Mortiz F. Kircher, MD, PhD

Dr. Kircher's goal is to develop a new nanoparticle-based technology that will allow the detection and treatment of cancer based on in vivo tumor marker expression profiling. This would enable a single cancer cell to be both imaged and killed in a single process. To date this has not been achieved, in part due to inadequate sensitivity and inability to accurately visualize the expression of multiple tumor markers simultaneously.

Piro Lito, MD, PhD

Therapies that directly target cancer-promoting oncoproteins have revolutionized the treatment of cancer. Cancers, however, are primed to adapt and evolve in the presence of treatment, resulting in an ability to resume growth despite the presence of therapy. Utilizing cutting-edge new techniques that allow the determination of genetic alterations in single cancer cells, Piro aims to understand the principles that govern the evolution of resistance during therapy and identify novel therapeutic interventions that halt this process.

Adrienne A. Boire, MD, PhD

Leptomeningeal metastasis, or spread of cancer cells into the spinal fluid, is a devastating complication of cancer resulting in rapid neurologic disability and death. With little mechanistic information to guide treatment decisions, efforts at treatment are too often futile. To address this critical knowledge gap, Adrienne will employ a translational approach to analyze patient samples utilizing multiple, complementary, orthogonal molecular strategies as tools for discovery.

Vinod P. Balachandran, MD

Despite our best current treatments, 95% of patients with pancreatic cancer, including those at the earliest stages, die within 5 years of diagnosis. By 2020, pancreatic cancer will become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., and new therapies are urgently needed. T cells are highly specialized cells of the immune system designed to protect the human body from infections and cancer. Very few T cells recognize pancreatic cancer; however, recent work showed that these T cells play a very important role in controlling the spread of pancreatic cancer.

Robert L. Bowman, PhD

Dr. Bowman focuses on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), which can be characterized by successive development of genetic mutations. While some mutations are found in nearly every cell of the disease, others are found in sub-populations and are thought to arise at later stages of disease development. It remains unclear if these late mutations are necessary for leukemic progression and are actionable therapeutic targets. He aims to develop models to test the oncogenic dependency of one of the most commonly mutated genes in AML, FLT3.

Melody Smith, MD

Bone marrow transplant (BMT) is a treatment approach where cells from a healthy donor are given to a patient with blood cancer who has not responded to other treatments. Unfortunately, there are risks to this procedure such as graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which occurs if the cells from the donor attack the "foreign" patient tissue; this can cause serious organ damage and is life-threatening. Melody is investigating an approach to decrease GVHD while also maintaining the benefits of BMT, specifically graft versus tumor (GVT).

Lydia Finley, PhD

Cancer cells frequently rewire intracellular metabolic pathways in order to support rapid proliferation. In addition to serving as building blocks for cell growth, metabolites also serve as critical substrates for enzymes that control gene expression programs. Changes in intracellular metabolites can therefore have a profound effect on cellular functions including survival, growth and differentiation. As the Jack Sorrell Fellow of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Finley found that specific intracellular metabolites promote the self-renewal of embryonic stem cells.

Alex Kentsis, MD, PhD

Dr. Kentsis [Richard Lumsden Foundation Clinical Investigator] focuses on the discovery and development of novel therapeutic strategies for patients with refractory cancers, with immediate emphasis on therapy-resistant acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Recent advances in genomic technology revealed a daunting complexity of genetic lesions in some cancers, and surprising dearth of gene mutations amenable to therapy in others.

Harihar Basnet, PhD

Dr. Basnet is investigating the mechanisms responsible for cancer relapse. During cancer progression, cancer cells can spread to secondary sites where they can stay latent for months to decades before developing into metastases. His goal is to identify the genes that are important for regulating latency in metastatic cancer cells. This study will uncover potential therapeutic targets to eliminate latent metastatic cells and thus prevent cancer relapse.