Having trouble viewing this email? View as a webpage.

Medicine - Cancer Biology E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

November 2020



2020 has been filled with change and challenges, both positive and negative. Let’s remind ourselves daily that “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and stay safe.


Getting to know you…

Faculty Spotlight

Jamshedur Rahman, M.Sc./Ph.D.
Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, Massion Lab, Allergy/Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Rahman is researching “Molecular signatures in the airways of individuals at risk for lung cancer.” The airway epithelium represents the field of carcinogenesis where stochastic DNA alterations by tobacco carcinogens and environmental agents cause lung tumor formation. We investigate these alterations by deep targeted and whole-exome sequencing of the cytologically normal airway epithelial cells collected from at-risk individuals. Our hypothesis is that airway epithelial cells of individuals at risk for lung cancer harbor driver gene mutations. Based on our previously published results on metabolic reprogramming in the bronchial epithelium of at-risk individuals, we validate selected candidate proteomic determinants of lung cancer risk. My projects’ overall goal is to identify the molecular signatures of lung tumorigenesis in the airways of risk-stratified individuals. These signatures will provide tools for the risk assessment and early detection of lung cancer and assist in the formulation of effective surveillance strategies. Using normal and tumorigenic bronchial epithelial cell lines, we investigate the link between metabolic reprogramming and genomic instability resulting from the driver gene mutations. This in vitro model will facilitate dissecting mechanisms of cellular transformation at the earliest point of lung tumorigenesis.
When not working, Dr. Rahman loves gardening and spending time with his family and friends.

Trainee Spotlight

Logan Northcutt, BS, a graduate student in the Program of Cancer Biology (Rafat Lab), has recently joined the V14 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion mentorship program committee as an ex officio, Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students. Logan is from Hoffman, North Carolina. He received his B.S. in Chemistry from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. At Morehouse College, Logan researched in the laboratory of Dr. Juana Mendenhall, where he developed therapeutic hydrogels to regenerate degraded cartilage. At Vanderbilt, Logan’s project focuses on creating synthetic microenvironments to understand tumor cell behavior better. Logan’s future goal is to become a professor at a historically black college or university. We are proud of the research Logan is doing and the impact he’s making in our communities.

Staff Spotlight

Chad Potts, BS, returned to VUMC one year ago and took a lab manager position in Brent Ferrell’s lab in Hematology/Oncology
to study clonal hematopoiesis myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and AML. Before that, he worked on medulloblastoma and cerebellar development in Anna Kenney’s lab at Emory University in Atlanta for six years and during his first stint at VUMC before that. His current work primarily focuses on characterizing mouse models of clonal hematopoiesis and AML with mass cytometry. He’s also beginning to work on single-cell DNA sequencing and establishing Dr. Ferrell’s mouse colony. Chad has nine years of bench experience, is always up for learning a new technique, and prides himself on being the lab’s Swiss Army knife. He has a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Georgia, and despite the annual cycle of hope and disappointment, he remains an avid Bulldogs fan. When not in the midst of a pandemic, Chad also enjoys frequent concerts and the occasional brewery outing. He lives in East Nashville with his wife.









Kristin A. Kwakwa, BS.
Ph.D. candidate in the Rhoades Lab recently defended her thesis in the Program of Cancer Biology. Her defense presentation was “Targeting Gli-Mediated Transcription in Bone Metastasis: An Emerging Therapeutic Approach for Patients with Tumor-Induced Bone Disease.”


FDA-AACR Oncology Educational Fellowship.

2020 may be a challenging year for some, but it has been a very successful year for Henry J Henderson III, Ph.D. (Lovly Lab). Henry was selected for the prestigious AACR-FDA fellowship. This fellowship is designed to promote scientific progress by exchanging scientific knowledge in oncology education, collaborative learning, and research. Through targeted educational activities and interactions with experts from the AACR and the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence, FDA-AACR Oncology Educational Fellows will increase their familiarity and experience with oncology drug development and the regulatory review process. Henry is also the co-founder of #BlackinCancer.  If you missed the Oct 11th-Oct 17th panel discussions for #BlackinCancer, please view the lectures here,https://www.blackincancer.com/black-in-cancer-week.

Margaret Axelrod, MSTP dual degree student in the Balko lab and a member of the Program in Cancer Biology, received a 2020 NIH award of $49,775 to research “Modulation of the anti-tumor immune response by major histocompatibility class II expression on tumor cells.” Margaret is the first author on the recently published paper in the AACR journals Clinical Cancer Research titled, “Changes in Peripheral and Local Tumor Immunity after Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy Reshape Clinical Outcomes in Patients with Breast Cancer.” Research information here. In her spare time Margaret loves to advocate for equitable access to health care @TennHCC and is an avid rock climber.


2020 Young Investigator Award Recipient: Frank M Mason, Ph.D., has received 1.3 M from Kidneycancer.org. The KCA award will research the Therapeutic Vulnerability of SETD2 mutant RCC. Dr. Mason is a Research Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Congratulations on this funding for your groundbreaking kidney cancer research.


Christine Lovly, MD, Ph.D., Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, has been named incoming chair of GO2 Foundation’s Scientific Leadership Board (SLB). Lovly, co-leader of the Translational Research and Interventional Oncology Research Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has served as an SLB board member since April 2019. Read more

Cancer Biology Science Hour.

Please join us November 11, 2020, Wednesday 4-5 PM.

“Endothelial-specific loss of glutaminase inhibits tumor growth and normalizes tumor blood vessels.”

Verra M. Ngwa, MS, Graduate Student, Chen Lab

“Targeting RAS/RAF/PI3K pathway to make melanoma tumors ‘immunologically hot’ and suitable for checkpoint blockade immunotherapies.”

Chi Yan Ph.D., Research Instructor, Pharmacology

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 982 7434 4576
Password: cancer




VICC receives ‘exceptional’ score with renewal as an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) received an overall “exceptional” score for its research impact and excellence in patient care. This achievement merits renewed funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and places it once again in a top group of NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers. The renewal of the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) provides Vanderbilt-Ingram more than $36 million over the next five years to advance research discoveries, to sustain the work of its scientific leadership and administration, and to maintain its infrastructure, including shared resources for cancer investigators. The grant renewal represents an increase in funding over the previous five-year grant award with new support for research education, training, career development, and community outreach and engagement.

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD named director of Hematology and Oncology at VICC 
 “In the relatively short period Dr. Park has been at Vanderbilt, he has implemented initiatives that are already transforming care for people with cancer both within and beyond the catchment area we serve. The VICC HOPE molecular tumor board, which he founded and leads, allows community-based clinicians to consult with our highly specialized cancer experts.  “It has been an absolute honor to have led this outstanding division during the past nine months,” Park said. “Although the pandemic has undoubtedly had its toll on patients, providers, morale and finances, our division faculty, staff, trainees, and supporters have never wavered. We have met the challenge and continue to provide world-class care for our patients and outstanding groundbreaking research and education for learners at all levels. The way our division members have responded in crisis speaks volumes about who we are and inspired me to stay as a permanent division director.


Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN)
2021 Career Development Awards
Additional Details
Due Date: November 20, 2020

Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer
Scientific Scholar Awards and Pilot Study Awards
Additional Details
Due Date: December 1, 2020

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR); Bristol Myers Squibb
AACR-Bristol Myers Squibb Midcareer Female Investigator Grant
Additional Details
Due Date: December 17, 2020

Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer
Scientific Scholar Awards and Pilot Study Awards
Additional Details
Due Date: December 1, 2020

National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Strengthening Institutional Capacity to Conduct Global Cancer Research in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (D43 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
Additional Details
Application Due Date: June 24, 2021


Quantitative and Systems Biology Seminar series

Discovery Lecture Series Calendar of Events

Discovery Lecture Series 2020/2021

Discovery Science Emerging Scholars Lectures

Flexner Deans Lecture Series 2020/2021


ABRCMS 2020 Virtual Experience. November 9th-13th.
One of the largest conferences for underrepresented minority students in STEM. Register here

The worldwide cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion dollars by 2021. The 2020 Schmidt Family Digital Technologies Lecture is November 19th at 4pm. Register here 

American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
2021 Annual Meeting- April Virtual Meeting.
Abstract deadlines November 19,2020 and January 11, 2021.
Register here

Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC)
Upcoming conference November 21st @ 8am
Register here 

Intersections Science Fellows Symposium
Upcoming conference January, 6th-8th
Application Deadline December 1st.
Register here


A Requirement for p120-catenin in the metastasis of invasive ductal breast cancer  Kurley S, Tischler V, Bierie B, Novitskiy S, Noske A, Varga Z, Zurrer-Hardi U, Brandt S, Carnahan R, Cook R, Muller W, Richmond A, Reynolds A. J Cell Sci  2020 Oct 23;jcs.250639.

Structural Optimization of Polymeric Carriers to Enhance the Immunostimulatory Activity of Molecularly Defined RIG-I Agonists
Jacobson M, Becker K, Palmer C, Pastora L, Fletcher RB et al.
ACS Central Science

Evaluation, diagnosis and surveillance of renal masses in the setting of VHL disease. Chahoud J, McGettigan M, Parikh N, Boris R, Iliopoulos O, Rathmell WK, Daniels A, et al. World J Urol. 2020 Sept 16.

Rab13 regulates sEV secretion in mutant KRAS colorectal cancer cells.
Hinger S, Abner J, Franklin J, Jepesen D, Coffey R, Patton J.
Sci Rep. 2020 Sep 25;10(1):15804.

Inhibition of αvβ3 integrin impairs adhesion and uptake of tumor-derived small extracellular vesicles. Altei W, Pachane B, Dos Santos P, Ribeiro L, Sung B, Weaver A, et al. Cell Commun Signal. 2020 Sep 25;18(1):158.

Expression of p52, a non-canonical NF-kappaB transcription factor, is associated with poor ovarian cancer prognosis.  Hufnagel D, Wilson A, Saxon J, Blackwell T, Watkins J, Khabele D, Crispens M, Yull F, Beeghly-Fadiel A. Biomark REs. 2020 Sep 15;8:45.

Drug-Tolerant Idling Melanoma Cells Exhibit Theory-Predicted Metabolic Low-Low Phenotype.  Jia D, Paudel BB, Hayford C, Hardeman K, Levine H, Onuchic J, Quaranta V. Front Oncol. 2020 Aug 14;10:1426.

A circle RNA regulatory axis promotes lung squamous metastasis via CDR1-mediated regulation of Golgi trafficking. Harrison E, et al.
Cancer Res.2020 Sep 25;canres.1162.2020.

Hydroxychloroquine as pre-exposure prophylaxis for COVID-19 in healthcare workers: a randomized trial. Rajasingham R, Bangdiwala A, Nicol M, Skipper C, Pastick K, Axelrod M, et al. medRxiv.2020 Sep 18;2020.09.18.20197327.

Sustained response to erlotinib and rapamycin in a patient with pediatric anaplastic oligodendroglioma.  Geben L, Mobley B, Brockman A, Pastakia D, Naftel R, Ihrie R, Esbenshade A. Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2020 Oct 1;e28750.

An Integrative Gene Expression and Mathematical Flux Balance Analysis Identifies Targetable Redox Vulnerabilities in Melanoma Cells. 
Paudel B, Lewis J, Hardeman K, et al. Cancer Res Oct 2020


The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of Eli Lilly’s experimental antibody treatment for Covid-19, and drug-maker Pfizer announced early data that showed its experimental vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing the coronavirus.

COVID-19 Positive Cases Vanderbilt Community Members

Convalescent plasma is a treatment in which antibody-rich plasma from the blood of a Covid-19 survivor is given to a patient with an active infection as a way of inducing passive immunity.



NIH Loan Repayment Program  Deadline: November 15

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Protect yourself from phishing.

VICC Hereditary and Oncologic Personalized Evaluation Molecular Tumor Board (VICC-HOPE-MTB). MY CANCER GENOME

Visit Discovers digital journal on the breakthroughs in research and clinical innovation that are happening at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Subscribe here to learn more about  DISCOVER 


KRT-232, is a promising new drug for patients that do not respond to the standard therapy for Metastatic Melanoma. The Richmond lab found certain genetic mutations, including one that’s routinely screened, that could serve as an indicator for which patient will respond to which therapeutic strategy. Research Discovery 


Vandana Abramson, MD, is showing new data that PARP inhibitors are promising for patients without BRCA-mutated cancers. Research is currently underway in a clinical trial led by Crispens at Vanderbilt-Ingram that uses PARP inhibitors in patients with non-BRCA mutated recurrent ovarian cancer. Learn about this  Clinical Trial Research.  


VICC to host “Lung Cancer Screening: Why it Matters.” Nov 17th,
6PM to 7PM. Speakers are Raymond Osarogiagbon, MD and
Pierre Massion, MD. Register here.



Join in the celebration of honoring our Veterans on Nov. 11th-12th.
Register here

The American Association of Immunologists online newsletter.

Picture a Scientist”, a film by Sharon Shattuck and Ian Cheney
is a feature-length documentary film chronicling a new chapter for women scientists.


This year at the 20th Annual Retreat for Cancer Research  the Program in Cancer Biology students are raising money for Gilda’s Club. The mission of Gilda’s Club is to provide a meeting place where men, women, and children living with cancer and their family and friends come together to build emotional and social support as a supplement to medical care. Gilda’s Club is a non-profit organization that offers these amazing services in a home-like setting, free of charge. If you would like to participate in the Silent Auction for Gilda’s club view the items here. Bidding begins November 12th at 8:30am and ends at 4:45 PM.



November is Native American Heritage Month. Events at Vanderbilt to recognize indigenous peoples throughout the month can be found on the attached calendar. Register here to join the zoom meetings.

Program in Cancer Biology Graduate Students Pet corner:


Jessica Roetman, BS, is a graduate student in the Cancer Biology Program (Philip Lab). Jessica adopted Michelle 6 months ago during quarantine, and her new companion has kept her company while she works countless hours on her research. 

Michelle doesn’t like Halloween costumes but enjoys digital hats! She is a spooky kitty and a lovely friend to have during 2020 covid-19. times.





Matthew Loberg, BS, is an MSTP Graduate Student in the Weiss lab and just finished Step two of the Medical Licensing Board Exams. Moose has been Matt’s study companion and enjoys white coat ceremonies. Moose wore his white coat in honor of Matts’s roommate’s recent white coat ceremony. When not supporting Matt during long hours studying, Moose likes to spend his time lounging on the screened porch and running up and down the stairs chasing after his favorite red laser pointer.


Research Assistant II Opportunity. The labs of Dr. Al Reynolds and Dr. Ann Richmond are seeking a Research Assistant II in the Department of Pharmacology. If interested please email ann.richmond@vanderbilt.edu or Al.reynolds@vanderbilt.edu for further information.


Send Us Your News

Have a suggestion, announcement or 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”. Gratitude quote credit to ~ Melody Beattie. Staff and student photo’s and articles credit to Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Convalescent plasma article credit to the New York Times. Someone’s leaked the Covid-19 Hospitalization Data credit to GIZMODO. Covid antibody and LnvCEXQwC photo credit to NCI. Vandana Abramson, MD, photo credit Daniel Dubois.

Vanderbilt University is committed to principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action.
Vanderbilt®, Vanderbilt University®, V Oak Leaf Design®, Star V Design® and Anchor Down® are trademarks of The Vanderbilt University. ©2024 Vanderbilt University. All rights reserved.