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Thirty-Eight New Members Join DF/HCC

Thirty-eight individuals from our seven member institutions have recently joined DF/HCC. See below to learn more about these scientists and their research interests.


Karen Albritton, MD (DFCI)
Outcomes Research Program; Sarcoma Program

Research focus: examining health services for adolescents and young adults with cancer, including access to age-appropriate, disease-based care. Specific areas of interest include determining the impact of primary care providers on the choice of oncologic specialty chosen and understanding variables affecting differential survival outcomes of patients across an age spectrum with the same disease, especially sarcoma. Other areas of interest include psychosocial and demographic factors that affect compliance and outcome differences when adolescent and young adult patients are treated on the same protocol at pediatric versus adult institutions.


Tianxi Cai, DSc (HSPH)
Biostatistics Program

Research focus: studying survival data including clustered failure time data, doubly- and interval-censored data; evaluating the accuracy of biomarkers for predicting clinical outcomes and treatment responses; and robust model evaluation and selection.


Ruben Carrasco, MD, PhD (DFCI)
Lymphoma and Myeloma Program; Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: the biological role of Wnt pathway activation in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma as well as the role of the tumor suppressor gene candidate RFP2 in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, two of the hematologic malignancies associated with chromosome 13q14 deletions.


Andrew Chan, MD, MPH (MGH)
Cancer Epidemiology Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: prevention of colorectal cancer by pursuing epidemiological studies of colorectal adenoma and cancer with an emphasis on the role of inflammation in promoting risk of neoplasia and the role of aspirin and NSAIDs in chemoprevention and by investigating novel methods of colorectal neoplasia detection, including clinical use of molecularly based, immunofluorescent probes to enhance standard colonoscopy.


Dharma Cortes, PhD (UMB)
Cancer Disparities Program

Research focus: health services research among culturally diverse populations, including examining barriers to health care and cancer screening among individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) or low literacy levels, with the goal of uncovering cultural issues and patient perceptions regarding health care services, patient-provider communication, and organizational aspects affecting the delivery of culturally competent health care services.


Daniel Costa, MD (BIDMC)
Translational Pharmacology and Early Therapeutic Trials Program; Lung Cancer Program

Research focus: better understanding of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes involved in lung cancer, including the study of  transcription factors C/EBPalpha and Foxa2 which play an essential role in airway epithelial differentiation, and are likely candidates in the pathogenesis of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). An additional area of interest is the mechanisms of acquired resistance to gefitinib and erlotinib in EGFR-mutant NSCLCs.


Daniela Dinulescu, PhD (BWH)
Gynecologic Cancers Program

Research focus: cancer biology, malignancies of the gonads and reproductive tract, with a special emphasis on ovarian cancer research and endometriosis. Other areas of interest include cancer genomics and proteomics, rational drug design, and targeted therapies, methods of early detection, and cancer prevention. 


Zhenfeng Duan, MD, PhD (MGH)
Gynecologic Cancers Program; Sarcoma Program

Research focus: the mechanisms of multi-drug resistance in human cancer, specifically the generation and analysis of several drug resistant human cancer lines with the goal of identifying novel mechanisms of acquired resistance to taxane. A principle research focus is on the IL-6, Jak, Stat pathway and its role in supporting the drug resistant phenotype both in cell line work and in vitro. A final research focus  is to define molecular mechanisms of acquired drug resistance in human ovarian cancer by functional screen.


Ulrike Eggert, PhD (DFCI)
Cancer Cell Biology Program

Research focus: the mechanism of cytokinesis, specifically to understand how cells regulate and perform cytokinesis because it will give us insights into what goes wrong when cytokinesis fails and how failure and subsequent aneuploidy might be a cause or consequence of cancer. A major technological interest is the combination of RNAi and small molecule approaches.


John Erban, MD (MGH)
Breast Cancer Program

Research focus: tailoring clinical treatments to specific subpopulations of patients with breast cancer with the two-fold goal of identifying therapies and supportive care most likely to be effective and/or essential and limiting treatment and toxicity to only those who will benefit.


Christopher French, MD (BWH)
Head and Neck Cancer Program

Research focus: the NUT midline carcinoma (NMC), an uncommon, but uniformly lethal disease defined by the presence of BRD-NUT fusion oncogene, either BRD4-NUT or BRD3-NUT. The research goals are  to identify the molecular mechanisms of BRD-NUT-induced oncogenesis and identify molecules that interfere with the BRD-NUT pathway.  Ultimately, this research should not only identify critical components of the BRD-NUT mechanism, but also provide potential novel targeted therapies to combat this disease.


Levi Garraway, MD, PhD (DFCI)
Prostate Cancer Program; Cutaneous Oncology and Melanoma Program

Research focus: targeting the genetic basis of cancer (specifically, malignant melanoma) by studying the critical dependencies underlying the recurrent genomic alterations characteristic of human tumors using experimental model systems that mirror the genetic changes manifest in vivo. An additional aera of interest is the application of systematic functional approaches such as RNAi and small molecule studies to elaborate critical effector mechanisms enacted by recurrent melanoma genomic/molecular alterations, as well as the functional dissection of signaling pathways that result from PTEN/PI3 kinase pathway deregulation.


Jeffrey Gelfand, MD (MGH)
Gynecologic Cancer Program; Cancer Immunology Program

Research focus: developing a novel approach for targeting (tumor) antigens whose sequence may not be known or structure even identified. The lab has  linked scFV's to MycobacteriumTb HeatShockProtein 70, thus developing a novel fusion protein vaccine for presenting antigen to APCs in order to generate both a CD-4 and CD -8 response. The scFVs can be selected for their binding to an uncharacterized antigen or to a characterized antigen by binding studies, and the appropriate V-genes can then be selected. The scFV genes are fused to the gene for MTb HSP 70, and the new fusion gene is expressed as the fusion protein in E. coli. Thus the lab has succeeded in generating a fusion vaccine targeting Folate Receptor-alpha, hyper-expressed in ovarian and many breast tumors.


Lisa Goodrich, PhD (HMS)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: the patterning and wiring of the inner ear, specifically a handful of proteins that are required for normal auditory and vestibular function, including Lrigs, Fat cadherins, GATA3, and Mafb. Particuiar interests include the Lrig genes (frequently deleted in human cancers) and the possibility that Lrig signaling represents a novel mechanism of basal lamina breakdown and hence tumor metastasis.


Nir Hacohen, PhD (MGH)
Cancer Immunology Program

Research focus: genetic, biochemical and cell biological approaches to systematically dissect the genetic circuitry of pathogen-sensing pathways and their role in initiating and guiding immune responses. A primary area of interest is use of the RNAi library for loss-of-function genetics in mammalian cells.


Robert Haddad, MD (DFCI)
Head and Neck Cancer Program

Research focus: the use of intensive and novel chemoradiotherapy regimens for patients with locally advanced and metastatic head and neck cancer with particular attention to radioprotection; comparing sequential chemoradiotherapy to concomitant chemoradiotherapy; the use of depsipeptide in head and neck cancer; and examining new molecules in head and neck cancer treatment such as Cetuximab and Zactima.


Kevin Haigis, PhD (MGH)
Cancer Genetics Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: the relationship between colonic epithelial differentiation and the malignant progression of colon cancer. Specific areas of interest include how specific mutations modulate their respective signaling pathways to affect colon cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis by genetically manipulating relevant signaling pathways both in vivo, in the mouse colonic epithelium, in vitro, and in human colorectal cancer cells, and the oncogenic properties of K-Ras and N-Ras.


Konrad Hochedlinger, MSc, PhD (MGH)
Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: the biology of embryonic stem cells, and a set of transcription factors including Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog which maintain the pluripotent state of these cells . We have recently generated pluripotent cells directly from fibroblasts by ectopic expression of the trancription factors Oct4, Sox2, c-myc and Klf4. These cells are indistinguishable from ES cells and provide a platform for analyzing the molecular mechanism of epigenetic reprogramming as well as a system to generate patient-specific stem cells for studying and treating disease.


Mei-Yu Hsu, MD, PhD (BWH)
Cutaneous Oncology and Melanoma Program

Research focus: the biological significance of morphogenic pathways, such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMP), Notch, Wnt, and Hedgehog signaling in human melanoma, including dissecting the functional roles of morphogens in the maintenance of tumor stem cell niche and tumor-tumor/tumor-stromal interactions during melanoma progression and angiogenesis.


Ole Isacson, MD (HMS)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: regeneration and plasticity of the mammalian nervous system, including implantation of primary neurons, progenitor or stem cells into the adult brain. Additional interests include the specific axon guidance factors that persist in the adult brain with the goal of understanding the structural and functional plasticity of the central nervous system that can lead to improved therapies for neurological disease.


Masao Kaneki, MD, PhD (MGH)
Breast Cancer Program; Prostate Cancer Program

Research focus: inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) and protein S-nitrosylation (a covalent attachment of NO to cysteine thiols) in stress signaling; Sirt1 NAD+-dependent deacetylase and stress resistance; and protein isoprenylation, namely farnesylation and geranylgeranylation, in atherosclerosis, sepsis and cancer.  Another focus is the identification of farnesylated or S-nitrosylated proteins in tissue samples in rodent models of human diseases, including cancer and diabetes, to investigate the molecular pathogenesis from the proteomic approach. 


Mari Mino-Kenudson, MD (MGH)
Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: Barrett's esophagus, in particular the investigation of abnormal expression of biomarkers in incompletely ablated Barrett's esophagus by photodynamic therapy; and improving the surveillance and diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus related superficial neoplasms. Another interest is pancreatic neoplasia, specifically the classification of intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm and prediction of risk for malignant transformation based on subtypes.


Rohit Kulkarni, MD, PhD (HMS)
Cancer Immunology Program

Research focus: the coordination and communication between the Insulin/IGF-1 and p53 signaling pathways in pancreatic islet growth.


Eunice Kwak, PhD, MD (MGH)
Translational Pharmacology and Early Therapeutic Trials Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: new cancer therapies that include traditional chemotherapeutics as well as new small molecule inhibitors and biologic therapies. A particular interest is the determination of molecular determinants of treatment response.


Christian LeGuern, PhD (MGH)
Cancer Immunology Program

Research focus: new molecular strategies that would either silence or activate immune responses, based on the hypothesis that some MHCII peptides are natural down-modulators of immunity because they interact with both self MHCII heterodimers and T-reg TCR for activation.


Nancy Lin, MD (DFCI)
Breast Cancer Program

Research focus: developing novel therapies for women with brain metastases, and exploring mechanisms of resistance and response to HER2-based therapy.


Stacy Melanson, MD, PhD (BWH)
Translational Pharmacology and Early Therapeutic Trials Program

Research focus: pharmacogenomic and pharmacokinetic research, utilizing methods such as  genotyping and measurement of drug levels, with the goal of predicting drug response based on genetic polymorphisms in cytochrome P450 enzymes.


Raul Mostoslavsky, MD, PhD (HMS)
Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: understanding the influence of chromatin on DNA repair, and the relationship between the DNA damage response and the metabolic adaptation of cellsby focusing  on the study of a group of proteins called SIRTs, the mammalian homologues of the yeast Sir2.


Andrew Norden, MD (DFCI)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: the design and execution of clinical trials for patients with malignant gliomas, meningiomas, and other tumors of the central nervous system. A particular interest is the development of targeted molecular agents that are active against malignant gliomas.


Paula Ryan, MD, PhD (MGH)
Breast Cancer Program; Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: clinical study of patients with high risk for breast and ovarian cancer and the study of endocrine therapy as prevention and treatment for breast cancer.


Armin Schwartzman, BS, MS, PhD (DFCI)
Biostatistics Program

Research focus: the analysis of proteomic mass spectrometry data with the goal of finding biomarkers for various types of cancer, by focusing on the statistical aspects of the peak detection problem, involving statistical signal processing, time series models and multiple testing. Another area of interest is the analysis of Diffusion Tensor images of the brain with the goal of understanding the anatomical effects of brain tumors, by utilizing multivariate and directional statistics, random matrices and shape analysis.


James Stahl, MPH, MD (MGH)
Outcomes Research Program

Research focus: discrete-event simulation, operations research, decision analysis, meta-analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, utility assessment, game theory, market design, ethics in the context of limited medical resources and applying industrial design to problem solving in health care. Current primary areas of research are health care system redesign, organ allocation policy, and the role of new organ replacement technologies, and allocation of and access to cancer therapies.


Zoltan Szallasi, MD (CHB)
Breast Cancer Program

Research focus: the application of high throughput measurements for cancer research by implementing several methods that increased the reliability of microarray measurements and combining high-throughput measurements in a manner that describes essential biology in a robust fashion, such as developing a gene expression signature of chromosomal instability.


Kathryn Terry, ScD (BWH)
Gynecologic Cancer Program; Cancer Epidemiology Program

Research focus: investigating how common genetic variation influences the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, including how commonly occurring genetic variants, called polymorphisms, in the IGF and telomere maintenance pathways are associated with ovarian cancer risk , evaluating how polymorphisms influence ovarian cancer survival and how telomere length may predict ovarian cancer risk. Another area of interest is whether a functional polymorphism (SNP309) in the MDM2 gene is associated with endometrial cancer risk.


Zhigang Wang, PhD (DFCI)
Breast Cancer Program

Research focus: the genomics of breast cancers, specifically to subclassify invasive breast cancers at genetic levels in combination with gene expression profiling, characterize the disease-associated genetic aberrations, and discover genes critical for the pathogenesis of breast cancers. Other interests include projects using Affymetrix high density SNP array and molecular inversion probes (MIP) technologies to identify the patterns of chromosomal alterations and genetic instability associated with biology and treatment of BRCA1-associated and sporadic basal-like breast cancers, and metastasis in breast cancer patients.


Wenyi Wei, PhD (BIDMC)
Cancer Cell Biology Program

Research focus: how APC and SCF activities contribute toward cell cycle regulation and subsequent tumor formation, specifically the underlying mechanisms that define the oscillation of APC and SCF activity in different cell cycle phases. Currently research includes the underlying mechanisms that timely regulate APC/Cdh1 activity in different cell cycle phases, and understanding whether other layers of crosstalk between the APC and SCF complex exist.


Bruce Yankner, MD, PhD (HMS)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: investigating the systems biology of the aging human brain by defining transcriptional changes and sites of age-related DNA damage on a genome-wide scale, and by modeling aspects of these processes in cultured cells and mice.


Athanasios Zavras, DMD, DMSc, MSc (HDS)
Cancer Epidemiology Program; Head and Neck Cancer Program

Research focus: molecular epidemiology of oral and pharyngeal cancer, with a specific focus on the search for markers of susceptibility or gene-environment interactions at the IGF system; health services research, timing of diagnosis, and issues of disparities and access to care for individuals with oral or pharyngeal cancer; oral complications and adverse effects of chemotherapy; and the risk of osteonecrosis in patients receiving bisphosphonates.