Students & Research

Years stated as of July 2016

Sally Adua

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Nguyen  | Student Profile

Mechanisms of lung cancer metastasis and resistance to target therapies with an emphasis on the role of the tumor microenvironment.

Deborah Ayeni  

Year: 6  | Mentor: Politi  |  Student Profile

Understanding the Effects of Loss of the Tumor Suppressor Gene, p53 on Mutant EGFR Lung Adenocarcinoma Initiation and Metastatic Progression 

Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer-related death in the US and worldwide. Studies have identified mutations in proto-oncogenes (like the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor, EGFR) and in tumor suppressor genes (like p53) in lung adenocarcinomas, the most common of the four histological subtypes of lung cancer. In particular, mutations in the EGFR gene have been shown to play a role in tumor initiation and maintenance and we hypothesize that p53 mutations and/or loss contribute to tumor progression.  Although more than fifty percent of patients with lung cancer have metastatic disease when they are diagnosed, factors that contribute to the spread of the primary lung adenocarcinoma to distant sites are yet to be well understood.  Using mice with mutant EGFR transgenes and constitutive p53 deficiency, the goal of my project is to identify the genes and mechanisms that underlie metastatic spread.


Gregory Breuer 

Year: 4  |  Mentor: Ranjit Bindra | Student Profile

Nicole Calabro

Year: 6  |  Mentor: Kyriakides |  Student Profile

The mechanisms behind TSP2’s regulation of angiogenesis and arteriogenesis


Wesley Cai

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Yan and Nguyen  | Student Profile

Targetable epigenetic drivers of basal breast cancer and lung adenocarcinoma metastasis through in vivo screening

Nathan Fons

Year: 4  |  Mentor: Bindra | Student Profile

Targeting the biological and tumorigenic properties of PPM1D, H3F3A, and ACVR1 mutations in the context of DIPG and other pediatric high-grade gliomas.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPGs) and other pediatric high-grade gliomas are devastating diseases, with no current effective therapies. My work focuses on modelling key genetic alterations which drive the proliferation of these tumors, and studying the complex biological interactions that ultimately result in glioma formation. Using insights gained from our ongoing studies, we hope to find novel therapeutics which specifically target these driving mutations and halt the development and progression of DIPGs and other terrible childhood brain tumors.

Molly Gale

Year: 5  |  Mentor: Yan  | Student Profile

Epigenetic reprogramming of breast cancers in resistance to HER2-targeted therapies

Resistance to anti-cancer drugs is a significant clinical problem. The goal of my thesis work is to identify strategies to combat the development of drug resistance by investigating epigenetic mechanisms. My work has two main aims. The first is to identify inhibitors of an epigenetic protein called KDM5A, which is known to be involved in anti-cancer drug resistance, as well as tumorigenesis and metastasis. Using a high-throughput screen, we identified and characterized a potent and specific inhibitor that was able to stop drug resistance to two different targeted therapies in two different types of cancer cells. The second aim is to identify epigenetic regulators of resistance to targeted therapies of HER2+ breast cancer. We are characterizing epigenetic changes that occur during the development of resistance as well as performing a functional short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screen to identify specific epigenetic proteins important in drug resistance. The goal is to identify new potential therapeutic targets or clinically useful biomarkers.


Bomiao Hu

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Politi  | Student Profile


Alanna Kaplan 

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Peter Glazer | Student Profile


Irina Krybaeva 

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Marcus Bosenberg 

Britta Kunkemoeller

Year: 5   |  Mentor: Kyriakides   | Student Profile

 The role of thrombospondin-2 in diabetic wound healing

Impaired wound healing is a major complication of diabetes, and leads to the development of chronic wounds in millions of diabetes patients. Treatment strategies for these wounds are limited due to incomplete understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. Thrombospondin-2 (TSP2) is a matricellular protein expressed by fibroblasts during the proliferation and remodeling phases of wound healing. Its abnormal expression is associated with significant changes in dermal healing rate. Increased expression of TSP2, as observed in eNOS KO and aged mice, is associated with slow healing, while wounds in TSP2 KO mice heal more quickly than those of wild type mice. We have observed that TSP2 expression is increased in the wounds of diabetes patients, which suggests that TSP2 plays a role in wound healing in diabetes. My research focuses on exploring the mechanisms regulating TSP2 expression in diabetes and TSP2's putative contribution to the delayed healing observed this disease.  

Jade (Xiuqi) Li

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Finberg  | Student Profile

Metabolic Consequences of Iron Dysregulation

Iron is a micronutrient that is essential for life. Altered iron homeostasis is associated with iron deficiency or iron overload. While iron deficiency impairs many processes in the body, including red blood cell production, iron overload can cause oxidative damage to organs such as the liver, heart, pancreas. For my thesis project, I will use genetic models to investigate the role of iron in various metabolic processes, and the negative health consequences when iron homeostasis is disrupted.

Xiaoni Liu

Year: 4  |  Mentor: Bosenberg 

Characterization of the role and regulation of intratumor heterogeneity in melanoma.

Yuting Liu

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Rimm  | Student Profile

The role of PD-L1 expression on immunocytes

PD-L1 has been discovered as an escape mechanism of multiple tumors to avoid attack from our immune system, through binding to the PD-1 receptor. However, immunocytes, such as macrophages and NK cells, are also able to express PD-L1. Divergent hypothesis on the role of PD-L1 expression on immunocytes have been proposed. We will use detective methods to look into the possible roles of PD-L1.

Lauren Moore

Year: 6  |  Mentor: Rimm  | Student Profile

Biomarker and cellular studies of neuronal calcium sensor-1 in breast cancer

Susan Scanlon 

Year: 5  |  Mentor: Peter Glazer | Student Profile


Jackie Starrett

Year 2  |  Mentor: Politi 

Analysis of the role of mTOR pathway activation in acquired resistance to lung cancer targeted therapies, with an additional focus on the tumor immune microenvironment

Laura Stevens

Year 7  |  Mentor: Ngyuen  |  Student Profile

Lung adenocarcinoma (ADC) is the most common subtype of lung cancer, and even when diagnosed at early stages, metastases can occur to distant organs. This propensity to metastasize suggests that a subpopulation of malignant cells with high metastatic potential may emerge in a subset of primary tumors. Cancer stem cells have been identified in the lung, but these cell populations are heterogeneous, and although they are all capable of propagating tumors, they display varying degrees of metastatic potential. Previous computational analysis from our lab has shown that genes associated with alveolar differentiation can stratify a cohort of primary lung ADCs into two distinct classes, a differentiated alveolar-like and a stem-cell like class. This stem-like signature classifies patients with poor survival, which indicates it may mark a dedifferentiated cell type that has enhanced metastatic capabilities. My project will focus on identifying biomarkers that are differentially expressed in both the stem-like signature and in our experimental models to identify the origin of metastasis propagating cells in lung ADCs and determine their fate upon disseminating from the primary tumor. I will also determine the putative role of these biomarkers in mediating functional interactions between subpopulations of metastatic cancer stem cells and their microenvironment.


Jackie Starrett

Year 2  |  Mentor: Politi 

Analysis of the role of mTOR pathway activation in acquired resistance to lung cancer targeted therapies, with an additional focus on the tumor immune microenvironment


Durga Thakral

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Marcus Bosenberg 

Investigation of the immune response to melanoma through bioinformatic analysis of tumors and immune cells over time

Emily Wingrove

Year: 3  |  Mentor: Nguyen  | Student Profile

Inhibiting epigenetic modifiers of the WNT pathway to suppress lung cancer metastasis


Pok Fai Wong

Year: 2  |  Mentor: Rimm  | Student Profile