently developed Fluorescence Multiplex Host Cell Reactivation (FM-HCR) assays to measure the ability of human cells to repair DNA damage in each of the six major pathways.  We are pursuing population studies of DNA repair capacity in normal human tissues to predict individual cancer susceptibility and clinical radiation sensitivity.  We are also measuring DNA repair capacity in cancer cells and developing mathematical models to predict the effectiveness of cancer therapies. I am excited to collaborate with other DF/HCC groups that are interested in DNA damage and repair.

  • Christopher Ott, PhD,
    Christopher Ott, PhD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Developmental Therapeutics, Lymphoma and Myeloma

    Mutations in cancer cells lead to malfunctioning control of gene expression. Our laboratory is dedicated to discovering the gene expression control factors that are essential for leukemia and lymphoma cell survival. Discovery of these factors prompts further efforts in our group to design chemical strategies for the synthesis and deployment of prototype drugs targeting the aberrant mechanisms of gene control. Biologically, gene control factors represent compelling therapeutic targets for these cancers, as they are master regulators of cell identity. Yet despite this clear rationale, most are perceived as intractable drug targets owing to their large size, disordered shapes, and involvement in complex cellular circuits. Recent advances in gene editing technologies and discovery chemistry have advanced our capability to rapidly identify targetable aspects of gene control and methods to disrupt their function. We use these genetic and chemical tools to probe cancer cell circuitry and inform therapeutic hypotheses.

  • Lydia Pace, MD, MPH,
    Lydia Pace, MD, MPH (Brigham And Women's Hospital)
    Breast Cancer, Cancer Care Delivery Research

    I am interested in decision-making about breast cancer screening and genetic testing both at a policy level and the level of the individual clinician and patient. I am also interested in breast cancer screening policies and early detection strategies in resource-limited settings, and using implementation science to inform effective and feasible strategies in such settings. I am also working increasingly on the quality of breast cancer care in low- and middle-income countries. My clinical practice is in primary care internal medicine and urgent care at the Phyllis Jen Center for Primary Care at BWH. I precept BWH internal medicine residents and regularly give lectures about breast cancer screening and cancer screening more generally. 

  • David Pepin, PhD,

    My laboratory is focused on developing translational approaches to the study of ovarian cancer, particularly for the treatment and prevention of chemoresistant recurrences. We have previously shown that the use of gene therapy vectors based on adeno-associated virus serotype 9 (AAV9) can be effective in delivering biologics for long term treatment of chemoresistant recurrences using patient-derived xenograft models developed in the laboratory. One of the biologics we are evaluating, Mullerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS), was shown to be effective in inhibiting ovarian cancer growth. Additionally, we have shown that co-treatment with MIS during chemotherapy suppresses ovarian folliculogenesis, thus also preserving fertility during treatment. These applications are being pursued pre-clinically.

  • Martha B. Pitman, MD,
    Martha B. Pitman, MD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Gastrointestinal Malignancies, Gynecologic Cancers

    My clinical practice focuses on the early diagnosis of cancer using the cytological method of diagnosis. My clinical research has centered on pre-operative diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, especially early cancer arising in pancreatic cysts. I have demonstrated the value of cyst fluid analysis using a multimodal approach which incorporates cytological analysis of the cells in the cyst fluid, biochemical and molecular testing with clinical and imaging characteristics of the pancreatic cyst, for accurate diagnosis. I have defined the cytological features of high-grade cellular atypia in pancreatic mucinous cysts and led a multidisciplinary team that developed an international standardized terminology system for cytological diagnosis of pancreaticobiliary cytology. I have over 25 years experience as a diagnostic cytopathologist and am a recognized international expert in the field, especially with regard to the interpretation of pancreatic cytology.

  • Brian Polizzotti, PhD,

    Hypoxia is recognized as a major factor contributing to radioresistance, and in prostate cancer, is directly associated with shorter times to biochemical relapse and metastasis. Radiation therapy generates radical DNA species that are readily reversible under hypoxic conditions; however, oxygen chemically fixes this damage by oxidizing the DNA radicals to yield peroxides that ultimately result in DNA strand breaks and cell death. This renders hypoxic tumors ~3x more resistant to radiation than well oxygenated ones. Our laboratory has pioneered the fabrication of polymer-shelled hollow microparticles (PHMs) that can rapidly load and release concentrated oxygen at controlled rates in response to changes in the partial pressure of the surrounding fluid. We are interested in using these systems to actively reverse tumor hypoxia during radiotherapy.

  • Motaz Qadan, MD, PhD,

    My research focuses on the tumor microenvironment in the treatment of pancreas cancer. Pancreas cancer is a highly resilient tumor and by influencing the environment and character of the tumor, early data suggests that the disease may be rendered more susceptible to treatments including chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. I am currently involved in setting up clinical trials related to novel agents in this field, particularly in outcomes research that focuses on methods to collect, analyze, and improve outcomes related to cancer surgery at the National level. Some of my current interests include optimization of patients who are due to undergo oncologic surgery by improving their nutritional, physical, and psychological well-being prior to operation, as well as a specific focus on surgical intervention in the palliative setting.

  • Jun Qi, PhD,
    Jun Qi, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Cancer Cell Biology, Lymphoma and Myeloma

    I am a synthetic chemist and chemical biologist.  The research interest of my lab is focuses on exploring novel therapeutic strategies for cancer through a multi-disciplinary approach, including synthetic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, and biology.  We study gene regulatory pathways including epigenetic proteins, chromatin modification enzymes, and transcription factors. We start our effort with designing and developing novel small molecule inhibitors.  Using chemical probes and chemical biology tools, we seek understanding of the biological relevance of these targets in cancer with the goal of establishing a biological rationale for cancer therapy.

  • Deepa Rangachari, MD,

    I am a medical oncologist specializing in thoracic cancers. I am actively involved in clinical trials, with a particular interest in the management of patients with advanced/metastatic lung cancer and the application of targeted and immune therapies. I am also active in developing and evaluating innovative strategies in graduate and post-graduate medical education, with an emphasis on novel curricula in oncology. I serve as Associate Program Director for the BIDMC Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program.

  • Jens Rister, PhD,

    My lab’s research focus is to identify novel regulators of the Hippo signaling pathway, which suppresses tumors through restraining cell division and promoting apoptosis. Originally discovered in Drosophila melanogaster, the Hippo pathway is highly conserved and commonly deregulated in various human cancers such as lung, colorectal, ovarian, and liver cancer. It is not well understood how the pathway is regulated to yield diverse cellular outcomes such as growth, proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. In differentiating Drosophila photoreceptors, the Hippo pathway mediates a binary cell-fate decision that my lab uses as a simple and sensitive readout for Hippo signaling. This allows us to perform screens for both positive and negative Hippo regulators and has the potential to lead to the discovery of novel cancer drug targets. 

  • Chris Sander, PhD,
    Chris Sander, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Cancer Cell Biology, Cancer Data Sciences

    My laboratory is engaged in computational and systems biology methods to help find effective cancer therapies that block the emergence of resistance to otherwise successful cancer therapies. We have developed innovative methods for building predictive models of cell biology based on high-throughput molecular profiling, using algorithms adapted from statistical physics and machine learning. I have extensive experience in computational biology and cancer genomics, with active participation as a leader in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, and my group created the cBioPortal for Cancer Genomics and pathway analysis tools in the Pathway Commons resource. I look forward to collaborating with clinicians to combine computable clinical data with cancer genomic patient profiles to accelerate the development of personalized cancer therapies.

  • Kellee Siegfried, PhD,

    The Siegfried Lab uses the zebrafish to study the genetic regulation underlying development and sex differentiation of the gonads. We have isolated a collection of zebrafish mutants that affect various aspects of gonad development, including early germ cell survival, meiotic defects, sexual development and formation of germ cell tumors. Our ongoing work on these mutant lines has led to the discovery of genes that are potentially relevant to human infertility and reproductive function. Furthermore, we are developing a zebrafish germ cell tumor model to understand the genetic and cell biological processes underlying germ cell tumor formation.

  • Laura Spring, MD,

    I am a clinical/translational investigator and breast medical oncologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Harvard Medical School. The primary focus of my research is to develop novel therapeutic and biomarker strategies to improve the care of breast cancer patients. I am particularly interested in blood-based monitoring of localized breast cancer and the use of targeted therapies in the neoadjuvant setting. I am the recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the ASCO Conquer Cancer Foundation for her work exploring circulating tumor cell (CTC) monitoring in the neoadjuvant setting in breast cancer. I am also involved with the design and conduct of several breast cancer clinical trials for localized and metastatic breast cancer.

  • Jacob D. Soumerai, MD,

    In my role as Clinical Investigator in Lymphoma at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), I am establishing a clinical trials research program that investigates novel biologically directed therapies in lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

  • Molin Wang, PhD,
    Molin Wang, PhD (Harvard Medical School)
    Cancer Data Sciences, Cancer Epidemiology

    My researches focus on methods for analyses of epidemiological studies and designs of epidemiological studies. I have actively conducted methodological research in several biostatistical areas, including methods for dealing with measurement error and misclassification, methods for issues related to pooling epidemiological studies, methods for evaluating etiologic heterogeneity among disease subtypes, and methods for cost-effectiveness assessment. I am also interested in statistical methods involved in analysis and design of clinical trials.

  • Gary Yellen, PhD,

    My laboratory develops fluorescent biosensors for the study of metabolism, and uses quantitative imaging to learn about the regulation and dynamics of metabolism in the brain.  Similar to cancer cells, stimulated neurons use aerobic glycolysis, but probably for the provision of rapid energy rather than for biosynthesis.  We became interested in neuronal metabolism because of potent effects of metabolism on neuronal excitability:  one of the best therapeutic approaches to drug-resistant epilepsy is a very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, which could work by limiting the amount of aerobic glycolysis. We have collaborated with Joan Brugge’s lab to understand the dynamics of metabolism in MCF10A cells when glycolysis is partially inhibited, and we have a long-term collaboration with Nika Danial’s lab to learn how metabolic alteration in BAD knockout mice leads to pronounced resistance to epileptic seizures.

  • Cheng-Zhong Zhang, PhD,
    Cheng-Zhong Zhang, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Cancer Cell Biology, Cancer Data Sciences

    My laboratory is interested in understanding the mechanisms causing genome instability and the roles of chromosomal abnormalities in tumorigenesis. We use three approaches to address these questions. First, we develop computational methods to analyze copy-number alterations and chromosomal rearrangements in cancer genomes and identify the mutational signatures. Second, we combine single-cell genomics and cell biology to study the mechanisms causing chromosomal alterations and their transcriptional consequences. Finally, by combining single-cell genomics with cancer models and genome engineering, we try to clarify the relationship between chromosomal alterations and cancer hallmarks, and use this knowledge to create new strategies of cancer treatment.