Having trouble viewing this email? View as a webpage.

Medicine - Cancer Biology E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

March 2021

Spring is officially here and the days are longer!!
Please take time for yourself to enjoy nature and all of its beauty!


Getting to know you…

Faculty Spotlight

Javid Moslehi, MD. Associate Professor of Medicine Director, Cardio-Oncology Program
Co-Director, Vanderbilt Program for Optimizing Immuno-oncology Therapy (V-POINT)

Dr. Moslehi is a cardiologist and myocyte biologist. His clinical focus is cardio-oncology (the cardiovascular care of cancer patients and cancer survivors). His laboratory addresses myocardial responses to various stresses including hypoxia, aging and toxins. Over the last several years his laboratory focus has been  delineating the mechanistic underpinnings of cardiovascular toxicities from novel targeted cancer therapies. Dr. Moslehi believes because of the targeted nature of the toxicities, cardio-oncology can provide insights into novel signaling pathways that are relevant in human cardiovascular biology and pathology.
Dr. Moslehi was recently named the first chair of the American Heart Association (AHA) cardio-oncology subcommittee. At Vanderbilt, he has  established a Graduate Medical Education (GME) approved fellowship training the next generation of physician-scientists in the field of cardio-oncology. The Program in Cancer Biology is delighted that Dr. Javid J Moslehi has joined our community. 

Trainee Spotlight

Maria Fernanda Senosain Ortega, BS
Mafe was born and raised in Lima, Peru. She received her B.S. in Biology from Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia and did a summer internship as part of the former VISRA program in Dr. Pierre Massion laboratory. She then returned to Vanderbilt as a graduate student through IGP and joined the Massion Lab. Mafe’s project aims to investigate early lung adenocarcinoma behavior through the integration of biological, clinical and radiomics data to improve the discrimination between indolent and aggressive tumors which in turn may offer novel and personalized avenues for intervention. During her doctoral training, she has acquired vast experience in computational biology and data science, allowing her to pursue opportunities in these fields. She was selected to do a summer internship in bioinformatics at the biotech company Arcus Biosciences, where she was mentored by Vanderbilt Alumni Dr. Akshata Udyavar. She was awarded the Chateaubriand Fellowship, a grant offered by the Embassy of France in the US which supports outstanding PhD students from American universities. This allowed her to conduct research at the Cancer Research Center of Toulouse (CRCT) under the guidance of Dr. Vera Pancaldi and her bioinformatics team. During this fellowship, she worked on developing computational methods to understand the biological differences between indolent and aggressive lung adenocarcinomas. In her free time, Mafe enjoys working out, reading and traveling.

Staff Spotlight

Summer Brown, MA
Program Manager
Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology.
Summer moved from Indiana to attend Vanderbilt University where she triple majored in English & Medicine, Health and Society, & also Chemistry. She was a member of the Vanderbilt Swim team and swam in the SEC Championship for four years! Summer earned her Master’s degree in Medicine, Health and Society. She joined the Vanderbilt Center for Immunobiology (VCI) as the Associate Program Manager in July, 2019 and plays a central role to manage all aspects of the VCI. Some of her major activities include managing the TIPs supported Human Immunology Discovery Initiative program, the Immunological Mechanisms of Disease T32 Training Program, and coordinating VCI events and symposium, including regular meetings of the Tumor Microenvironment and Immunology series and Immunology Journal Club. Summer also has led the VCI’s efforts in faculty recruiting, the IRB-approved protocol for healthy blood collections and distribution to the Vanderbilt immunology community, and all of the VCI’s events and communications. She lives in Nashville and is an ongoing presence in the athletic department, including arranging Jerry Stackhouse to attend the Immunology Journal Club to judge this year’s Halloween costume contest!

Please join the Program in Cancer Biology LinkedIn Group here






Amanda Hesterberg, Brenda Rios and Elysa Wolf
( Graduate trainees in the Hurley lab)
recently published a paper in the Journal of Pathology titled, ” A distinct repertoire of cancer-associated fibroblasts in enriched in cribrirorm prostrate cancer.”  The findings from this study highlight the substantial heterogeneity in CAF subtypes enriched in prostate cancer. This study further supports that a distinct population of rare fibroblasts in benign pros-tate stroma are selectively enriched in the cribriform prostate tumor microenvironment. In addition, distinct gene expression programs may be induced in existing fibroblasts adjacent to cribriform prostate cancer. It is likely that cribriform prostate cancer has a unique tumor microenvironment that distinguishes it from other Gleason pattern 4 morphologies and other Gleason grades. Read article here.



The Program in Cancer Biology Science Hour every Wednesday at 4PM. Join meeting here

Inaugural Conference-Metabolism, Immunity and Inflammation of the Mid-South. Virtual meeting @8am, April 16, 2021. Register here

American Association of Immunologist Virtual Immunology 2021 meeting, May 10-15th, 2021. Register here

2021 AACR Annual Meeting. April 10-15 and May 17-21 Register here.


Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Lecture series 

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology News and Events

Quantitative and Systems Biology Seminar series

Discovery Lecture Series 2021

Discovery Science Emerging Scholars Lectures

Flexner Deans Lecture Series 2021



Genome-wide CRISPR screen identifies noncanonical NF-κB signaling as a regulator of density-dependent proliferation Maria Fomicheva, Ian Macara. eLife 2020 Nov 13;9.

Incorporating Both Genetic and Tobacco Smoking Data to Identify High-Risk Smokers for Lung Cancer Screening
Guochong Jia, Wanqing Wen, Pierre Massion, Xiao-Ou Shu, Wei Zheng.
Carcinogenesis, bgab018

Circulating Myeloid Regulatory Cells: Promising Biomarkers in B-Cell Lymphomas. Juliette Ferrant, Faustine Lhomme, Simone Le Gallou, Jonathan Irish, et al. Front Immunol. 2021 Feb 2;11:623993

The delta isoform of PI3K predominates in chronic myelomonocytic leukemia and can be targeted effectively with umbralisib and ruxolitinib
Matthew Villaume, M Pia Arrate, Haley Ramsey, et al. Exp Hematol. 2021 Feb 19;S0301-472X(21)00089

Triple-Negative Breast Cancer: Breast Tumors With an Identity Crisis
Sara Nunnery, Ingrid Mayer and Justin Balko. Cancer J. 2021 Jan-Feb 01;27(1):2-7

LncRNAs: Promising new targets in pulmonary fibrosis
Zhang S, Chen H, Yue D, Blackwell TS, Lv C, Song.J Gene Med. 2021 Feb 3:e3318.

Paradigm-Shifting Research in Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition: A Top 20 List of Articles Published in 2020 Corley DA, Peek RM Jr, Simpson BA. Gastroenterology. 2021 Jan 14:S0016-5085(21)00087-1

Definition of a small core transcriptional circuit regulated by AML1-ETO
Stengel K, Ellis J, Spielman C, et al. Molecular Cell, Vol 81, issue 3, Feb 2021, pages 530-545

Pushing the boundaries with collision collaboration: the marriage of ideas
Rathmell JC, Rathmell WK. J Clin Invest. 2021 Jan 19;131(2):e145964

Inertial-based Fluidic Platform for Rapid Isolation of Blood-borne Pathogens
Batcho EC, Miller S, Cover TL, McClain MS, Marasco C, Bell CS, Giorgio TD. Mil Med. 2021 Jan 25;186(Suppl 1):129-136.

Disruption of the integrin-linked kinase (ILK) pseudokinase domain affects kidney development in mice
Bulus N, Brown KL, Mernaugh G, Böttcher A, Dong X, Sanders CR, Pozzi A, Fässler R, Zent R. J Biol Chem. 2021 Feb 1:100361.

Claudin-2 inhibits renal clear cell carcinoma progression by inhibiting YAP-activationBalawant Kumar, Rizwan Ahmad, Giovanna Giannico, Roy Zent, et al. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Feb 23;40(1):77.

NCCN Guidelines Insights:Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer, Version 2.2021 
David ettinger, Douglas Wood, Dara Aisner, et al.J. Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2021 Mar 2;19(3):254-266.

Scientific Rigor in the Age of COVID-19 Shyr Y, Berry LD, Hsu CY. JAMA Oncol. 2021 Feb 1;7(2):171-172.


Meet the members of the Program in Cancer Biology DEI Committee. Our goal is to foster an inclusive, equitable learning environment, to encourage diverse ideas and opinions in the field of cancer biology, and to promote cancer-related career trajectories both within and outside of academia. We condemn racism and expressions of hate, bias and discrimination in all forms.
We recognize how recent violent attacks on Asians and Asian Americans, including the horrific shootings in Atlanta, have deeply affected members of our Vanderbilt community. If any member of our community has experienced harassment or bias, we want to know as part of our efforts to create and sustain an inclusive community. The University Counseling Center is here to help all students who are experiencing high levels of stress during these unprecedented times. For more information about on campus resources and reporting acts of discrimination please reach out to the resources here. Equal Opportunity and Access Office, or visit Vanderbilt University’s website  Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. 



Jamaal James, PhD, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology (Balko Lab)

Jamaal is a postdoctoral fellow from Vicksburg, MS. He completed his PhD in molecular medicine at Penn State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Alcorn State University. Cell Mentor from Cell Press and Cell Signaling Technology has recognized Jamaal as one of the top 100 inspiring Black Scientists in America! He is studying aggressive forms of melanoma and breast cancer to understand how they respond to immunotherapy drugs to reverse tumor growth and improve patient survival. These drugs may target the tumors themselves, the immune system, or both. They are also using genetic tools to identify common alterations amongst patients who develop drug resistance. These findings will allow us to improve prognostic accuracy, find new therapeutic targets, and develop drug combinations and treatment regimens tailored for each patient. Jamaal enjoys collaborating with Alcorn State University alumni as a panelist and mentor to assist Biology and Chemistry majors explore different scientific career options. Outside of work, he enjoys playing flag football, shooting pool, traveling to Alcorn football games, and spending time with his son, Bryce.



Victoria Ng, BS (Lee lab)
defended her thesis’s titled, ” Ubiquitylation in Canonical Wnt Signaling” on March 12th. The Wnt pathway is an evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway present in all metazoans. During early development, Wnt signaling coordinates the formation of tissues, organs, and limbs. Its misregulation leads to a variety of human diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders and cancers. Notably, over 90% of colorectal cancers contain mutations in the Wnt pathway. In the Lee lab Victoria was interested in understanding the basic mechanisms by which a Wnt signal is propagated and modulated. The studies directly add to the field of Wnt signaling through basic biology and will inform the development of novel therapeutics in Wnt-driven diseases.


Zachary M Sandusky, PhD (Lannigan Lab) presented his thesis, “Estrogen receptor alpha and p90 ribosomal S6 kinase in homeostasis and disease”. Zachary’s research is focused on the mechanisms controlling estrogen signaling and understanding how they are hijacked to drive breast cancer. Zachary is now continuing his research on regulation of estrogen signaling as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Myles Brown at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. Read more about Zachary’s recent research here (Star Protoc., 2021, PMID: 33490986) (Cell Rep., 2020, PMID: 32697984).


The Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center Presents Women’s History Month Events
To learn more about upcoming Women’s History events for 2021, please check out the calendar of events here. NOTE: Multiple events are available to attend. RSVP for events here




Frank Mason, PhD, (K Rathmell lab) worked collaboratively with colleagues from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University to discover the ” Dynamics of hydraulic and contractile weave-mediated fluid transport during Drosophila oogenesis.” Fluid flow plays an important role during oogenesis. From insects to mice, oocytes mature by acquiring cytoplasm from sister germ cells, yet the biological and physical mechanisms underlying this transport process remain poorly understood. To study the dynamics of “nurse cell dumping” in fruit flies, they combined direct imaging with flow-network modeling and found that the intercellular pattern and time scale of transport are in accordance with a fundamental hydraulic pressure law. Changes in actomyosin contractility are observed only in the second phase of nurse cell dumping as surface waves that drive transport to completion. These results show that tandem physical and biological mechanisms are required for complete and directional cytoplasmic transport into the egg cell. PubMed article read here



Portia L. Thomas is an MD, PhD student from Meharry Medical College who works in the laboratory of Christine Lovly, MD, PhD investigating small cell lung cancer. Portia has worked very hard and has had an amazing year career wise! She recently published a paper in Cancer Discovery, “A Call to Action: Dismantling Racial Injustices in Preclinical Research and Clinical Care of Black Patients Living with Small Cell Lung Cancer.”  Portia was awarded the 2020 VICC Annual Scientific Retreat top poster prize as well as an AACR Minority Scholar in Cancer Research Award. In addition, at the 2021 Targeted Therapies of Long Cancer meeting (IASLC) Portia was selected for a Best Fellow Oral presentation; talk entitled “Identifying B7-H6 as a Prospective Immunotherapy Target in Small Cell Lung Cancer.” Portia was selected as co-chair for The NCI CSBC/PS-ON/BD-STEP Junior Investigator 2021 Meeting. Her first-author manuscript entitled “Beyond PD-L1: B7-H6 emerges as a potential immunotherapy target in small cell lung cancer” has been preliminarily accepted for publication into the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.  Portia’s dissertation defense was on March 19th titled, “Evaluating the immune microenvironment in small cell lung cancer using multi analytical platforms.”  The Program in Cancer Biology salutes you as a rising star in the fight against cancer.



Sign up here! The next training date for the semester April 7th, 10am – 2pm.




Funding Opportunities at VICC:

NCI Development of Innovative Informatics Methods and Algorithms for Cancer Research and Management (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)
NCI (RFA-CA-21-013) Additional Details
Due Date: June 8, 2021 and November 17,2021

NCI Early-Stage Development of Informatics Technologies for Cancer Research and Management (U01 Clinical Trial Optional)
NCI (RFA-CA-21-014) Additional Details
Due Date: June 8, 2021 and November 17,2021

NCI Advanced Development of Informatics Technologies for Cancer Research and Management (U24 Clinical Trial Optional)
NCI (RFA-CA-21-015)Additional Details
Due Date: June 8, 2021 and November 17,2021

NCI Sustained Support for Informatics Technologies for Cancer Research and Management (U24 Clinical Trial Optional) NCI (RFA-CA-21-016)
Additional Details  Due Date: June 8, 2021 and November 17,2021

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  Due Date: June 24, 2021


Ever have the desire to discuss that awesome podcast you recently listened to? Well, now you can!  The first discussion is on March 24th from 2pm – 3pm and will center around topics from the featured podcast, Dare to Lead: Eric Mosley with Brené on Making Work Human (rehumanizing the workplace and harnessing the power of social recognition). To participate, please listen to the designated podcast episode, sign up here to reserve your seat, and gather with us virtually to discuss the episode in more depth. Podcasts will rotate, to offer opportunity for community members to engage with different topics, hosts, and ideas.


Send Us Your News

Have a suggestion, announcement or event  you want to share with the Cancer Biology community?
Newsletter header photo credit to Dr. Anna Vilgelm, “DNA Comets”. Photo and article credit to VU and VUMC. Spring photo credits to Kasia Serbin and 596777612085-420f5ed7c1be @ Unsplash

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.