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Twenty-one new members join DF/HCC

Twenty-one individuals have recently joined DF/HCC. See below to learn more about these scientists and their research interests.


Brenda Birmann, ScD, MSc (BWH)
Cancer Epidemiology Program; Lymphoma and Myeloma Program

Research focus: epidemiology of hematopoietic malignancies, oncogenic virus infections, and assessment of immune dysfunction for epidemiologic studies. Primary active research project is a prospective evaluation of lifestyle correlates of energy balance (including body mass index and physical activity levels), and of plasma and genetic markers of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I and interleukin (IL)-6 dysregulation, in the etiology of multiple myeloma (MM).

Clark Chen, MD, PhD (DFCI)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: developing new primary cell line and xenograft models of glioblastoma and metastatic disease of the brain; identifying therapeutic strategies by siRNA and shRNA screening; and characterization of tumoral response to DNA damaging agents such as ionizing radiation and conventional chemotherapy.

Andrew Chi, MD, PhD (MGH)
Neuro-Oncology Program, Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: characterizing the global chromatin state of glioma stem cells in order to gain a systems level understanding of how aberrant chromatin structure contributes to gliomagenesis, to identify novel markers of glioma stem cells, and to produce novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

Augustine Choi, MD (BWH)
Lung Cancer Program

Research focus: regulation and function of stress response genes and antioxidant enzymes in response to oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as improved understanding of the pathogenesis of COPD by means of using functional genomics approach such as gene expression profiling studies.

Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD (DFCI)
Cancer Cell Biology Program; Cancer Genetics Program

Research focus: two aspects of down regulation; dephosphorylation of repair proteins via phosphatases, and decreased expression of repair factors via micro RNAs (miRNAs). One of the earliest events in the double stranded DNA break (DSB) response is the phosphorylation of the histone H2A variant, H2AX. The phosphorylated form of H2AX (gamma-H2AX) has a role in repair, replication, recombination of DNA and regulating cell cycle. Although the formation of g-H2AX has been well studied very little is known about its down regulation.

Amy Colwell, MD (MGH)
Breast Cancer Program; Outcomes Research Program
Research focus: improving outcomes for breast cancer patients. Specific aims include counseling patients on the most beneficial surgical procedure by surveying breast cancer patients who have been through the process; collecting data to support and justify a novel technique for immediate implant breast reconstruction with improved aesthetic outcomes; and continuing to advance and optimize breast reconstruction techniques.

Timothy DeGrado, PhD (HMS)
Cancer Imaging Program; Prostate Cancer Program

Research focus: developing novel PET radiopharmaceuticals used in the PET imaging for diagnosis and therapy monitoring of cancers including PET radiotracers that target biochemical processes that are altered in neoplasms. The focus is on small molecular substrate molecules such as analogs of glucose, fatty acids, and choline. The work with fluorine-18 labeled choline has shown particular promise for imaging of prostate cancer.


Mark Feinberg, MD (BWH)
Cancer Immunology Program; Leukemia Program

Research focus: identification of two novel members of the Kruppel-like family of transcription factors (KLFs). Members of this family have been shown previously to critically regulate aspects of cellular growth, development, and differentiation. The working hypothesis is that these genes are critical regulators for maturation in specific cell types where they are expressed. The current efforts include the generation of adenoviral vectors to overexpress these genes in vivo and the use of transgenic strategies.

Cristina Ferrone, MD (MGH)
Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: pancreatic and hepatobiliary malignancies. The laboratory is exploring the immunologic responses and gene expression patterns of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors, and cholangiocarcinomas.

Katherine Gibson, PhD (UMB)
Cancer Cell Biology Program

Research focus: the process of bacterial cell cycle progression and its modification in response to a variety of cues. The lab is interested in determining the molecular events that underlie the choice cells make during exit from S-phase as they transition into either G2-phase (during free-living growth), back to G1-phase (during bacteroid endoreduplication) or into G0-phase as they finally exit the cell cycle during terminal bacteroid differentiation. To this end, the lab is characterizing several components of the cell cycle regulatory pathway whose function is also required for symbiosis.

Wolfram Goessling, MD, PhD (BWH)
Cancer Genetics Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: organogenesis, regeneration and carcinogenesis using zebrafish as the primary model. The laboratory’s work focuses on the liver, exploring the regulation of endodermal progenitor cell specification, organ differentiation and growth. The lab also examines the role of these pathways in zebrafish models of liver regeneration following both surgical and chemical injury, as well as in carcinogenesis.

Michael Hassett, MD (DFCI)
Breast Cancer Program, Outcomes Research Program

Research focus: The lab seeks to develop a simple, explicit strategy for prioritizing breast cancer quality measures based on their potential to highlight areas where quality improvement efforts could most impact a population. While many quality measures have been created, there is no consensus regarding which are most important. Systematically prioritizing quality measures could increase the efficiency and efficacy of quality improvement efforts and substantially improve outcomes.

J. Rodrigo Mora, MD, PhD (MGH)
Cancer Immunology Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: The lab addresses the hypothesis that blocking the mechanisms inducing lymphocyte migration to the gut will have a therapeutic effect in models of gut inflammation leading to intestinal cancer. Results from this study will highlight the prominent role of inflammation in the development of cancer, and how interfering with lymphocyte migration may offer an important therapeutic benefit by blocking inflammation and consequently inflammation-driven cancer.

Martin Sanda, MD (BIDMC)
Cancer Immunology Program; Prostate Cancer Program

Research focus: advancing and enhancing prostate cancer survival through investigations ranging from studies of prostate cancer associated antigens as targets of immune response or as markers for cancer detection, to clinical trials of novel therapy and observational outcomes research.

Sandro Santagata, MD, PhD (BWH)
Neuro-Oncology Program

Research focus: attempting to determine the effects of pharmacological modulation of the HSR on proliferation and survival in ‘stem cell” based models of glioma; characterizing the mechanism of action of active compounds to identify those with novel targets; assessing the potential of active compounds to cross the blood brain barrier; assessing the potential of small molecule modulators of protein homeostasis to inhibit glioma growth in vivo.

Alex Toker, PhD (BIDMC)
Breast Cancer Program; Invasion, Metastasis, and Angiogenesis Program

Research focus: regulation of carcinoma cell migration and invasion, with emphasis on the signaling pathways that impact this phenotype. The lab has an active, long-term interest in kinase signaling and how it impacts downstream signaling pathways leading to cell growth, survival, and motility. The current focus is to gain additional insight into the role of NFAT, Akt, and ADAM9-S in invasion and migration, as well as genome-wide screens for genes induced by these pathways in carcinoma cells and the use of animal modes of invasion and metastasis to determine the importance of these proteins in the progression of the disease. Another major research focus in the laboratory is the function of the serine/threonine kinase PKD (protein kinase D) in cancer cell biology.

Bela Torok, MS, PhD (UMB)
Translational Pharmacology and Early Therapeutic Trials Program

Research focus: Development of synthetic methods for biologically active compounds. The first major focus area is the synthesis of heterocyclic compounds such as: benzo[N,N]-heterocycles (benzodiazepines, benzimidazoles, quinoxalines, quinoxalinones), phthalazinones, iso-benzofuranones. The second major area is the synthesis of organofluorine compounds. Many in these groups of compounds have been earlier identified as potent anticancer agents.

Chinweike Ukomadu, MD, PhD (BWH)
Cancer Cell Biology Program; Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program

Research focus: recent studies have focused on the role of the ubiquitin-like with PHD and Ringer Fingers domain protein 1 (UHRF1) in liver development, regeneration and cancer development. The lab has acquired zebrafish lines deficient in UHRF1 and has generated specific antibodies to UHRF1. In collaboration with Dr. Kirsten Edepli at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the lab has generated liver specific transgenic mutants that express wild type and a specific phosphorylation deficient mutant form of UHRF1. The goal is to understand the role of this protein in liver cancer formation. By identifying genes important for liver development, the laboratory can probe for contribution of these factors in liver cancer development and progression.

David R. Williams, MPH, PhD (HSPH)
Reduction of Cancer Risk and Disparities Program

Research focus: racial and socioeconomic differentials in health. Current research includes studying the correlates of the health of Black Caribbean immigrants in the United States, examining how stressors related to race can affect health, analyzing the biological pathways by which stress relates to health, and assessing the impact of religious involvement on health.

Guocheng Yuan, PhD (DFCI)
Biostatistics Program

Research focus: developing statistical and computational methodologies for genomic data analysis and integration with the emphasis on epigenomics. A long term goal is to integrate epigenomic data together with gene expression, DNA sequence, transcription factor binding, and other genomic-scale information in order to understand the systems-level regulation of gene activities in stem cells and cancer tissues.


Zhenglun Zhu, MD, PhD (BWH)
Gastrointestinal Malignancies Program; Prostate Cancer Program

Research focus: vertebrate embryogenesis model as a means to identify potential methods of regulating Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. Current efforts focus on the role of a homeobox protein Xom on Wnt/beta-catenin signaling during early embryogenesis and tumorigenesis with the aim to identify novel targets of intervention for cancer management.