Academics & Research

Immunology, Inflammation, & Infectious Disease (3i) Initiative

Cancer Bridge

Djordje Atanackovic, MD

Title:  Associate Professor - Internal Medicine (Hematology/BMT)

Our goal is to develop novel immunotherapies for different types of solid tumors and hematologic malignancies with a focus on Multiple Myeloma. This includes antibody-based and cellular immunotherapies such as CAR T cells and TCR-transduced T cells. We have also developed a number of techniques for the detailed immunomonitoring of clinical trials with novel immunotherapeutic agents.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy, tumor immunology, CAR T cells, TCR-transduced T cells, monoclonal antibodies

Email:  Djordje.Atanackovic@hci.utah.edu

Srividya Bhaskara, PhD

Title:  Associate Professor - Radiation Oncology

Dr. Srividya Bhaskara performed her post-doctoral research work at Vanderbilt University. Her post-doctoral work for the first time showed unconventional functions for mammalian histone deacetylases in genome stability. Her lab at HCI focuses on elucidating mechanisms by which HDACs control genome stability and normal B-cell functions such as VDJ recombination and germinal center reactions. Her lab also performs therapeutic studies for hematological cancers such as leukemia and germinal center derived diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: histone deacetylases, DNA repair, immune response, cancer therapeutics and hematopoiesis, B-lymphocyte development 

Email:  Srividya.Bhaskara@hci.utah.edu

Mary Bronner, MD

Title:  Professor - Pathology

My research involves molecular diagnostic anatomic pathology and biomarkers of cancer risk in chronic inflammatory gastrointestinal diseases, particularly idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease.  

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, molecular diagnostics

Email:  mary.bronner@aruplab.com

Lisa Cannon-Albright, PhD

Title:  Professor - Internal Medicine (Genetic Epidemiology)

Dr. Cannon-Albright innovatively analyzes extensive genealogic resources like the UPDB to define the familial clustering of health-related phenotypes, to better understand co-morbidities, to identify high-risk pedigrees, and to find the responsible predisposition genes (e.g. BRCA1/2, CDKN2A, GOLM1). She is creating a national genealogy resource linked to VHA patient data to expand her research. 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: genealogy, UPDB, pedigree, predisposition gene

Email:  lisa.albright@utah.edu

Xinjian Chen, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Pathology

We study targeted therapy in combination with immunotherapy for cancer treatment, using graphene oxide-formulated anticancer antibodies along with tumor-targeted delivery of immune cytokines. Our goal is to convert tumor necroptosis into tumor vaccine in situ to overcome intratumor tolerogenic microenvironment. We also investigate mechanisms of cancer cell necroptosis brought about by graphene oxide-formulation anticancer antibodies.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: anticancer antibodies, graphene oxide, necroptosis.

Email:  xinjian.chen@path.utah.edu

Mingnan Chen, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry

We are interested in invention of immune tolerant peptide and protein materials for medicine. We also integrate principles of immunology, protein engineering, and drug targeting to develop immunotherapeutics. 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: immune tolerated materials, vaccine, cancer immunotherapy, autoimmunity, protein engineering, drug development.

Email:  mingnan.chen@utah.edu

Samuel Cheshier, MD, PhD

Title:  Associate Professor - Neurosurgery

My research focuses on promoting macrophages to specifically target and "eat" pediatric brain tumors. We aim to combine immune-therapies and standard of care treatments to promote macrophage phagocytosis of tumor cells.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: macrophage, immune-therapy, CD47, medulloblastoma, pediatric, brain tumor

Email:  samuel.cheshier@hsc.utah.edu

Mike Deininger, MD, PhD

Title:  Professor - Internal Medicine (Hematology/BMT)

Our lab is interested in the biology of myeloid malignancies, such as chronic and acute myeloid leukemia. We aim to understand the mechanisms governing malignant transformation, identify vulnerabilities and exploit these weaknesses as therapeutic targets. 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: myeloid malignancies, leukemia, targeted therapy, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, cancer metabolism

Email:  Michael.Deininger@hci.utah.edu

Kimberley Evanson, MD, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Pathology

The overarching goal of the Evason laboratory is to investigate mechanisms involved in liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC) in order to develop improved therapies. Our main experimental model is the zebrafish, which represents an excellent model system for studies of human HCC, given the powerful genetics and large brood size of this vertebrate animal, as well as the histologic and genetic similarities between zebrafish and human HCC. 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: Zebrafish, liver, cancer, Wnt, beta-catenin

Email:  Kimberley.Evason@hci.utah.edu

Gabriel Fine, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Radiology and Imaging Sciences

Our goal is to develop novel immunotherapies and optimize delivery methods for solid tumors. We are currently targeting hepatocellular carcinoma using cellular therapies such as TCR-transduced T cells. We are also investigating optimal delivery methods and in vivo imaging assessments of efficacy to ultimately improve treatment responses and diminish toxicity.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy, interventional oncology, interventional radiology, CAR T cells, TCR-transduced T cells, monoclonal antibodies  

Email:  Gabriel.Fine@hsc.utah.edu

Matt Firpo, PhD

Title:  Research Associate Professor - Surgery

Firpo's cancer research interests focus on improving intervention and detection strategies for pancreatic cancer. In collaboration with multiple cancer investigators, much of Firpo's efforts involve projects designed to investigate the underlying biology of pancreas cancer. The ultimate goal of these projects is to provide supporting justification for subsequent clinical uses.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: pancreatic cancer, therapeutics

Email:  Matt.Firpo@hsc.utah.edu

Ahmad Halwani, MD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Internal Medicine (Hematology/BMT)

My research focuses on understanding efficacy and safety of novel therapeutics in patients with lymphoma. I also research informatics approaches to leverage electronic health record data to optimize patient care.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: CLL, lymphoma, and health care.

Email:  Ahmad.Halwani@hsc.utah.edu

Tim Luetkens, MD

Title:  Research Assistant Professor - Internal Medicine (Hematology/BMT)

We are developing novel cellular and antibody-based immunotherapies targeting hematologic and solid malignancies. In addition, we are working on different strategies to increase the selectivity of these approaches for malignant cells to reduce their toxicity.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: cancer immunotherapy, CAR T cells, TCR T cells, monoclonal antibodies, protein engineering

Email:  Tim.Luetkens@hci.utah.edu

Charles Murtaugh, PhD

Title:  Associate Professor - Human Genetics

Research in my lab focuses on development and disease of the mammalian pancreas, using mouse models as well as human cell lines and tissues. Of particular interest is the relationship between differentiation, inflammation and tumor susceptibility.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: pancreas, pancreatitis, cancer

Email:  murtaugh@genetics.utah.edu

Deborah Neklason, PhD

Title:  Research Associate Professor - Epidemiology

Deborah Neklason syndrome is an inherited predisposition to colon, endometrial and other cancers due go inherited mutations in mismatch repair genes (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2). 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: Lynch syndrome; cancer; inflammation; t-cell mediated immunity

Email:  deb.neklason@hci.utah.edu

Trudy Oliver, PhD

Title:  Associate Professor - Oncological Sciences

The Oliver Lab develops mouse models of all subtypes of lung cancer including adenocarcinoma, squamous and small cell lung cancer. Our primary interests include investigating the role of the tumor immune microenvironment in lung cancer, particularly the function of neutrophils. We have identified a role for cell fate specifiers SOX2 and NKX2-1 in regulating distinct immune microenvironments in subtypes of non-small lung cancer. In addition, we have shown that small cell lung cancer is composed of distinct molecular and therapeutically-relevant subtypes, which is driven by MYC status. Our expertise includes preclinical drug testing in mice, small animal imaging, and tumor biology.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: tumor immunity, lung cancer, mouse models, neutrophils, MYC, SOX2, single cell sequencing, gd T cells

Email:  Trudy.Oliver@hci.utah.edu

Minna Roh-Johnson, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Biochemistry

Cancer cells hijack mechanisms of normal development. In a complex milieu of an animal, in which there are many different signals from many different cells, how does a cell parse through this information to know when and where to migrate? Our long term research goal is to identify these signals, how they are communicated, and how they are interpreted into a downstream response to regulate cell motility during development and cancer. We use a combination of animal models (zebrafish and mouse) and cell culture based models, taking advantage of the strengths of each system to answer outstanding questions in cancer cell biology.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: tumor microenvironment, cell migration, cell-cell communication, macrophages, zebrafish, mouse

Email:  roh-johnson@biochem.utah.edu

Cornelia Ulrich, PhD

Title:  Professor - Population and Health Sciences

The Ulrich group works on colorectal cancer prevention, biomarkers and survivorship, capturing lifestyle data along with multiple –omics and other biomarkers. 

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: colorectal cancer, inflammation, aspirin, metabolomics, microbiome, adipose tissue, epidemiology, prognosis

Email:  neli@hci.utah.edu

Matthew VanBrocklin, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor - Surgery

We have developed novel picornaviruses that preferentially target tumor cells and are assessing their ability to promote host anti-tumor immunity. We are assessing local and systemic factors that contribute to viral/tumor response and resistance in order to improve therapeutic strategies for multiple human cancers.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: immunotherapy, oncolytic, virus, checkpoint, cancer, B7-H3

Email:  matthew.vanbrocklin@hci.utah.edu

K-T Varley, PhD

Title:  Assistant Professor, Oncological Sciences

The Varley Lab uses genomics to discover biomarkers and pathways associated with prognosis in breast cancer patients. We have found that cancer cells can express an immune pathway that induces an anti-tumor immune response. We are developing a biomarker test and immunotherapy strategies to harness this discovery in order to improve patient care.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: cancer, genomics, immunotherapy 

Email:  K-T.Varley@hci.utah.edu

Alana Welm, PhD

Title:  Professor - Oncological Sciences

We investigate breast cancer metastasis and how the tumor microenvironment, such as the host immune system, facilitates metastatic outgrowth. We utilize a number of in vivo models, including patient-derived models, to discover new mechanisms and test new therapies.

3i Bridge/Pillar: Cancer

Keywords: breast cancer, metastasis, tumor microenvironment, tumor immunology

Email:  Alana.Welm@hci.utah.edu