Cancer Biology Track

Faculty and Their Research Interests in Cancer Biology

Click on the faculty member’s name for a more in-depth description of their research and publications.


Ivana de la Serna, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University Of California, Davis, 1998

Ineukaryotes, DNA is packaged into chromatin, the basic unit of which is the nucleosome.  Chromatin structure plays a critical role in the regulation of gene expression by imposing topological constraints and by creating a barrier for general transcription factors and other regulators.  Dr. de la Serna studies the functional role of mammalian SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling enzymes and their effects on muscle and melanocyte differentiation.

Kathryn Eisenmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2000

Understanding the role of Dia-interacting protein (DIP) in controlling formin (de)activation and its affects on amoeboid cell movement that may lend novel insight as to mechanisms controlling the transition towards amoeboid-based cell migration/invasion and metastasis of breast cancer cells and provide aan alternate therapeutic avenue.

J. David Dignam, Ph.D.
University of Texas, Houston, 1977

Dr. Dignam studies various aspects of nucleic acid enzymology focusing on with the structure and function of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases which are essential for protein translation and the helicase proteins of adeno-associated virus.

William A. Maltese, Ph.D. 

Professor and Chairman
Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, 1977 

Dr. Maltese’s laboratory studies the Ras-related GTP-binding proteins encoded by the Rab gene family in mammalian cells. Rab proteins are localized in discrete organelles and vesicles, where they play key roles in protein trafficking between specific donor and acceptor compartments along the exocytic or endocytic routes.  Rab proteins function in pathways that are required for cell growth, tumor metastasis, posttranslational processing of cell surface glycoproteins, and secretion of biologically important peptides.

Maurice Manning, Ph.D., D.Sc. 
University of London, London, England, 1961 

Research in Dr. Manning’s laboratory is focused on the design and solid phase synthesis of selective agonists and antagonists for the known (V1a, V1b, V2 and OT) receptors of the neurohypophysial hormones vasopressin and oxytocin.

Jean H. Overmeyer, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor
University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, 1991

I have been studying the mechanisms of Ras-induced cell death in glioblastoma cells and am currently working on identifying the mechanisms that link H-Ras activation to the formation of these macropinosomes.   Studies are underway to precisely define the downstream targets of activated Ras/Rac1 that are required to induce formation of macropinosomes that lead to cell death in gliobastomas.  Further elucidation of these mechanistic pathways will improve our knowledge of triggers to induce cell death in some types of cancers.|

Randall J. Ruch, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Medical University of Ohio, Toledo, 1988

Dr. Ruch’s research is focused on gap junction proteins to determine the role of these intercellular communication proteins in cellular growth regulation and neoplasia.  He also studies how carcinogens, toxicants, and oncogenes alter gap junctional intercellular communication.

Cynthia M. Smas, D.Sc.
Associate Professor
Harvard University, Boston, MA, 1994

Work in Dr. Smas’ laboratory addresses gene regulation and cell differentiation using two model systems: 1.) Differentiation of fibroblastic mesenchymal precursor cells to mature adipocytes that occurs in normal development but which may be accelerated in obesity; and 2.) Neuroendocrine differentiation that occurs during the course of prostate cancer and which may support a transition to androgen-independent tumor growth.

Robert J. Trumbly, Ph.D. 

University of California, Davis, CA, 1980

Dr. Trumbly’s major research interest is the mechanism of repression of transcription by the Cyc8-Tup1 complex in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  The Cyc8-Tup1 complex acts as a co-repressor, which is recruited to different promoters by interaction with several distinct repressor proteins that bind directly to DNA. 

Kandace J. Williams, Ph.D. 
Professor and Associate Dean for College of Medicine & Life Sciences Graduate Program
Director, Cancer Biology track
Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH, 1987

The discovery of mutational hot spots in the genomes of living organisms has captured the interest of several different scientific disciplines.  Because of the strong association between specific mutagenic events and neoplastic transformation, Dr. Williams’ laboratory is interested in learning the molecular mechanisms responsible for increased frequency of mutation at targeted genomic locations.

Kam C. Yeung, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor
University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL, 1990

Dr. Yeung’s laboratory studies the molecular basis of signal transduction and how extracellular signals are transduced into the transcription machinery.  During the last few years, his major research activities have been directed at de-convoluting the complex Raf/MEK/Erk signaling pathway.  He also studies the general transcription repressor, Dr1/DRAP1, and how its activity is regulated by signaling pathways.


Paul W. Erhardt, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Drug Design & Development
Professor, Medicinal & Biological Chemistry
Joint Professor, Biochemistry and Cancer Biology


Akira Takashima, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor and Chairman
Nagoya City University Medical School, Nagoya, Japan, 1981 M.D. and 1989 Ph.D.

Dr. Takashima's major research interest is in the immuno-biology of specific leukocyte subsets known as dendritic cells (DCs), which play crucial roles in the induction of both innate and adaptive immunity.  The objectives in his laboratory are:  (a) to study molecular mechanisms regulating the function of DCs (Basic Immunology), and (b) to develop novel DC-targeted immunotherapeutic (Applied Immunology).  For the first objective, Dr. Takashima's group recently developed an intravital confocal imaging system that enables real-time visualization of dynamic 3D behaviors of DCs in living animals.  To achieve the second objective, his group established a DC-based biosensor system as a high-throughput drug screening platform for the discovery of agents that deliver DC activation signals.  Not only will these ongoing studies provide important insights into the mechanisms controlling the behaviors and functions of DCs under physiological and pathological conditions, they may also lead to the development of innovative therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of cancer, infectious disease, autoimmune disorders, and organ transplantation.


James C. Willey, M.D.
Medical College of Ohio, 1978

Dr. Willey’s laboratory studies the expression of multiple genes simultaneously by quantitative, competitive RT-PCR in normal and tumor respiratory epithelial and alveolar macrophage cells. These studies have provided a molecular signature that allows for a prediction of how aggressive a tumor may become.


Marthe J. Howard, Ph.D.
University of California, Irvine, CA, 1984

The work in my laboratory focuses on growth and transcription factor regulation in the specification and differentiation of autonomic neurons.  We use modern molecular biology and cell biology techniques to assess gene regulation in avian and mouse embryos.  The overall goal of our studies is:  (1) to identify genetic regulatory networks involved in neurogenesis and expression of neurotransmitter molecules, (2) to identify cell extrinsic signaling molecules involved in neurogenesis, and (3) to understand the interplay between cell extrinsic cues and cell intrinsic patterns of gene regulation resulting in differentiation of autonomic neurons.  Howard's lab is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIDDK, NINDS).


William T. Gunning III, Ph.D.
Medical University of Ohio, Toledo, OH, 1991

Dr. Gunning’s research is focused on two distinct research projects.  One project involves experimental carcinogenesis and chemoprevention studies with the strain A mouse lung tumor adenoma model.  The second research project is clinically oriented; it is directed toward evaluation of individuals having prolonged bleeding times.


Sonia Najjar, Ph.D.
Stanford University, Redwood City, CA, 1989

Understanding the mechanisms of obesity, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Edwin R. Sanchez, Ph.D.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, 1983

Regulation of steroid hormone receptors, with emphasis on the convergence of the heat shock, immunophilin and glucocorticoid receptor signal pathways.


David C. Allison, M.D., Ph.D.
University of Michigan College of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, M.D.
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Ph.D.

Dr. Allison’s laboratory is studying the mechanisms responsible for the selection of chromosomal abnormalities in aneuploid cancers.  We are specifically testing the possibility that chromosomal abnormalities are conserved to retain cell-survival genes required for tumor-cell growth coincident with the loss of chromosomal regions containing tumor suppressor genes retarding tumor growth, or losses of heterozygosity (LOHs).  Special attention is being paid to the possibility that tumor LOHs might prove to be an important indicator for breast cancer patients.  Techniques employed in the laboratory include Gene Mapping and Expression Arrays, Spectral Karyotyping analysis of cancer chromosomes, and Laser Capture Microdissection of breast cancer cells in paraffin-embedded tissue blocks.

Keith Crist, M.D.
Associate Professor
University of California at Davis, Davis, CA, Ph.D.

Renal cell and ovarian cancers show initial objective response to first line therapy but are associated with high mortality due to recurrence of chemoresistant disease.  Chemosensitization of residual tumor by low dose chemotherapeutic drug treatment followed by IL-2 activation of host cytotoxic immune attack is a possible alternative mode of therapy.  We have demonstrated the potential effectiveness of this regimen in an in vitro system and are currently exploring expression differences between control and susceptible drug treated cells.  Use of currently approved drugs at low dosage will allow for rapid transition to clinical trials after appropriate pre-clinical work is completed.

Pre-clinical studies on chemoprevention for ovarian cancer require an animal model that yields adenocarcinomas in an experimentally reasonable time frame.  We have demonstrated that dimethylbenz[a]anthracene of high chemical purity, absorbed onto silk suture and implanted into the rat ovary yields approximately 50% adenocarcinomas in 80% of treated rats within 1 year.  Compounds with potential chemopreventive efficacy are currently being evaluated for the National Cancer Institute.  Analysis of gene expression patterns in tumors that develop are being evaluated to define alterations unique to epithelial derived tumors.  This may lead to identification of new targets for potential chemopreventive agent development.  An understanding of altered expression in adenocarcinomas may also help predict response to planned therapy for ovarian cancer following initial surgical debulking in patients that present with advanced stage disease.


Jerzy Jankun, Ph.D.

Research Professor in Physiology and Molecular Medicine Professor of Urology
Director of Urology Research Center (UT/MUO Cooperative)
A. Cieszkowski University (A.R.), Poznan, Poland, 1977

Ewa Skrzypczak-Jankun, Ph.D.
Research Associate Professor
A. Mickiewicz University, 1976

(1) Natural compounds and their interaction with enzymes.  Utilization of the natural products in the therapy and prevention of diseases.  (2) Targeted drug design, molecular modeling with a special emphasis on cancer.  (3) Structure and function of enzymes, proteins and natural products.  (4) X-ray structural analysis of molecules in single crystals, powders and thin films.


Last Updated: 6/9/16