A photo of Andrey Bobko.
Andrey A. Bobko, BS, MSc, PhD
West Virginia University
Positions
Research Assistant Professor, Biochemistry
Member, WVU Cancer Institute Research Programs
Phone
304-293-5240

Andrey Bobko, PhD

The importance of the tumor microenvironment (TME) in tumor progression, invasion, and therapy is widely recognized. Intermittent and hypoxic oxygenation (pO2) and extracellular acidosis (pHe) of tumor tissues are among the most established hallmarks in solid TME, while extracellular inorganic phosphate (Pi) has been recently identified as a new signaling molecule of importance in tumorigenesis (a marker of metastatic potential). We are working on the development of theranostic multifunctional paramagnetic trityl probes for in vivo monitoring of basic physiological parameters using electron paramagnetic resonance-based techniques These probes will be designed to have minimal toxicity, antiangiogenic (block formation of new blood vessels) therapeutic effect and functional sensitivity to oxygenation (pO2), acidity (pH), and inorganic phosphate (Pi). These probes will be used for assessment of TME parameters and therapy efficacy in patient-derived tumor mouse models (samples of real human tumors which are grown in mouse) with different metastatic, invasion, and growth rate potential. We expect to find TME prognostic footprints of tumor metastatic potential and therapy outcomes.

A photo of Christopher Cifarelli.
Christopher P. Cifarelli, MD, PhD, MMM, FAANS, FACS
West Virginia University
Positions
Director Gamma Knife; Associate Professor, Neurosurgery
Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Member, WVU Cancer Institute Research Programs
Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology
Phone
304-598-6127

Christopher Cifarelli, MD, PhD

Radiation plays a pivotal role in the care of patients with most brain tumors, especially glioblastoma.  Despite aggressive surgical removal of tumor followed by radiation and chemotherapy, glioblastoma is a universally fatal disease.  The development of strategies to improve the effectiveness of radiation during the initial treatment of patients with glioblastoma gives the opportunity for improved survival compared to our current standard of care.  The Cifarelli laboratory focuses on identifying markers on the tumor cells and within the tumor microenvironment that help to predict tumor response to radiation, allowing for treatment optimization by changing parameters of radiation delivery, such as total dose and dose rate.  Our goal is to develop a clinically relevant predictive model for radiation response in glioblastoma that can help to guide clinical teams in care for patients with this devastating disease.

A photo of Ivan Martinez.
Ivan Martinez, PhD
West Virginia University
Positions
Associate Professor, WVU Cancer Institute Research Laboratories
Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology
Member, WVU Cancer Institute Research Programs
Phone
304-581-1934

Ivan Martinez, PhD

In the last six decades, most of our cancer research has been focused on the importance of protein coding genes and their mutations at the DNA level. However, we know now that only 1-2% of our genome encodes for proteins while most of the human genome (98%) expresses RNAs known as non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). This “universe” of ncRNAs contains tens of thousands of RNA molecules with unknown functions, leading researchers to call them the “dark matter” of biology. The Martinez laboratory focuses on the importance of ncRNAs, such as non-coding circular RNAs (circRNAs) in the process of carcinogenesis in human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers including cervical cancer and head and neck cancers. HPV has the ability to change the expression of human genes and our laboratory is been able to discover that HPV is also able to change the expression of human circRNAs as well as produce its own “viral circRNAs.” Our goal is to identify the molecular functions, biological interactions and potential prognostic and diagnostic marker benefits of these types of circRNAs in HPV-related cancers.

A photo of Emidio Pistilli.
Emidio Pistilli, PhD
West Virginia University
Positions
Associate Professor, Human Performance - Exercise Physiology
Associate Professor, Microbiology, Immunology & Cell Biology
Member, WVU Cancer Institute Research Programs
Director of Admissions, Office of Research and Graduate Education, Research & Graduate Education
Phone
304-293-0291

Ed Pistilli, PhD

Immunotherapies and cytokine-based therapies have the potential to enable a patient’s own immune system to attenuate tumor growth. The cytokine interleukin-15 (IL-15) has been shown to promote NK cell maturation and CD8+ T cell numbers, making this cytokine an attractive supportive therapy for cancer patients. In addition to these effects in the immune system, we have established a role for IL-15 in promoting mitochondrial biogenesis within skeletal muscle, which would increase a skeletal muscle’s resistance to fatigue. Therefore, experiments in the laboratory are focused on these dual roles for IL-15 during tumor growth: 1) mechanisms of IL-15 in altering the tumor microenvironment by promoting tumor infiltration of NK cells and CD8 T cells; and 2) mechanisms of IL-15 in promoting mitochondrial biogenesis within skeletal muscle to attenuate muscle fatigue commonly experienced in cancer patients. We utilize a combination of cell biology methods, small animal pre-clinical models, and cancer patient tissue biopsies in our experiments. The long-term goals of the laboratory are to acquire robust data on the dual roles of IL-15 that can be translated into new therapeutic options for cancer patients, targeting the immune system and skeletal muscle.  

Research Forrest