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Medicine - Cancer Biology E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

April 2020

March and April have been challenging months for Tennessee residents with the Tornado and now the  COVID-19 pandemic.  During these adverse times we have  seen the strength of friends, family, health care workers, neighbors, and strangers coming together as a community, selflessly helping each other while working together for the greater good.  Teamwork allows for synergy by combining the individual strengths of each person to create a whole that is much greater than the sum of the individual parts.  Our Vanderbilt Community has always been praised for its collegiality and collaboration, and the Crises of the last two months have called us all to become better people.


Getting to Know You…

Faculty Spotlight:

Christine M Lovly MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, Co-Leader, Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Program, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center.

Dr Lovly received a BA in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University followed by MD and PhD degrees as part of the MSTP Program at Washington University. She then completed internal medicine residency and medical oncology subspecialty training at Vanderbilt University. This was followed by an oncology fellowship, where she was the Jim and Carol O’Hare Chief Fellow. She joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in July 2013 as a Physician Scientist in the Department of Medicine, splitting her time between clinical care and laboratory research. Her laboratory research is directed at understanding and developing improved therapeutic strategies for specific clinically relevant molecular subsets of cancer.

Dr Lovly has received grant funding from NIH/NCI, Uniting Against Lung Cancer, the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Sarcoma Foundation of America, the American Cancer Society, the Damon Runyon Foundation, the LUNGevity Foundation, the V Foundation, the American Association for Cancer Research, and Lung Cancer Foundation of America / International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. She is an active member in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). She is co-Editor-In-Chief for the website www.mycancergenome.org, a Vanderbilt initiated, freely available website which aims to provide health care practitioners, patient, and advocates with up-to-date information regarding genetically informed cancer medicine. Dr Lovly is also an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and serves on the Editorial Board for Cancer Discovery.

Trainee Spotlight:

Sarah Croessmann PhD
received a dual BS/BA degree in Chemistry and Studio Art from the University of Virginia in 2009 and continued on to receive her PhD in Pathobiology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2015.  Her graduate work focused on the role of mutant TP53 and PIK3CA in breast carcinogenesis and she developed a strong background in molecular biology and genetics.  After completing her PhD, Sarah joined the laboratory of Dr Carlos L Arteaga as a postdoctoral fellow, where her research focused primarily on the genetics of breast cancer in a translational setting.  In 2018, Sarah received the Women in Cancer Research Award at the AACR Annual Meeting for her work demonstrating the role of HER2 missense mutations in the development of endocrine therapy resistance. Currently, Sarah is a Research Assistant Professor in the laboratory of Dr Ben Ho Park.  Her current work aims to address a significant obstacle in breast oncology by determining whether and when to use chemotherapy vs. endocrine therapy in patients with estrogen receptor positive metastatic breast cancer. Utilizing cell-free circulating tumor DNA from liquid biopsies, She aims to qualitatively and quantitatively identify mutations in plasma from patients with metastatic breast cancer to help guide therapeutic decisions. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys rock climbing, painting, and spending time outdoors with her fiancé and their dogs.

Staff Spotlight:

Victor S Stolzenbach BS 
Lab Manager (Weaver lab)
Victor received his BS degree from Eckerd College and joined the Weaver lab in August of 2018 to gain more technical research experience before applying to graduate schools.  Victor’s  responsibilities include maintaining the labs stock of cell culture and biochemistry reagents, performing cell culture experiments, coordinating collaborative efforts with other labs, while also working on two projects involving extracellular RNA and small cell lung cancer.  In his spare time outside of the lab,  Victor is pursuing his master’s degree, enrolled currently in Johns Hopkins biotechnology program with a graduation date of  spring 2021.  When not studying he enjoys Baseball ( a fervent Dodger fan), trivia, social outings with friends, and last but definitely not least he is quite a singer at karaoke events!!


Linda Sealy PhD:

“Promoting Academic Excellence through Community Engagement and Research Scholars Program” R25 HL 145330-01  Barnett / Sealy (Co-PIs) 01/07/19-12/31/23 NHLBI

“Fisk-Vanderbilt R25 Bridge to the Biomedical PhD Program”R25 GM107754-06A1 (Limbird/Stroud/Nelms/Sealy (Co-PIs)
07/15/2019-06/30/24 NIGMS/Fisk


Ann Richmond PhD:

“Optimizing Response to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy for Breast Cancer: A Role for Inhibitors of the PI3K pathway” 1R01CA243326-01A1 (Richmond) 11/01/2019-10/31/2024 NIH

“New Strategies for Treatment of NRAS Mutant Melanoma After Progression on Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors” 1 RO1 CA116021 (Richmond)4/1/2020-3/31/2025

SRCS Award VA Medical Center  !IK6BK005  (Richmond) 4/1/2020-3/31/2027


Jeffrey Rathmell PhD:

“Exploiting metabolic vulnerabilities of CD4 T cell subsets to control inflammatory disease” 2R01 DK105550-07  04/01/19-03/31/23 NIH/NIDDK

“Phosphatase and tensin homolog PTEN actions in polymicrobial sepsis”
2R01 HL124159-06 (Serezani) 07/15/19-06/30/23 NHLBI

“Pre-clinical Proof of Concept Studies for the Development of a PET Tracer for Imaging Human CD8+ Cells in Tumors” VUMC73435
(Manning) 07/01/19-06/30/21 GE Healthcare

” SPORE in Breast Cancer” (Core Director Rathmell)
P50CA098131-11 (Pietenpol/Mayer CO-PIs) NIH/NCI



The McKenna Award is the highest recognition award given by the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology and a lecture by the recipient is delivered at Canadian Digestive Diseases Week each year. The Award was established in honor of Richard D. McKenna who established the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology in 1962. The recipient is a recognized leader in Gastroenterology or Hematology. Congratulations to Vanderbilt’s Richard M Peek Jr, MD, Director of Medicine, Mina Cobb Wallace Chair in Immunology, Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology!

MATCH DAY 2020Vanderbilt School of Medicine

Match Day is the crowning moment of the National Resident Match Program, which matches thousands of medical students with residency programs at medical centers and hospitals across the country. On March 20, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Match Day ceremony took place via livestream. Below are trainees that have been funded by the MVTCP U54 Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Disparities and Joshua Thompson MD, PhD from our  Program in Cancer Biology. Congratulations we wish you all the best!!


 Joshua Anderson MD, will be joining  Emory University in the Department of  Radiation Oncology.





Sarah Fitzlaff MD,  will be joining Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Department of  Pathology.





Alexander Sherry  MD, will be joining WellStar Kennestone Regional Medical Center, Transitional; University of Texas MD Anderson, in the Department of  Radiation Oncology.




Joshua Thompson  MD, PhD,  from our Program in Cancer Biology will be joining Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Department of  General Surgery.




Cancer Biology Graduate Dissertation.
April 29th, 2020 at 10 AM CT

“The EphA2/Ephrin-A1 Axis Regulates Host Tumor Interactions”  is the research PhD candidate Eileen Shiuan has been performing in Chen Lab. Please attend and support Eileen by joining her defense via zoom link. Meeting ID: 953 1027 2282 Password: 023439



These beautifully painted rocks send a message to our doctors, nurses, medical professionals, staff working to feed and clean for us, who each collectively have been working tirelessly. Thank you for your hard work and dedication during these difficult times! Scattered around our Vanderbilt facilities, these rocks put a smile on our faces and for a moment we forget about the world. Who are the kind souls sending us these messages?

Meharry/Vanderbilt/Tennessee State Cancer Partnership 19th Annual Cancer Symposium. “Cancer Health Disparities: Understanding Biological, Behavioral and Social Factors.” 

CALENDAR OF EVENTS @ VANDERBILT Seminars and lectures are in the process of moving to zoom meetings. Watch for flyers via email.


VICC Science Share Seminar Series via ZOOM
Bi monthly meetings on Thursdays at noon (CT)
Next seminar May 7th

Program in Cancer Biology Science Hour via ZOOM
Wednesdays at 4 PM (CT)

BRET Virtual ZOOM meetings


VUMC is teaming up with academic, governmental and corporate partners in an unprecedented, fast-tracked global effort to develop antibody-based treatments to protect people exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Read more

VUMC seeks plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. Please take a moment to complete the redcap survey if you have tested positive.
Read more

Please subscribe to “Ask an Expert:COVID-19”
at Vanderbilt University



Modeling clear cell renal cell carcinoma and therapeutic implications
Melissa Wolf, Kimryn Rathmell, Kathryn Beckermann
Oncogene March 2020

TBCRC 032 IB/II Multicenter Study: Molecular insights to AR antagonist and PI3K inhibitor efficacy in patients with AR+ metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. 
Brian D Lehmann, Vandana Abramson, Melinda Sanders, et al.
Clinical Cancer Research OnlineFirst Dec 10, 2019 DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-2170

Pathogenic Germline Variants in Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer
Kelsey Stuttgen, PhD, Sarah Croessmann, PhD, et al.
JAMA Oncol. 2019;5(10):1506-1508

Modulation of sulfur assimilation metabolic toxicity overcomes anemia and hemochromatosis in mice.
Andrew Hale, Rachel Brown, Zigmund Luka, et al.
Adv Biol Regul. 2020 Jan 26:100694

Gas6/MerTK signaling is negatively regulated by NF-κB and supports lung carcinogenesis
Novitskiy SV, Zaynagetdinov R, et al.
Oncotarget. 2019 Dec 17; 10(66): 7031-7042

WDR5 is a conserved regulator of protein synthesis gene expression
Bryan AF,  Wang J, Howard GC, et al.
Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Jan 30

GP130 Cytokines in Breast Cancer and Bone.
Omokehinde T, Johnson RW
Cancers (Basal). 2020 Jan 31;12(2)

Development of a novel murine model of lymphatic metastasis.
Banan B, Beckstead JA, Dunavant LE, et al
Clin Exp Metastasis. 2020 Feb 12

Long Term Outcomes for the Treatment of Paragangliomas in the Upfront, Adjuvant, and Salvage Settings with Stereotactic Radiosurgery and Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy.
Anderson J, Khattab M, Anderson C, Sherry A, Luo G, Manzoor N, et al
Otol Neurotology
. 2020 Jan;41(1):133-140.

Charting the Fragmented Landscape of Drug Synergy
Christian T. Meyer, David J. Wooten, Carlos F. Lopez, and Vito Quaranta
Cell Press. February 26,2020

Hyperoxia Injury in the Developing Lung is Mediated by Mesenchymal Expression of Wnt5A
Sucre JMS, Vickers KC, Benjamin JT, et al
Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2020 Feb 5

Quantitative Analysis of Oncology Professional Learning Preferences.
Thomas J George, Rami Manochakian, Marie Wood et al.
JCO Oncol Pract. 2020 Feb;16(2):e155-e165.



Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China: Summary of a Report of 72 314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wu Z, McGoogan JM. JAMA. 2020 Feb 24

Lung Cancer surgical management during the outbreak of COVID-19
Cafarotti S, et al. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. April 11, 2020



NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE):

The mission of the NIH OITE is to help trainees develop the skills they will need to become leaders in the biomedical research community. They focus on six core competencies: career exploration and job search skills; communication (writing, speaking, grant writing); teaching and mentoring; leadership and management; the responsible conduct of research; and wellness. VIRTUAL NIH ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINEES OUTSIDE THE NIH


NIH graphics policy:
The NIH will soon adopt a policy prohibiting the inclusion of graphics in the Abstract or Specific Aims sections of grant proposals. The policy will not take place until it is formally announced, but in the meantime, applications that include graphics in these sections will receive a warning upon submission. This warning has no effect currently on application review.


NIH ORCID ID requirement:
The NIH now requires that applicants for individual fellowship and career development awards have an ORCID ID linked to the PD/PI’s eRA Commons personal profile.


NIH guide:
If you have not already done so, you are encouraged to subscribe to the NIH Guide email list, which provides a weekly update on NIH grant programs and requests for proposals. Subscribe here


Free lists of grants and fellowships around the world available online.
Three Searchable databases provide information on global opportunities for graduate students, postdocs and junior faculty. Read more

What to do when your grant is rejected. Failed funding applications are inevitable, but perseverance can pay dividends. Read More


BRET Office of Career Development

Vanderbilt Hustler

Welcome to Drug Discovery Online

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

Tools for Grant Writing

Department of  Cell and Developmental Biology

Events at Vanderbilt

VUMC Reporter News

Vanderbilt Magazine

Vanderbilt Program for Extracellular Vesicle Research 

Know your CORE facilities at VUMC/VU

VICC Education, Training and Career Development


Attendance for this event was up 10% from last year as the Symposium participants have followed the work of the key note speaker Scarlett Lin Gomez PhD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Everyone enjoyed a scientific boost from her lecture,  Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Cancer Health Disparities Research.” 

Oscar Miller PhD, Department of Sociology, Tennessee State University presented information on “Developing and Sustaining Effective Community Engagement.”  Christine Lovly MD, PhD,   Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center gave an informational lecture on “Precision Medicine in the care of patients with Lung Cancer”.  Amos Sakwe PhD, and Josiah Ochieng PhD, from the Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology at Meharry Medical College discussed the “Heterogeneity of Triple Negative Breast Cancer and Responses to Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors” and the “Role of futuin-A (ahsg) in Tumor Progression.”  

Best Overall Poster Prize in Honor of Steven N Wolff, MD:

Jamie Shing PhD candidate (Hull lab) VUMC


Graduate Student Poster Winners:

R to L: Wendy Wilburn BS TSU-1st place.
Logan Northcutt PhD candidate (Rafat Lab)  VU- 1st place.
Dominque Parker PhD candidate (Yull lab)  VU – 2nd place.
Symposium organizers,  Venkataswarup Tiriveedhi PhD (TSU), Sonya Reid MBBS (VUMC)  and Melinda Aldrich PhD, MPH (VU)


Postdoctoral Research Associates Poster winners:

R to L: Toran Kirkland, TSU undergraduate trainee.
Carly Bess Williams-Scalise PhD, (Richmond lab) VU – 1st place.
Thanigaivelan Kanagasabi PhD, MMC( not pictured) 2nd place.
Vijaya Bharti MD, PhD (Vilgelm Lab) VU – 3rd place.




Pierre Massion MD, and his hardworking team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Please take a moment to learn about their research and understand Dr. Massion’s work in the area of Detection of Early KLung Cancer Among Military Personnel (DECAMP) Read more




Dr Xiao-Ou Shu MD, PhD
Men with breast cancer are more likely to die than their female counterparts, across all stages of disease, with the disparity persisting even when clinical characteristics, such as cancer types, treatment and access to care are considered, according to a study by Vanderbilt researchers published in JAMA Oncology.

Read more


Alissa Weaver MD, PhD,  and her hardworking lab team and many collaborators on their new grant that provides ~$9 million over 5 years to enable investigations into the packaging of extracellular RNA into vesicles. Read more




Marjan Rafat PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has been awarded a Young Investigator Grant by the Breast Cancer Alliance. The two-year, $125,000 award will allow Dr Rafat and her research group to investigate how radiation influences tumor and immune cell recruitment in triple negative breast cancer. The project involves developing a 3D tissue model in which researchers can control and visualize cell behavior after radiation damage. Read more




James R Goldenring MD, PhD Supporting Careers in Research for Interventional Physicians and Surgeons Physician-Scientist.
Institutional Award (SCRIPS). Vanderbilt has received a five-year, $2.5-million Physician Scientist Institutional Award from the Burroughs Welcome Fund to help bolster the dwindling number of active physician-scientists in the United States. Read More

Martha Dudek MS, LCGC
Co-Leaders: Nancy Cox PhD and Tuya Pal, MD
Masters of Genetic Counseling Program. Read More

Kimryn Rathmell MD, PhD Oncology Nurse Practitioner Training Program
Focused upon facilitating successful transitions to practice and enabling nurse practitioners to immerse themselves in specialty practice settings, Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Nurse Practitioner (NP) Fellowship program provides post-graduate clinical and educational experiences.
Read More

Chris Williams MD, PhD and Patrick Hu MD Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) Physician Scientist Training Program (PSTP) Harrison Society . Read More





Kimberly Dahlman PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Recipient of the Excellence in Teaching award. The DENIS M. O’DAY AWARD for Team-Implemented Curriculum Reform.

David Cortez PhD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and Professor of Biochemistry, Recipient of the Outstanding Contributions to Research award. The STANLEY COHEN AWARD for Research Bridging Diverse Disciplines, such as Chemistry or Physics, to Solve Biology’s Most Important Fundamental Questions.  

William Tansey PhD, Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology and Biochemistry, Outstanding Contribution to Research award.  The JOHN H. EXTON AWARD for Research Leading to Innovative Biological Concepts.   

Leora Horn MD, MSc, Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research and Associate Professor of Medicinereceived The GRANT W. LIDDLE AWARD for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Research: 



Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center regularly solicits applications for pilot funding to support basic, translational, clinical or collaborative cancer research. Pilot funds allow investigators to collect preliminary data to support an application for independent research support through extramural, peer-reviewed funding. Over the past five years, the Cancer Center awarded $4.1 million to fund 98 pilot projects. This investment led to the acquisition of more than $41 million in extramurally funded grants – a 985 percent return on investment.

Calls for proposals are distributed throughout the year by email, online, and in campus publications. Award amounts and submission deadlines vary. All pilot project awards are funded for one-year periods. Read More

VICC GI SPORE funding opportunities for additional information
inquire here

American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant Funding opportunities  inquire here

National Comprehensive Cancer Network Funding opportunities
inquire here


Innovative Transnational Research Shared Resource, Where the cancer clinic meets the laboratory….

The Innovative Transnational Research Shared Resource (ITR) at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center partners with oncologists, and laboratory and non-laboratory researchers, to guide, manage, and facilitate pre-clinical and clinical trial laboratory discoveries. Our goal is to advance the translation of research into improved anti-cancer therapies.

Custom projects accepted! Our broad experience in cancer clinical trials, genomics, biochemistry, and cell biology allows us to pursue your unique research project. We leverage ITR resources, other Vanderbilt Shared Resources, other academic institutions, and/or companies to achieve your goals. Please contact Kimberly Dahlman PhD or Jamye O’Neal  MS to discuss your project at  615-936-0410. Read more

Flow Cytometry Shared Resource
We enjoy state-of-the-art digital instrumentation maintained at the highest standards we can attain. This quality control allows researchers to sort cells at high efficiency and purity under the proper conditions or to run analytical experiments with as many as 17 different fluorochromes simultaneously. We are dedicated to providing the best service and training possible to ensure the best results attainable for our research scientists and physicians. Please investigate the pages of this website to address your scheduling needs and questions relating to flow cytometry research, methods and fees. Please feel free to contact David K. Flaherty BS, Managing Director, with any questions you may have. david.k.flaherty@vumc.org or 615-343-8323 (Laboratory)
Read more

Creative Data Solutions
(CDS) is a fee-for-service shared resource that provides bioinformatics and informatics research services to the Vanderbilt community. From fixed-workflow services to deeper collaborative engagements, its vision is to help with discovery, publishing, and funding. Bioinformatics expertise includes bulk and single-cell RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, variant identification and analysis, data visualization, and algorithm development. Informatics services include web and API programming, software engineering, and database development. Please visit the CDS website or contact the core director, Jean-Philippe  Cartailler PhD.
Read more


Have a suggestion for a Cancer Biology newsletter item? Do you have an announcement or an upcoming event you want to share with the Cancer Biology community? E-mail: kerry.w.vazquez@vanderbilt.edu

Newsletter header photo credit to Dr Anna Vilgelm, “DNA Comets”. Campus color spring photo credit to Joe Howell. Community members working together to rebuild after the Tornado photo credit to Mark Zaleski from the Tennessean. Linda Sealy photo credit John Russell/VU. Painted Rocks photo credit to Reed Omary. Photo credit and articles credit to VU and VUMC.

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