Kara L. McKinley, PhD

Dr. McKinley studies how cells change their shape and behavior to build the complex structures that comprise mammalian organs. Cellular behaviors that occur during embryonic development are frequently co-opted by cancer cells during tumorigenesis and metastasis. Her goal is to understand how the machinery within cells drives changes in tissue architecture in a developmental context, generating new insights into how these cellular processes are corrupted during cancer progression.

Vladislav Belyy, PhD

Dr. Belyy studies how cancerous cells bypass normal signaling pathways and continue to grow uncontrollably, instead of either repairing themselves or dying in response to “unfolded protein stress.” Under these conditions, normal cells have evolved to sense this type of stress and either fix the problem or, if the fix fails, die in a controlled manner to protect the rest of the organism.

Brian J. Laidlaw, PhD

Dr. Laidlaw is investigating the mechanisms underlying immune cell positioning following viral infection and tumor challenge. Localization of immune cells to particular sites within the tissue is critical for their maintenance and protective capacity upon reencountering an antigen. How immune cell migration within the tissue is regulated remains poorly understood. His studies should significantly enhance our understanding of immune cell trafficking and inform the development of new immunotherapies against cancer that modulate these pathways to promote tumor regression.

Jeffrey A. Hussmann, PhD

Dr. Hussmann is studying how translation is regulated in healthy cells and how this regulation goes awry in disease. Cells control protein abundance by modulating how frequently messenger RNAs are translated by ribosomes, but the mechanisms that determine how densely ribosomes are packed onto each individual transcript are poorly understood. He is developing experimental approaches to produce transcriptome‐wide single‐molecule measurements of ribosome density in order to advance this understanding.

Kyle G. Daniels, PhD

Dr. Daniels aims to improve the ability of engineered T cells to kill cancer. Specifically, his goal is to understand how signaling events during T cell activation determine the therapeutic properties of activated T cells. He uses synthetic immunology techniques and computational methods to search for synthetic receptors that confer desired functions upon T cells. Ultimately, he hopes to design and create receptors that improve the ability of T cells to proliferate, persist, recruit other immune cells, and kill cancer cells.

Julia C. Carnevale, MD

Pancreatic cancer may soon become the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation. While many cancers have mutations that can be targeted with specific drugs, historically no such targets had been recognized in pancreatic cancer. This changed recently with the discovery that approximately one of every four pancreatic cancers has a defect in the machinery that repairs DNA damage. For example, some have been found to have mutations in the BRCA genes as well as other similar genes involved in repairing double-strand breaks in DNA.

Jiaxi Wu, PhD

Dr. Wu is investigating the mechanism of dendritic cell (DC) missing-self recognition and migration. DCs recognize and present antigens to lymphocytes, a process that is essential for shaping host immune responses against infection and cancer. How DCs recognize altered self cells (such as cancer cells and pathogen-infected cells) remains poorly understood. These studies should significantly enhance our understanding of DC biology and eventually contribute to the development of new strategies to harness DC function for immunotherapy against cancer.