Early Career Investigators

Early Career Investigators

Rebecca C. Arend, MD

Assistant Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center

Education: MD, Albert Einstein, New York, NY
OBGYN residency: Columbia Presbyterian, New York, NY
Gynecologic oncology fellowship: University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL

Research Description

The overarching goals of my research are to understand tumor immune response to alterations in specific molecular pathways both in the tumor and in the tumor microenvironment. My basic and clinical research interests are focused on development of novel combination therapeutic approaches using targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy for treatment of patients with ovarian cancer. Specifically, I’m focusing on overcoming immune evasion by targeting the WNT pathway and ways to prime the immune systemic to change a “cold” tumor into a “hot” tumor so that they are more responsive to immunotherapy. Using syngeneic ovarian cancer mouse models, I am exploring sequencing and timing of therapy and investigating the specific effects on the microenvironment and specific subsets of immune cells. In addition, I am using human samples and genomics to better understand the relationship between Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) to T regulatory cell ratios and gene expression in Homologous Recombination Deficiency and other conical cancer pathways.

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Erinn Bruno Rankin, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Stanford University

Education: PhD, Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Postdoc, Radiation Oncology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Research Description

The tumor microenvironment plays a key role in promoting tumor progression, metastasis, and resistance to therapy.  Hypoxia, or low oxygen tensions, is a hallmark feature of the tumor microenvironment that plays a central role in tumor initiation and progression.  Clinically, hypoxia and activation of hypoxic signaling is associated with poor patient survival, metastasis, and drug resistance. The Rankin Lab studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which hypoxia promotes tumor progression, metastasis and drug resistance with the goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

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Juan R. Cubillos-Ruiz, PhD

Assistant Professor of Immunology in Obstetrics & Gynecology
Member, Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center
Weill Cornell Medical College

Education:  Ph.D.: Tumor Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
Post-doc: Harvard School of Public Health and Weill Cornell Medical College.

Research description:

My research integrates immunology, cancer biology, genetics and nanotechnology to understand and disable the mechanisms that ovarian cancers use to paralyze and manipulate the protective function of immune cells. We currently focus on characterizing the role of abnormal stress responses in tumor-infiltrating immune cells, and we seek to exploit this knowledge for devising the next generation of targeted immunotherapies for ovarian cancer.

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Sophia HL George, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami

Education: PhD, Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Postdoc: Princess Margaret Cancer Center, Ontario, Canada and Duke University, Durham, NC

Research Description

The George lab studies Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer syndrome, with the goal of understanding the effects of inherited genetic mutations on the fallopian tube epithelia and their involvement in the development of high-grade serous ovarian cancer. We hope to characterize the functional interplay between DNA damage response genes and antioxidant systems in early events in the fallopian tube epithelia as it is important to both prevention and chemotherapy resistance. Understanding the mechanisms that preneoplastic fallopian tube epithelia and ovarian cancer cells employ to circumvent oxidative stress and drive tumorigenesis will improve our ability to prevent and supplement treatment modalities.

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Neil Johnson, PhD

Assistant Professor Fox Chase Cancer Center

Education: BSc, Genetics and Biochemistry, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2002
PhD, Cancer Biology and Therapeutics, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 2006
Postdoctoral training, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Geoffrey Shapiro mentor, 2006-20013

Research description:

Our research involves investigating factors that enable cancer cells containing BRCA mutations to carry out homologous recombination DNA repair and survive DNA damaging agent chemotherapy. Several factors may contribute to homologous recombination DNA repair proficiency in BRCA mutant tumors. We are examining the ability of mutant BRCA1 proteins to contribute to homologous recombination in cancer cells.

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John Liao, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health (OBGYN) Member, Masonic Cancer Center (MCC)

Education: PhD, University of Lausanne & University of Ferrara (Pharmaceutical Chemistry), Postdoctoral training at the Department of Pathology of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Research Description

My current research combines expertise in both the biology of ovarian cancer and pharmaceutical chemistry for the discovery of personalized medicine for women affected by cervical and ovarian cancer for which conventional chemotherapy is not a satisfactory option. Specifically, we study Personalized therapies for ovarian cancer resistant to conventional chemotherapy treatment, Combinatorial chemotherapic treatment for ovarian cancer, Targeting of metabolic pathways for ovarian and cancer treatment, and the Role of Natural Killer (NK) cell in ovarian cancer.

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Karen McLean, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Gynecologic Oncology, University of Michigan Medical Center

Education: MD and PhD, Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI; Residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Research Description

My research laboratory performs translational research characterizing the role of the tumor microenvironment on ovarian cancer growth, with the goal of identifying new targets for treatment for women with this disease. Specific areas of focus include defining and inhibiting growth-promoting signals from microenvironment mesenchymal stem cells to the cancer cells as well as the interaction between these signals and estrogen signaling.

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Geeta Mehta, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

Education: PhD, Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Postdoc, Biological Engineering, MIT, Cambridge, MA

Research Description

The ultimate goal the research being conducted in my lab is to develop novel therapeutics to increase cancer cure rates for ovarian cancers and decrease patient suffering. My lab is dedicated to understanding how intercellular interactions and mechanical stimulation within the tumor microenvironment, impact cellular phenotypes in carcinogenesis, by creating and utilizing specific engineered microenvironments To enable this goal, we have created a 3D physiologically relevant high throughput multicellular spheroid model of ovarian cancers. Our in vitro and in vivo models not only advance fundamental biological studies, such as, recurrence of tumor after primary chemotherapy, but are also applied towards finding novel and more efficient drugs against ovarian cancer.

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Anirban K. Mitra, PhD

Assistant Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Medical Sciences Program Indiana University School of Medicine
Associate Member Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center 

Education: Post-Doctoral Fellowship University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Ph.D. University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India

Research Description:

My laboratory seeks to understand the paracrine and juxtacrine interactions between cancer cells and their microenvironment that regulate metastatic colonization in ovarian cancer. We are using in vitro organotypic 3D culture models, live 3D time-lapse microscopy and mouse xenograft models of metastasis along with cell and molecular biological approaches to study the reciprocal interactions between the metastasizing cancer cells with their microenvironment at the site of metastasis. We are specifically interested in the regulation of key microRNAs and transcription factors by these paracrine/juxtacrine interactions and the mechanism by which they drive metastatic colonization in ovarian cancer.

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David P├ępin, PhD

Assistant Professor, department Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Pediatric Surgical Research Laboratories.

Education: Post-doctoral fellowship: Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Doctorate: University of Ottawa, Canada.

Research Description

My laboratory studies the role of Mullerian Inhibiting Substance in female reproductive development and its application in the treatment of ovarian cancer. We are pursuing translational aspects of those discoveries such as single-cell transcriptomics and gene editing screens to identify synthetic lethality in chemoresistant ovarian cancer, and rapid target validation using viral and nanoparticle-based gene therapies in patient-derived xenografts.

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Wa Xian, PhD

Assistant Professor, Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, Houston, TX

Education: PhD, MD Anderson Cancer Center/ University of Texas (Molecular Genetics), Postdoctoral training at the Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Research Description

My laboratory addresses the problem of intratumor heterogeneity and chemotherapy resistance in high-grade ovarian cancer by developing technologies for generating patient-specific libraries of cancer stem cells (CSCs).  Individual CSCs share 80% of the copy number variation with all other clones in the library, and each can generate tumors in immunodeficient mice with histology identical to the patient’s resected tumor.  Our findings to date show that these libraries contain clones that are highly resistant to standard of care chemotherapeutics.  We are examining the possibility that these resistant clones mirror those responsible for recurrent disease and that these clones are reliable surrogates for identifying appropriate therapeutics for their elimination.   

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Yang Yang-Hartwich, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences School of Medicine Yale University

Education: Ph.D., Microbiology, Nankai University, China. 
Postdoctoral training, Tumor Biology, Yale University.

Research Description:

My research interest focuses on the origin of ovarian cancer. We use cell and animal models to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the initiation of ovarian cancer. Currently my lab is working on understanding the influence of ovulation-associated factors at the early stage of ovarian cancer initiation. Furthermore, we also investigate the role of menopause in the development of ovarian cancer at cellular and molecular levels. Our goal is to discover new early detection markers and therapeutic targets in order to improve the survival rate of ovarian cancer patients.

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Dmitriy Zamarin, MD, PhD

Assistant Attending Physician, Gynecologic Medical Oncology and Immunotherapeutics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Education: MD/PhD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY
Internal medicine residency: Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY
Medical oncology fellowship: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

Research Description

My basic and clinical research interests are focused on development of novel immunotherapies using locoregional and systemic approaches for treatment of patients with ovarian cancer. Specifically, I’m focusing on oncolytic viruses, a novel class of immune therapeutics that can activate anti-tumor immunity through multiple mechanisms.  By studying the interaction of genetically engineered oncolytic viruses with the tumor microenvironment in mouse tumor models, the goals of my research are to identify pathways of immune response and adaptive immune resistance and to develop novel therapeutic combinations targeting these pathways directly within the tumor and systemically. 

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