Our program draws on faculty from many different departments within the medical campus and offers a wide range of research opportunities.

Name Research Interest
Steve Anderson, PhD My lab is interested in signaling pathways that regulate mammary gland development and tumorigenesis
David Bentley, PhD Our research asks how the RNA polymerase II transcriptional machinery and RNA processing factors work together to achieve coordinated synthesis and maturation of messenger RNA (mRNA).
Benjamin Bitler, PhDDr. Bitler is committed to the fight against cancer through his work to elucidate the impact of cancer-related signaling and epigenetic regulation.
M. Cecilia Caino, PhD Our group aims to understand how mitochondria reprogramming in tumors impact cellular behaviors that drive progressive and lethal cancer. We use a broad repertoire of biochemistry, cell biology, live cell imaging and animal models to study the impact of mitochondria shape, number and subcellular distribution in metastatic dissemination.
Diana Cittelly, PhD Deciphering the mechanisms underlying increased risk of brain metastases in young women with triple negative breast cancer. These include ovarian estrogen effects on reactive astrocytes that results in paracrine activation of EGFR and TRKB signaling in brain metastatic cells.
James Costello, PhD Within the broad scope of systems biology, my lab focuses on 3 research areas: 1) Network inference for identifying drug targets, 2) Predicting drug sensitivity from -omics datasets, and 3) Modeling temporal effects of drug combinations.
Scott Cramer, PhD Prostate Cancer Tumor Suppressors, Stem Cells, Tumor Initiating cells, Signal Transduction, Receptor Signaling
Eduardo Davila, PhDOur long-term goals are to develop novel approaches for treating immunorefractory cancers and to develop predictive models and diagnostics to identify compounds that sensitize tumors to T cell-based therapies.
James DeGregori, PhD Exploring the conditions that foster somatic evolution and discovering cancer vulnerabilities.
Robert Doebele, MD, PhD The focus of my laboratory is the study of signaling, biology, biomarkers, pharmacologic inhibition, and drug resistance relating to dominant oncogenes in lung and other cancers. Currently these oncogenes include ALK, ROS1, RET, NTRK1/2/3, MET exon 14 and EGFR exon 20 insertions. Our lab uses patient-derived cell line and xenograft models as well as CRISPR/Cas9 mouse models.
Joaquin Espinosa, PhD Our main research goal is to understand how gene networks control cell behavior in homeostasis and human disease. Our two main focus areas are cancer biology and Down syndrome.
Lauren Fishbein, MD, PhDMy research interests are to understand what causes neuroendocrine tumors to form (pheochromocytomas, paragangliomas, gastrointestinal and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors). I am particularly interested in studying the inherited and tumor specific genetic changes that lead to tumor formation. The long terms goals of my research are to identify markers to predict aggressive or metastatic disease which can ultimately be used to develop therapies for prevention and/or treatment of these tumors
Heide Ford, PhD Our laboratory focuses on a specific family of homeoproteins, the Six family, and their transcriptional cofactors, Eya and Dach. The Six1 homeobox gene is overexpressed in 50% of primary breast cancers and 90% of metastatic lesions, and its overexpression
Mayumi Fujita, MD, PhDMy lab has investigated biological roles and molecular regulations of 1) IL-1, inflammasomes and autoinflammation in human melanoma and skin diseases; 2) IL-37 and immune tolerance; 3) Tumor heterogeneity and plasticity in melanoma and its therapeutic resistance; and 4) ALDH2 and melanocyte activation and melanoma.
Arthur Gutierrez-Hartmann, MD Dr. Gutierrez-Hartmann’s laboratory focuses on two main projects: (1) elucidating the molecular mechanisms governing pituitary-specific gene expression; and, (2) determining the role of Ets transcription factors in breast cancer.
Bryan Haugen, MD Thyroid Diseases; Endocrine Neoplasms
Lynn Heasley, PhD My lab investigates signaling networks involving RTKs, GPCRs, and chemokine/cytokine receptors that function as oncogene drivers and acquired/intrinsic resistance pathways to targeted therapeutics in lung cancer, head and neck cancer and mesothelioma. Our approach blends in vitro and in vivo functional genomics approaches with human and murine cancer cell line models to define both cancer cell autonomous signals as well as tumor microenvironment-derived signals that contribute to the overall sensitivity of these cancers to targeted drugs and immune therapies.
Cheng-Jun Hu, PhD To distinguish the role of HIF-1a and HIF-2a in cancer progression, our work has been focusing on these specific areas:
Paul Jedlicka, MD, PhD Currently, our laboratory is broadly interested in Epigenetics and pediatric sarcomas.
Antonio Jimeno, MD He has made a special emphasis in 1) developing better preclinical models, 2) determining predictors of response, and 3) devising ways to integrate that knowledge into clinical trials to individualize anti-cancer therapy.
Craig Jordan, PhD Dr. Jordan serves as the Chief of the Hematology Division and directs a research program focused on the development of novel therapies for the treatment of leukemia.
Peter Kabos, MD Dr. Kabos’ interest is in translating preclinical findings into novel treatments for patients with breast cancer. The Kabos lab focuses on the role of breast cancer stem cells and tumor microenvironment in treatment resistance.
Sana Karam, MD, PhD Dr. Karam’s laboratory is focused on basic and translational research related to head and neck and CNS cancer
Robert Keith, MD Dr. Keith's main research interest is lung cancer chemoprevention and early detection. He was Principal Investigator (PI) of the NCI-sponsored Lung Cancer Biomarkers and Chemoprevention Consortium (LCBCC) Iloprost Chemoprevention Trial and is the PI of an ongoing VA lung cancer chemoprevention trial evaluating pioglitazone in high risk current and former smokers. He is also the co-PI on a recently initiated chemoprevention trial examining inhaled iloprost.
Katja Kiseljak-Vassiliades, DO* My research interest is in endocrine neoplasia with focus on adrenocortical carcinoma. Our labs has generated first human adrenocortical carcinoma cell lines and patient derived xenografts in over three decades and are interested in new therapeutic targets. We have been exploring the targeting and mechanisms of several mitotic kinases, as well targeting immune checkpoints in our newly derived humanize mouse models of adrenal cancer.
James Lambert, PhD Our laboratory is investigating the potential of the small molecule drug AMPI-109 as a novel therapeutic agent for triple-negative breast cancer.
Ryan Lanning, MD, PhD* Coming soon
Shi-Long Lu, MD, PhD Role of PI3K/PTEN/AKT pathway in HNSCC progression.
Traci Lyons, PhDDr. Lyons laboratory focuses on mechanisms of lymphatic mediated metastasis of breast cancer. Specifically, utilizing mouse models to investigate developmentally regulated programs of inflammation and lymphangiogenesis that are utilized in the adult mammary gland and may be hijacked by breast tumor cells. The results of these translational studies have the potential to instruct therapy aimed at prevention of breast cancer metastasis.
Siddhartha Mitra, PhD Immune microenvironment regulation and immune evasion in brain tumors
Jeff Moore, PhD Molecular regulation of the microtubule network in cell division and disease
Neelanjan Mukherjee, PhD Systems Biology of Human RNA Regulatory Networks
Raphael Nemenoff, PhD My laboratory is focused on examining molecular pathways that regulate the progression and metastasis of lung cancer.
David Orlicky, PhD The study of lipid accumulation in non-adipocytes and how that process is regulated in multiple tissues, and in normal and pathologic situations
Philip Owens, PhD The role of BMP signaling in tumor induced bone disease; The role of BMP signaling in tumor associated lymphatics; The role of BMP signaling in tumor associated myeloid cells.
Chad Pearson, PhD Molecular basis of centriole biogenesis and stabilization for centrosomes and cilia.
Eric Pietras, PhD Dr. Pietras is a scientist who supervises a research laboratory focused on understanding the signals and molecular mechanisms that allow blood-forming stem cells to tailor their output in response to inflammation and other physiological challenges. His laboratory is also involved in understanding how these mechanisms contribute to deregulated blood production in chronic inflammatory disease and leukemia.
Rytis Prekeris, PhD The role of cell polarity during cell division, epithelial tissue morphogenesis and cancer cell metastasis
Mary Reyland, PhD Regulation of Cell Death by the Protein Kinase C Family: Implications for Tissue Damage and Tumorigenesis
Jennifer Richer, PhD The focus of my research is on the role of estrogen and progesterone receptors in breast and gynecological cancers, mechanisms of resistance to hormone therapy, and the differences between hormone dependent and independent breast cancer
Mercedes Rincon, PhD Coming soon
Carol Sartorius, PhD Our laboratory seeks to determine mechanisms unique to luminal breast cancer that allow for this adverse progression
Isabel Schlaepfer, PhD Specifically, she is interested in using clinically safe drugs from the cardiovascular/obesity field to image and elucidate prostate cancer metabolic weaknesses that can be exploited in the clinic for more effective combinatorial therapies.
Rebecca Schweppe, PhD The focus of my lab is to identify novel molecular targets relevant to papillary and anaplastic thyroid cancer (PTC and ATC) with the ultimate goal of advancing these studies to clinical trials for thyroid cancer patients who do not respond to standard treatment
Yiqun Shellman, PhD Our lab is interested in pigment-producing cell in health and disease, with the ultimate aim from bench-to-bedside for melanoma, pigmentation disorders and aging.
Daniel Sherbenou, MD, PhD Our lab specializes in translational research on multiple myeloma, a debilitating and incurable blood cancer. We are focused on developing new therapies, including both large-molecule immunotherapies and small-molecule pathway inhibitors. We are also developing approaches to personalize treatment through real-time monitoring of drug resistance development using ex vivo drug sensitivity testing.
Matthew J. Sikora, PhD The overall goal of the Sikora Laboratory is to understand mechanisms of response and resistance to steroid hormones and anti-estrogen therapies in breast cancer, with a special emphasis on invasive lobular carcinoma of the breast.
Jill Slansky, PhD Using an animal model for colon cancer, we are determining what substitutions in tumor antigen peptides improve antitumor immunity
Meredith Tennis, PhD The overall research focus of the Tennis Lab is investigating signaling pathways in premalignant lung lesions and developing lung cancer chemoprevention. Our current projects include response prediction and monitoring biomarkers for targeted lung cancer chemoprevention, characterizing mouse models of early lung cancer progression, and the role of Frizzled 9 in early lung lesions and chemoprevention.
John Tentler, PhD* As part of the Developmental Therapeutics/GI Laboratory at UCD, my research is focused on pre-clinical studies of novel, rationally-based drugs for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer, utilizing both cell culture and in vivo mouse model systems. These studies serve as a basis for therapeutic treatment options/choices for patients with advanced GI cancers in the UC Phase I Clinical Trials Program.
Tamara Terzian, PhD* My lab is focused on deciphering the role of the tumor suppressor and transcription factor p53 in developmental malformations, pigmentary disorders and in tumorigenesis. For this we are using unique and extant mouse models of the p53 pathway and 3D primary cell cultures.
Arianne Theiss, PhD The overall goal of the Theiss Lab is to elucidate the role and mechanism whereby mitochondrial signaling pathways in intestinal epithelial cells contribute to gastrointestinal diseases, specifically inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), colitis-associated cancer, and colorectal tumorigenesis.
Rajeev Vibhakar, MD, PhD, MSPH My research focuses on genetic mechanisms by which normal brain cells become cancerous and how these genetic differences can be used to better diagnose and treat children with brain tumors
Jing Hong Wang, MD, PhD Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy in the context of B cell lymphomas, and head and neck cancers
Xiao-Jing Wang, MD, PhD Molecular mechanisms of cancer: 1) Identification of biomarkers for diagnosis and therapy for human head and neck‚Äč cancer; 2) the properties of cancer stem cells, transcriptional machinery, microRNA functions; 3) Experimental therapeutics of head and neck
* indicates Associate Faculty Members