26 New Members Join DF/HCC

NOVEMBER 7, 2019

Please welcome these 26 individuals from our member institutions who have recently joined DF/HCC.

We have worked with these new members to create welcome/networking videos which can be seen below, and we hope these help you to connect to your new colleagues. If you'd like to make a video for your DF/HCC member profile, please contact us.

  • Omar Arnaout, MD,

    My clinical, computational, and scientific background provide the necessary interdisciplinary expertise to successfully lead the proposed project. Medical school and residency have trained me to be a fully qualified neurosurgeon. Besides my clinical training, I also mastered a variety of programming languages including HTML, CSS, Python, Django, and R, as well as the machine learning packages within these languages. Therefore, my appointment as co-director of the Computational Neuroscience Outcomes Center enables me to converge my strong computational interest and clinical work into valuable scientific projects. As the bulk of medical data is growing beyond our capacities to analyze it with the conventional statistical approaches, I believe the powerful analyses machine learning has to offer can play a pivotal role in the transition to personalized medicine. On a daily basis, I encounter the boundaries of our current medical practice, but due to my computational experience I also understand how machine learning can push these boundaries. Therefore, I’m highly motived translate the utility of machine learning into better patient care.

  • W. Linda Bi, MD, PhD,

    The Bi Lab focuses on the translational biology of skull base tumors, including meningiomas and pituitary tumors. Their initial work has unveiled a molecular taxonomy for these tumors, with strong prediction for their clinical outcome, and seeks to identify new molecular targets for designing novel therapies for aggressive and recurrent tumors. They seek to improve understanding to these tumors using multiple modalities, including genomics, immunology, advanced imaging, radiomics, and clinical outcome investigations.

  • Paulette D. Chandler, MD, MPH,

    My research focuses on translational nutrition and molecular epidemiology for cancer prevention. I am interested in the role of nutrition and supplements for cancer prevention and the role of novel biomarkers to improve screening and early detection of cancer.

  • Al Charest, PhD,

    Reconstituting Human Cancer Gene Mutations in Mice Through Genetic Engineering to Accurately Model Cancer
    A major drive of the lab is to model primary brain cancer (low and high grade gliomas) in genetically engineered mouse models to study the molecular and microenvironmental processes driving the initiation and maintenance of these cancers. We are particularly interested in elucidating the elements that dictate how a normal cell responds to specific oncogenic mutations at the molecular level and how the resulting cancer cell wiring can be exploited for therapeutic intervention.

    Identifying Novel Cancer Targets, Eploiting Signaling Vulnerabilities and Developing Pre- and Co-Clinical Trial Programs
    Using orthogonal approaches, we strive to decipher the complexities of signal transduction pathways in cancer and to reveal molecular vulnerabilities.

    Integrating Glioma Cancer Mutations With Tumor Immunology
    We are determining the immunological landscape of high grade glioma (Glioblastoma Multiforme) in genetically-defined mouse models and from clinical sources.

  • Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD,
    Ibiayi Dagogo-Jack, MD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Risk, Prevention, and Early Detection, Lung Cancer

    I am a lung cancer researcher/thoracic oncologist with a clinical and research focus on developing novel molecularly targeted lung cancer combination therapies, characterizing the molecular mechanisms that mediate resistance to targeted therapies, optimizing non-invasive assays to enable early detection of resistance and minimal residual disease monitoring, and improving early detection of lung cancer. As clinical trials are essential for exploring safety and efficacy of novel therapeutics and drug combinations, much of my research is conducted through clinical trials. I have developed several investigator-initiated Phase I/II trials studying the potential for drug combinations to delay and overcome resistance to ALK/ROS1-directed therapies. In addition, I participate in industry-sponsored drug combination trials for oncogene-driven lung cancer. I am a junior investigator in a multi-institutional SU2C-funded effort dedicated to improving lung cancer screening in high risk populations.

  • Michael Dougan, MD, PhD,

    I have a longstanding interest in interaction between the immune system and cancer. As a dissertation student with Dr. Glenn Dranoff’s lab at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, I established the first model of lung cancer caused by a defect in immune regulation. In this model, deficiencies in the cytokines GM-CSF, IL-3 and IFN-γ, lead to a combination of tumor promoting inflammation and defective antitumor immunity that produces highly penetrant pulmonary adenocarcinomas. This work provided early pre-clinical data supporting a dual role for the immune response in lung cancer, with failure of adaptive immunity combining with innate inflammation to drive lung cancer development. These findings were subsequently validated in clinical trials of checkpoint blockade which confirmed a role for adaptive immunity in controlling lung cancer, and in the CANTOS trial which demonstrated reduced lung cancer incidents in patients treated with antibodies that block the innate inflammatory cytokine IL-1β. 

    My dissertation work also identified a novel regulatory role for the Inhibitor of Apoptosis (IAP) family of proteins in T cell activation through NF-B signaling downstream of TNF family costimulatory receptors. I used pharmacologic IAP inhibitors to study the therapeutic implications of this finding, combining IAP antagonists with a tumor vaccine to augment antitumor responses. This finding was the basis for subsequent work that has exploited the immune modulating properties of IAP antagonists to treat multiple myeloma and glioblastoma in preclinical models, and is now being investigated in multiple clinical trials. 

    As a resident and Gastroenterology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), I joined Dr. Hidde Ploegh’s lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where I generated and characterized single domain antibodies (VHHs) to several immune receptors. I used these VHHs for multiple pre-clinical applications. By fusing VHHs to cytokines, I developed a panel of modified cytokines with novel binding properties and improved therapeutic effects in a variety of mouse models. I showed that VHHs against CD47 can enhance responses to murine melanoma in combination with immune modulating antibodies, and in my own lab, have established a syngeneic model for evaluating the toxicities of CD47 targeted therapeutics. By tagging these VHH to radioisotopes, I worked with two other postdoctoral fellows to comprehensively image PD-L1 in a live mouse, and to track CD8 T cells responses in mice undergoing immunotherapy using immuno-positron emission tomography (PET). PD-L1 PET unexpectedly showed that PD-L1 is primarily expression by brown adipose tissue (BAT), and is an activation-independent marker for brown adipocytes, a finding with implications that I continue to explore in my own lab. 

    As an independent investigator, I have focused my efforts on understanding the etiology and immune mechanisms underlying the immune-related adverse events (irAEs) resulting from cancer immunotherapy, a window into the endogenous function of the immune receptors targeted by these therapies. My research dovetails with my clinical work, where I specialize in treating gastrointestinal (GI) irAEs resulting from “checkpoint” receptor blockade, which are often treatment limiting. Management relies on systemic corticosteroids, which are likely to have deleterious effects on antitumor responses. My goal is to use a detailed mechanistic understanding of gastrointestinal irAEs to develop novel treatment strategies that do not interfere with antitumor immunity, as well as to understand on a more fundamental level, how individual immune receptors regulate immune homeostasis in the GI tract.

  • Daniel Faden, MD,
    Daniel Faden, MD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Genetics, Cancer Risk, Prevention, and Early Detection, Head and Neck Cancer

    I am a head and neck oncologic surgeon and translational head and neck cancer investigator. My clinical practice focuses on the care of patients with advanced head and neck cancer and cranial base neoplasms, with a particular emphasis on minimally invasive techniques including transoral robotic surgery and endoscopic cranial base surgery. My research focuses on translational head and neck cancer genomics and biomarker discovery for surgical and therapeutic interventions with the aim of improving precision head and neck oncology decision making. To do so, I study how different cellular alterations, and infection by human papilloma virus, effect the behavior of head and neck cancers.

  • Xin Gao, MD,
    Xin Gao, MD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Developmental Therapeutics, Kidney Cancer

    Dr. Xin Gao is a medical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in the Claire and John Bertucci Center for Genitourinary Cancers and the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies. His primary focus is in genitourinary malignancies and the design and conduct of clinical trials evaluating novel targeted therapies and immunotherapies. His research is focused on the identification of novel therapeutic targets and predictive biomarkers for treatment selection in renal cell carcinoma, urothelial cancer, and prostate cancer.

  • Tianyi Huang, ScD,
    Tianyi Huang, ScD (Brigham And Women's Hospital)
    Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Survivorship

    Despite compelling experimental evidence supporting an important role of sleep and circadian mechanisms in carcinogenesis and tumor progression, population-based studies yielded very mixed findings regarding the relationships of sleep quality, sleep disorders and circadian disruption with cancer incidence and mortality. A notable limitation of prior studies is the reliance on subjective and crude assessment of sleep. Recent advances in mobile health technologies provide an opportunity to objectively measure and subtype sleep and sleep disorders in greater detail. I'm interested in applying these technologies in large population-based cohorts to understand the role of sleep and sleep disorders in cancer etiology and survivorship.

  • Jun Huh, PhD,

    Immune cell modulation is an attractive strategy for the treatment of inflammatory conditions. Inflammation is critical to protecting us from dangers within (e.g. cancer) and without (e.g. microbes). But inflammation also drives much human pathology and disease, including cancers, autoimmune diseases and, potentially, neurodevelopmental disorders.

    Towards improved treatments for a range of conditions, we are interested in uncovering novel mechanisms controlling the function and development of pathogenic immune cells. Specifically, we aim to identify host- and bacteria-derived small molecules that control inflammation in mammalian guts. Finally, we are studying the mechanisms by which inflammation dictates neural development.

  • Sun Hur, PhD,
    Sun Hur, PhD (Boston Children's Hospital)
    Developmental Therapeutics, Melanoma

    My lab studies structural and biochemical mechanisms of antiviral immunity. Over the last several years, we defined the molecular mechanisms of the RIG-I-like receptors, which are conserved viral RNA sensors in the vertebrate innate immune system. They are cytosolic receptors responsible for detecting viral RNAs during infection and activating the type I interferon (IFN) response. While their functions are best characterized in the context of antiviral immunity, more recent studies showed that these receptors and the downstream IFN pathways are activated during conventional cancer therapies (such as chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) and their activities play important roles in effective cancer immunotherapies. Our current interest includes defining the mechanism by which chemo- and radiation therapies activate these receptors and developing small molecules that can specifically modulate their signaling functions for therapeutic application.

  • Amit Joshi, MBBS, PhD,
    Amit Joshi, MBBS, PhD (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Risk, Prevention, and Early Detection

    My research is focused on studying the molecular epidemiology of gastrointestinal diseases and common cancers. I am interested in utilizing high-dimensional data from multiple ‘omics platforms in clinical and population-based studies to identify important risk factors, and to characterize disease phenotypes. Much of this work has been conducted in large consortia using genomic association studies, gene-gene and gene-environment interaction analyses on the relative and absolute risk scales. I am currently also involved in studying the gut microbiome and metabolomics of colorectal cancer risk in large population-based cohorts.

  • Howard L Kaufman, MD,

    Dr. Kaufman's research has focused on the development of oncolytic viruses and immunotherapy for the treatment of melanoma and other types of cutaneous malignancies. His lab has contributed to understanding how viruses induce immunogenic cell death and initiate host anti-tumor immunity. He led the first randomized phase III clinical trial of an oncolytic herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) virus encoding GM-CSF in patients with advanced melanoma, which resulted in FDA approval of the first oncolytic virus in cancer. He also helped establish the role of anti-PD-L1 treatment for patients with advanced Merkel cell carcinoma. He continues to focus on how to integrate oncolytic viruses into combination immunotherapy regimens to enhance systemic immunity and improve therapeutic responses in patients with cancer.

  • Jessica J. Lin, MD,

    The primary focus of my research is to develop novel therapeutic and biomarker strategies for patients with advanced lung cancers. As a clinical investigator, I am actively involved in the design and conduct of clinical trials evaluating novel targeted therapies and combination immunotherapies. My translational research efforts are dedicated to the study of resistance mechanisms and exceptional responses to targeted therapies in molecularly defined subsets of lung cancer. With my commitment to research, I hope to improve the lives of our patients with advanced lung cancers.

  • Charlotta Lindvall, MD, PhD,
    Charlotta Lindvall, MD, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Cancer Care Delivery Research, Palliative Care

    My ultimate goal is to develop and implement scalable quality improvement programs that utilize methods such as natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning. Developing and testing a novel NLP-based approach to capture palliative care quality measures is a strategic step toward these goals, with ample opportunity for extension and tremendous potential to improve clinical care.

  • Jarrod A. Marto, PhD,

    The Marto Lab uses mass spectrometry to interrogate the functional proteome. Our goal is to understand how genomic alterations, environmental insults, or the action of small molecule chemical probes impact individual proteins, their post-translational modifications, biochemical complexes, signaling pathways, or how these perturbations manifest en masse as phenotypic or disease signatures. Our studies are guided by specific hypotheses of biological function or through quantitative, proteome-scale screens which yield data-driven entry points for further investigation.

    The interdisciplinary theme of Dr. Marto's research program carries over into the classroom at Harvard Medical School, through the Biological and Biomedical Sciences graduate curriculum. In addition Dr. Marto frequently serves as an ad hoc mentor to junior scientists in our neighboring labs as a result of numerous collaborations through the Blais Proteomics Center at the Dana-Farber.

  • Ciaran J. McNamee, MD,

    My academic interests derive from my clinical experience in thoracic surgery and my participation with national thoracic oncology research. I participate in a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology regional network providing innovative care to New England patients as a partnership development with the thoracic surgery division of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

    With respect to lung cancer I am interested in the development of clinical and pathologic characteristics associated with neuroendocrine lung cancers. With large databases of pulmonary carcinoid patients, I hope to identify the distinct clinical features of both pulmonary carcinoid patients and those patients who are uncommonly identified with multiple carcinoid tumors. In previous published works with my oncology colleagues from Dana Farber Cancer Institute, we have already demonstrated the value of chemotherapy for advanced pulmonary carcinoid tumors.

    I am the principal investigator in Boston for a novel technique of immunotherapy for lung cancer patients which is provided before surgical resection with a goal of determining if this will improve treatment outcomes for lung cancer patients. This novel protocol has already shown significant impact as a treatment protocol for late stage lung cancer patients.

  • Rupa Narayan, MD,

    As a clinical investigator in hematologic malignancies, I am interested in developing clinical trials and implementing novel therapeutics to help improve the care and outcomes of patients with acute leukemias, MDS and antecedent hematologic disorders. I also have a specific research interest in leukemia tumor immunology and the development of immunotherapeutic approaches for patients with hematologic neoplasms.

  • Michael J. Nathenson, MD,

    As a clinical sarcoma expert, my focus is on clinical research to improve the care and outcomes for our sarcoma patients. I am involved in running and developing new immunotherapy trials for patients with soft tissue sarcomas. I am current the principal investigator at DFCI for the Alliance soft tissue sarcoma trial utilizing nivolumab and ipilimumab. Additionally, the Eribulin and Pembrolizumab clinical trial of pembrolizumab and Eribulin in leiomyosarcoma, liposarcoma, and undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma has opened and is enrolling. Furthermore, I am interested in desmoid fibromatosis, rhabdomyosarcoma, and uterine adenosarcomas, and conducting retrospective reviews of the treatment of these very rare patients at the DFCI. 

  • Matthew A. Nehs, MD,

    My research interest lies at the intersection of cancer biology, cellular metabolism, and nutrition. As a thyroid surgeon, most of my patients with differentiated thyroid cancer can be effectively treated with surgery. However, patients with anaplastic thyroid carcinoma continue to be an unsolved problem for both oncologists and surgeons alike. My training and clinical experience as a thyroid surgeon as well as my experience in a translational lab during residency have prepared me with the background to conduct this line of research. I became interested in anaplastic thyroid carcinoma when I was in the lab of Dr. Sareh Parangi as a surgical resident where we tested targeted therapies against the oncoprotein B-RafV600E in an orthotopic mouse model. At that time, it was exciting to see dramatic tumor regression by targeting a specific driver mutation. This work resulted in numerous publications and multiple presentations at the national and local levels. As a result of one of our publications2, a patient with diffuse metastatic anaplastic thyroid carcinoma was treated with anti-BRAFV600E therapy as a case report in the New England Journal of Medicine4. Unfortunately, we learned that these tumors almost always recur because of evolved resistance mechanisms and tumor heterogeneity. After completing my Endocrine Surgery Fellowship, I joined the faculty of the Department of Surgery of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. During this time, I have developed a robust clinical practice treating patients with advanced thyroid and adrenal cancers. Many of these patients with poorly differentiated and anaplastic thyroid cancer have had treatment failures and have died from their disease. These patients have been the catalyst for my translational laboratory where we have begun to study cancer as a metabolic disease and not simply a genetic one. It is through the lens of a clinician that all my scientific work stems. My work in the lab is done for the sole objective of bringing better treatments to patients with an otherwise inoperable and incurable disease.

  • Giselle K Perez, PhD,

    I am strongly committed to identifying innovative solutions to improve health care equity and outcomes among vulnerable and underserved groups. My research focuses on the development of behavioral and mind-body interventions to promote stress management and overall physical and emotional health outcomes for patients throughout the cancer spectrum. In particular, my work examines the physical, psychosocial, and biobehavioral (e.g., stress hormones) effects of stress and stress interventions among adolescents and young adult cancer survivors.

  • Srinivas Vinod Saladi, PhD,

    Our lab research interests primarily focus on understanding the mechanism by which epigenetic reprogramming contributes to cellular plasticity in tumors. His research aims to define the mechanisms in which deregulated chromatin remodeling or altered chromatin landscape act as oncogenic drivers in cancer. Epigenetic reprogramming is a key oncogenic driver event in multiple cancers, however very little is known about the deregulated epigenetic programs in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC).

    We are also interested in delineating oncogenic role of hippo signaling pathway effector, YAP1 in squamous cell carcinomas and melanoma. Hippo pathway was shown to bypass the MAPK oncogenic addiction in advanced stage of multiple cancers contributing to cancer progression. We integrate genomics, epigenetics, and signaling to dissect the mechanisms contributing to tumor maintenance and progression. 

  • Bill Sellers, MD, M.D.
    Bill Sellers, MD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
    Cancer Genetics, Developmental Therapeutics

    My lab studies the link between cancer dependencies identified through functional genomic and other approaches to the development of new therapeutics for cancer. My experience in overseeing work directed at understanding the genetic basis of cancer (e.g. co-discovery of EGFR mutations in lung cancer), understanding the molecular function of oncogenic and tumor suppressor pathways (e.g. PTEN and RB), and in leading drug discovery efforts at Novartis provides me with a unique background for overseeing projects in this arena. Most recently, I conceptualized and led the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia collaborative project between Novartis and the Broad Institute and as part of this oversaw Project DRIVE – a comprehensive assessment of gene dependency in 392 cancer cell lines. From this work, my group was among the first to discover the role of PRMT5 as a synthetic lethal interaction with the co-deletion of MTAP. Our new lab situated at the Broad Institute is currently focused on understanding the role of PRMT5 in cancer, deploying second-generation CRISPR approaches to identify new cancer dependencies and studying the role of propeller domain proteins in human cancer. At the Broad we are immersed in a highly collaborative environment replete with expert platforms that enable experimentation in these areas across a breadth of technologies. 

  • Tracey G. Simon, MD, MPH,
    Tracey G. Simon, MD, MPH (Massachusetts General Hospital)
    Cancer Epidemiology, Cancer Risk, Prevention, and Early Detection

    I am a Hepatologist and epidemiologist, with a clinical research program focused on the lifestyle, medication and metabolic factors relevant to the early detection and prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). My research utilizes large databases, population-based cohorts and health outcomes research tools to identify major modifiable determinants of HCC risk. I also have experience applying novel bioinformatics approaches to uncover genetic, molecular and metabolic risk factors for HCC. Through these efforts, I hope to develop personalized tools to improve HCC risk prediction and chemoprevention.

  • Anita K. Wagner, PharmD, MPH, DrPH,

    The Center for Cancer Policy and Program Evaluation (CarPE) within the Department of Population Medicine (DPM) serves as a catalyst for rigorous and impactful policy research across the cancer care continuum by faculty in the DPM and our external collaborators. Our mission is to generate sound evidence to inform policies and programs, for use by stakeholders in the United States and elsewhere. We leverage the diverse research expertise of DPM faculty, effectively use and expand DPM’s large population-based electronic data resources, and actively collaborate with delivery system and payer partners of the DPM.

    Within CarPE, Dr. Wagner conducts empirical research to generate evidence for answering ethically challenging health system questions related to new, highly-priced cancer therapeutics. Her work, frequently in large databases, evaluates impacts of insurance and other policy changes on the availability, access, affordability, and use of new cancer medicines, in the United States, China, and elsewhere.

  • Seth A. Wander, MD, PhD,

    I am interested in the genomic and molecular mechanisms underlying resistance to cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i) in hormone-receptor positive (HR+) metastatic breast cancer. These agents have become the standard of care in this disease, but we have little insight into the mechanisms governing response or resistance in human patients. We have been utilizing next-generation sequencing (primarily whole exome) in collaboration with our colleagues at the Broad Institute to identify putative drivers in resistant tumor biopsies. Our work has led to the identification of multiple novel mediators of resistance, which we have been validating in the laboratory in vitro. It is our hope that these results will be readily translatable to the clinic, as many of these novel resistance mediators are actionable.