Margaret Bennewitz, PhD
Dr. Bennewitz aims to develop novel, safe contrast agents for early detection of breast cancer that will increase diagnostic accuracy of breast MRI. She has developed Nano-, Encapsulated Manganese Oxide (NEMO) particles that will be superior replacements for clinically used contrast agents (e.g., Gd-chelates). Her preliminary data shows that NEMO particles provide a unique pH-switchable signal that is only activated upon internalization in acidic tumor cell endosomes (pH 5). No MRI signal is produced at pH of the blood (pH 7.4) or tumor extracellular space (pH 6.5). This approach allows the MRI signal to remain “OFF” in the bloodstream and only turn “ON” after NEMO particle uptake into tumor cells. NEMO particles are safely tolerated in mice and exhibit a stronger signal than Gd-chelates. During the project, NEMO particles will be further characterized in vitro and in vivo for specificity, sensitivity, toxicity, biodistribution and elimination. This work will lead to future clinical trials of NEMO particles.
Brian Boone, MD
Dr. Boone is studying mechanisms underlying the development of neutrophil extracellular traps in the pancreatic tumor microenvironment. He presented plans to characterize the NETs and explore mechanisms that underlie increased glycolysis in NET. The project also explores citrullination as a mechanism of epigenetic modulation of these processes.
Jonathan Busada, PhD
Dr. Busada’s research looks at inflammatory responses to bacterial infection in the development of gastric carcinoma. He has implicated glucocorticoid signaling using genetically engineered mouse models and has presented plans to investigate mechanisms of glucocorticoid signaling in macrophages and for protection by glucocorticoids of stomach cancer.
Michael Hu, PhD
Dr. Hu’s research interests are epigenetic mechanisms of bone marrow (BM) induced drug resistance in hematological cancer with therapeutic implications. He has identified signature genes linked to BM stroma-induced drug resistance in Multiple Myeloma (and B-ALL) and several associated transcription factors (TFs) involved in chromatin regulation. He has planned to address the mechanisms of the selected TFs and their functions in BM-induced drug resistance in silico, in vitro, and in vivo.
Tracy Liu, PhD
Dr. Liu studies strategies to modulate the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment to enhance immunotherapy response. Innate immune cells are major drives of an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. She has identified enzymes expressed specifically by innate immune cells, myeloperoxidase (MPO) and NADPH oxidase 2 (NOX2), as potential targets to inhibit the immunosuppressive activity of these cells. She plans to evaluate the contribution of these enzymes to metastatic melanoma development and immunotherapy response using a combination of genetically engineered mouse models, intravital imaging and immune cell isolation studies. This work would support the repurposed used of MPO and NOX2 inhibitors in treating melanoma with the overall goal to improve immunotherapy response in melanoma patients.