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Oncology in San Diego

Spotlight: Principal Investigators

Learn more about our Principal Investigators here at Moores Cancer Center, from their Clinical Practice Focus, Translational Oncology Research, history and hopes of Collaboration, as well as their toolbox of models they use in the laboratory. Meet them first-hand by viewing our interviews below.

If you are interested in collaborating with a Moores Cancer Center investigator, please contact Ida Deichaite.

Hatim Husain, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine

Hatim Husain, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Oncology, in the Department of Medicine at UC San Diego. Dr. Husain is a specialist in both lung cancer as well as brain tumors. His work focuses on better understanding the molecular underpinnings of cancer to determine why it forms, how to treat cancer stem-like cells, and how best to prevent metastasis to different organs of the body including the brain. He is working to develop novel therapies to target cancer in the brain and to prevent resistance to established therapies.

Keywords: .

          [+] More about Hatim Husain, MD

Milan Makale, PhD, MSEE, Project Scientist, Neuro-Oncology

Milan Makale, PhD, MSEE, is a Research Scientist-Bioengineer in Neuro-Oncology at the Moores Cancer Center. He is a member of the Basic Science and Translational Laboratory lead by Dr. Santosh Kesari.

Keywords: .

          [+] More about Milan Makale, PhD, MSEE

Olivier Harismendy, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics

Olivier Harismendy, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the division of Genome Information Sciences at the UC San Diego Department of Pediatrics and is a member of the Moores UCSD Cancer Center. He has a decade of experience in functional genomics and has been working in translational genomics for the past six years, developing assays and analysis for targeted sequencing, exploring the role of regulatory variants in common diseases, and improving the detection of somatic mutations in cancer. Most recently, Dr. Harismendy has been implementing an Ultra Deep Targeted Sequencing assay to detect low-prevalence mutations in clinical samples, with the intent of advancing research to ultimately provide a comprehensive personalized molecular profile of solid tumors.

Keywords: onco-genomics, genetic markers, epigenetic markers, targeted sequencing, high throughput sequencing, DNA adducts, cisplatin, alkylators, platinum agents.

          [+] More about Olivier Harismendy, PhD

Stephen Howell, MD, Professor of Medicine, Associate Director for Research Education and Training

Stephen Howell, MD, is a tenured Professor of Medicine with more than 35 years of experience as a principal investigator in basic science, translational research, and both investigator-initiated and industry-initiated clinical research. Over the past decade, Dr. Howell has focused on understanding the cellular pharmacology of platinum drugs, a class of chemotherapy drugs that trigger cell death in cancerous tumors, and the development of additional drug delivery systems for platinum-containing chemotherapeutic agents.

Keywords: ovarian cancer, drug resistance, platinum drugs, targeted chemotherapeutic agends, paclitaxel, RNAi, interfering RNA, CLL, CD44, multivalent ligands.

          [+] More about Stephen Howell, MD

David Vera, PhD, Professor of Radiology and Surgery, Co-Director, UCSD Molecular Imaging Program

David Vera, PhD, is Professor of Radiology and Surgery, and Co-Director of the UCSD Molecular Imaging Program at the Moores Cancer Center. His principal focus is the design and synthesis of targeted diagnostic agents capable of measuring receptor density and affinity. Dr Vera’s current research uses receptor-binding technology for sentinel node mapping of melanoma, breast, GI, and urologic cancers. The new agent, Tc-99m-DTPA-mannosyl-dextran (also called Lymphoseek or the generic name, tilmanocept), developed in collaboration with UCSD clinicians and surgeons, recently completed in a Phase III multi-center clinical trial for breast cancer and melanoma.

Keywords: sentinel node agent, fluorescent imaging agent, colon cancer, rectal cancer, prostate cancer, gynecologic cancer, radionuclidic generator, positron emission tomograph, kidney mesangial cells, high resolution pet scanner, high resolution computed tomograph, high resolution gamma camera, high resolution ultrasound machine, radiolabeling, animal imaging techniques.

          [+] More about David Vera, PhD

Rafael Bejar, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology

Rafael Bejar, MD, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. His lab is focused on understanding the genetic changes that drive the development and progression of hematologic malignancies like acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. His goal is to translate discoveries into clinically meaningful improvements in patient care with these disorders.

Keywords: hematologic malignancies, myelodysplastic syndromes, acute myeloid leukemia, AML, genetic mutations, CLIA vertified test, biomarkers, cell lines.

          [+] More about Rafael Bejar, MD, PhD

Michael Choi, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Division of Hematology-Oncology

Michael Choi, MD, is Assistant Clinical Professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. Dr. Choi is a hematologist and medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of patients with blood cancers and other blood disorders, with an emphasis on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). He is a part of UC San Diego's CLL research team, collaborating with the laboratories of Drs. Thomas Kipps, Januario Castro, and Dennis Carson to help develop new therapies for patients with blood cancers. His clinical research interests include highly targeted novel therapies that can be used to treat blood cancers in a personalize and molecularly-driven manner.

Keywords: Leukemia, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, CLL, Wnt, precision medicine, clinical trials.

          [+] More about Michael Choi, MD

David Cheresh, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Vice Chair for Research and Development, Department of Pathology, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Alliances

David Cheresh, PhD, is Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Alliances, Vice Chair of Pathology, co-director of the Solid Tumor Therapeutics Program and a Distinguished Professor. Dr. Cheresh studies the signaling networks that regulate angiogenesis, tumor growth, drug resistance and metastasis. He identified that integrin ανβ3 – a receptor on the surface of tumor-associated blood vessels – as a critical biomarker of angiogenesis. He successfully translated laboratory discoveries into biologically-based drugs that are now in various stages of clinical development. Cheresh’s research is widely published, with seven papers cited more than 1,000 times each. Most recently, Cheresh and colleagues have created a novel scaffold-based chemistry approach to stabilize kinases – growth-signaling enzymes – in their inactive state. These studies have led to the development of a first-in-class Raf inhibitor that interferes with angiogenesis signaling pathways.

Keywords: angiogenesis, tumor growth, drug resistance, metastasis, integrin ανβ3, CD61, RAF inhibitor, breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreas cancer, epithelial cancer, allosteric inhibitors, targeted therapies, receptor tyrosine kinases, mouse orthotopic models, syngeneic spontaneous tumors, patient derived xenografts, angiogenic blood vessels.

          [+] More about David Cheresh, PhD

Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, Director, Neuro-Oncology Program, Professor of Neurosciences, Department of Neurosciences

Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, is Professor of Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and Director of Neuro-Oncology at Moores UCSD Cancer Center. His research investigates the biology of gliomas with the aim of developing new therapeutics for patients with brain tumors. He has a long-standing interest in neural development and cancer stem cells and is focusing on their role in the formation of brain tumors and resistance to treatments.

Keywords: Brain cancer, brain tumors, glioblastomas, meningiomas, patient-derived xenograft models, cell lines, OLIG2, blood-brain barrier, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, nanoparticle technology.

          [+] More about Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD

Christina Jamieson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, Department of Surgery

Christina Jamieson, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology and the Department of Durgery. Her laboratory is located in the Moores Cancer Center, where she does research on urologic cancers, with a special focus on prostate cancer that has metastasized to bone, using patient-derived xenograft models and 3D in vitro models. She is applying her expertise in genome-wide analyses of prostate cancer tumors and primary patient-derived tumor models to translate next generation genomics on prostate cancers into practical applications and novel therapies that will improve and, she hopes, eventually transform patient care.

Keywords: Prostate cancer, patient-derived xenograft models, intra-femoral prostate cancer xenograft, sub-cutaneous prostate cancer xenograft, microCT imaging, bone metastasis, orthotopic models, fluorescent and MRI imaging technologies.

          [+] More about Christina Jamieson, PhD

Andrew Lowy, MD, FACS, Chief, Division of Surgical Oncology, Professor of Surgery

Andrew Lowy, MD, FACS, is a surgical oncologist with a primary interest in cancers of the pancreas, liver and GI tract. He has a specialty interest in the management of patients with metastatic disease to the liver and peritoneum. Dr. Lowy is recognized worldwide for his expertise in the surgical treatment of pancreatic cancer and for investigating novel cancer treatments which incorporate surgery and chemotherapy to treat patients with advanced cancer that has spread to the abdomen. He has furthered the development of a promising treatment known as the “chemo bath” or heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), to treat advanced abdominal cancers. Dr. Lowy serves on the editorial board of the Annals of Surgical Oncology, and is the co-chair of the National Cancer Institute’s Pancreatic Cancer Task Force.

Keywords: Pancreatic cancer, foregut malignancies, metastatic disease, peritoneal metastasis, hepatic metastasis, kinase signaling, RON receptor kinase, heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, HIPEC, patient-derived xenograft program for pancreatic cancer, patient-derived xenograft models, novel cell lines, high-resolution ultrasound model for tumor development, genetic models of pancreatic cancer, genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer, biomarker development, novel imaging.

          [+] More about Andrew Lowy, MD, FACS

Tony Reid, MD, PhD, Executive Director, Clinical Trials, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology

Tony Reid, MD, PhD, is working towards developing new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of cancer, primarily gastrointestinal malignancies including colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer and hepatobillary cancer. He has been at the forefront of using interventional radiology to selectively deliver therapeutics directly to the tumor using the tumor's own vascular supply. Dr. Reid leads the Clinical Research unit at UCSD and has pioneered the use of gene therapy and viral vectors to selectively kill tumor cells and enhance the immune response to the cancer.

Keywords: Gene therapy vectors, viral vectors, oncolytic vectors, oncolytic viruses, expression vectors, angiogenesis inhibitors, angiogenesis pathway, nitric oxide pathway, signal transduction inhibitors, EGFR pathway, PI 3 kinase pathway, mTOR pathway, transgenic models, mouse models, oncolytic vaccinia, hepatocellular carcinoma, endogenous enhancer, E1A normal tissue, Ad5 E1a transcriptional control region, E1a, E1b.

          [+] More about Tony Reid, MD, PhD

Jason K. Sicklick, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology

Jason K. Sicklick, MD, investigates the novel allosteric kinase inhibitors of drug-resistant melanoma and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs). He also studies the role of the Hedgehog developmental signaling pathway in cirrhosis and liver cancer development. He is working towards identifying novel therapeutic targets for these conditions and initiating clinical trials to investigate them.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma lines, Huh7, SK-Hep-1, PLC/PRF/5, HepG2, LX-2, Hepatocyte Line, AML-12, Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumor lines, GIST-T1, GIST882, STS-45, GIST48IM, Melanoma Lines, 1205Lu, SK-MEL-31, SK-MEL-2, SK-MEL-475, SK-MEL-487, MEL1617,MEL1617-R, 451Lu, 451Lu-R, WM-3211, patient derived xenograft models from a selection of primary Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors, Transgenic mouse models of GIST, FIT and PDGFRA activating mutations, Nod-SCID gamma (NSG) mice for engraftment studies, Transgenic mice expressing GFP-KIT.

          [+] More about Jason K. Sicklick, MD