Having trouble viewing this email? View as a webpage.

Medicine - Cancer Biology E-Newsletter [Vanderbilt University]

May 2021



Vanderbilt University graduating class of 2021, we wish you joy in all your future endeavors and congratulate you on your great success!  Your drive, determination, intelligence, creativity and hard work resulted in this exceptional achievement. We are proud to share in the excitement of your accomplishments! Congratulations today and best wishes going forward.


Getting to know you:
Faculty Spotlight:

Stephen J. Brandt, MD
Professor of Medicine (Emeritus)
Vanderbilt University has honored Dr. Brandt  with the title of emeritus faculty! Dr. Brandt received his BS from Duke University, MD from Emory University, residency training in internal medicine at the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, and fellowship training at Duke. He joined the faculty at Vanderbilt in 1990 as Assistant Professor and readily rose to full Professor with tenure.  He also was a Staff Hematologist and Stem Cell Transplant Attending physician at the Nashville VA Medical Center. He served for 20 years as Director and Clinical Director of the Stem Cell Processing Lab. Dr. Brandt’s research resulted in more than 65 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals. His honors included the Lucille P. Markey Biomedical Scholar Award, election to membership in the American Society for Clinical Investigation, being named Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science. In addition he received a Nobility in Science Award from the Nashville chapter of the MDS Foundation, and a Hematology-Oncology Fellow Teaching Award. Dr. Brandt will resume teaching Hematology-Oncology fellows on a part-time basis and work with Rizwan Hamid and Ying Cai in Pediatric Genetics. He also plans to be involved in the Health Professions Advisory Program at the University of the South Sewanee, directed by Dr. Alyssa Summers, a Cancer Biology graduate student of Hal Moses. In addition, he enjoys keeping tabs on his one-year-old Australian Shepherd, Aly Grace and traveling to his cabin on the Cumberland Plateau. Thank you Dr. Brandt  for your dedication to the fight against cancer!

Trainee Spotlight:

Ebony Hargrove-Wiley, BS
(Fingleton Lab)
Congratulations Ebony on your recent Graduate Research Fellowship award from the National Science Foundation!
Ebony, a graduate of Tuskegee University, joined the Fingleton lab in May 2020. Despite all the difficulties associated with the pandemic this past year, she has developed an exciting dissertation project. Her research aims to define the tumor immune microenvironment in male breast cancer and identify sex-related immune profiles and responses to male and female breast cancer treatment. This will be done using mouse models as well as tissue microarrays from human patients. In her spare time, Ebony loves thrifting and watching the latest movies and documentaries. She is also active in the Organization for Black Graduate and Professional Students on campus, serving in an executive position. 

Staff Spotlight:

Bin Bo (Edward) Zhuang, MBA, MIS Engineer, MCP
Has a role as senior IT Specialist where his challenge is to take care of everything related to IT.  Edward provides users with the necessary information and tech specs of PC/Mac and peripherals before purchasing them. He coordinates with the upper-level management to fully understand and meet the users needs; he strictly follows the network and IT policies of the organizations while building up and configuring the equipment. As a Senior IT Specialist, Edward handles on-call services for  28 Labs and the Department Administrative team (POD3) along with several conference rooms. In his role, he takes care of more than 93 stand-alone printers and scanners! Edward has a delightful personality, patience, excellent communication skills and a detail-driven attitude. Thank you for being an intricate part of our department, working in the background to keep our IT running smoothly. Your hard work makes our jobs that much easier and more enjoyable! Edward moved from Beijing, China, to the United States in 1990 and began his career at Vanderbilt University in 1996. In his free time, he enjoys his family, especially his new grandson Max! Edward loves working with his hands and utilizing his engineering mind at home, from car repairs to all house projects.



Please join us in Welcoming our 2021 Graduate Student’s to the Program in Cancer Biology!



Pawan Bhat, BS
(Ferrell/Lau lab)
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. Pawan will be studying clonal evolution in the context of disease progression from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) to acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Since approximately one-third of MDS patients progress to AML, a more refined understanding of clonality patterns would vastly improve prognosis. His project aims to identify the adaptive mechanisms that drive specific patterns of clonality during disease progression, which would expose therapeutic vulnerabilities. Currently, he is working on integrating various single-cell modalities to address this goal. In his time outside of the lab, he enjoys doing community work, reading, and cooking.”


KayLee Steiner, BS
(Jeff Rathmell lab)
Kaylee’s thesis project will involve studying basic T cell biology and metabolism, analyzing the role of Mtm1 in  different T cell subsets. She will also test the hypothesis that Mtm1 can act similarly to a tumor suppressor, such that inhibition or loss of Mtm1 will increase T cell-mediated anti-tumor immunity in vivo. Her research could potentially identify a new immunotherapy target in cancer. Kaylee was awarded a position in the T32 in Microenvironmental Influences in the Cancer Training Program. She graduated from RIT with a BS in Biotechnology and Molecular Bioscience with minors in Chemistry and Spanish. For fun, KayLee is on the Vanderbilt Club Rowing Team and race’s in regattas locally and nationally. She also likes to hang out with friends and is looking forward to exploring more of Nashville.


Maxwell Hamilton, BS
(Coffey Lab)
Interdisciplinary Graduate Program. Maxwell’s research is investigating the role of Naked2 in vesicle trafficking. Naked2 associates with the membranes of vesicles containing TGFα bound for the basolateral membrane of epithelial cells, where it serves to regulate both EGF and Wnt signaling pathways. He is trying to understand better how Naked2 may also serve as a means for the vesicle to interact with membrane-associated phase condensates, permitting correct localization and fusion. Maxwell is passionate about civil and labor rights and likes to spend his free time assisting in local organizing efforts.


Sarah Reed, MD/PhD candidate
(Park Lab)
Sarah is in Vanderbilt’s Medical Scientist Training Program, currently finishing her 2nd year of medical school. Her undergraduate was at Tufts University followed by research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, examining the use of cell-free DNA in diagnosing and monitoring cancer. Sarah is looking forward to joining the Park Lab this fall. In her spare time, she loves hiking, camping, going to concerts, exploring Nashville breweries, tennis, soccer, eat/cook vegan food, and spending time with her newly-adopted dog (Corgi mix).


SITC-NCI Computational Immuno-Oncology Webinar Series.
Register here

Community Outreach and Engagement Seminar. June 15, 2021 12pm-1pm.
Debra L Friedman, MD, MS keynote speaker. Register here

Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies (FOCIS) 2021 Annual Meeting June 8th-11th. Register here

Cancer  Discovery 10th Anniversary Symposium: The next decade of discoveries. June 21st-June 22nd. Register here

VI4 Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Symposium: Careers in STEM: Perspectives from Black Scientists. June 16th 1-5 PM. Register here 

Vanderbilt Undergraduates please join the VICC Cancer Treatment Tumor board this fall. Tumor boards review individual patient cases to determine the best course of action for cancer treatment. 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

VESTIGO Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Basic Science Magazine

VUMC  BRET Career Development ASPIRE Program 


Colon epithelial cell TGFβ signaling modulates the expression of tight junction proteins and barrier function in mice Paula Marincola Smith, Yash A Choksi, et.al. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2021 Jun 1;320(6):G936-G957.

Measurement of Metabolites from Migrating Cells. Demond Williams, Barbara Fingleton. Methods Mol Biol. 2021;2294:143-150.

Targeting Histone Modifications in Bone and Lung Metastatic Cancers Edwards Courtney, Johnson RW. Curr Osteoporos Rep. 2021 Mar 15. 

First-in-human PET imaging and estimated radiation dosimetry of L-[5- 11 C]-glutamine in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer Cohen, A, et al. J Nucl Med. 2021 Apr 30.

EphA2 Is a Clinically Relevant Target for Breast Cancer Bone Metastatic Disease Vaught D, et al. JBMR Plus. 2021 Mar 9;5(4).

Development and Evaluation of a Method to Correct Misinterpretation of Clinical Trial Results With Long-term Survival Chih Yuan Hsu, Emily Pei Ying Lin, Yu Shyr. JAMA Oncol. 2021 Apr 15.

Ex Vivo High Salt Activated Tumor-Primed CD4+T Lymphocytes Exert a Potent Anti-Cancer Response Tiriveedhi V, et al. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Apr 2;13 (7):1690.

Changes in peripheral and local tumor immunity after neoadjuvant chemotherapy reshape clinical outcomes in patients with breast cancer
Margaret L. Axelrod, Mellissa Nixon, Paula I. Gonzalez-Ericsson, Riley E. Bergman, et al. Clin Cancer Res. 

Cell-programmed nutrient partitioning in the tumour microenvironment
Reinfeld, B, Madden M, Wolf M, et al. Nature. 2021 May;593(7858):282-288

Metabolic modulation by CDK4/6 inhibitor promotes chemokine-mediated recruitment of T cells into mammary tumors   Uzhachenko R, Bharti V,
et al. Cell Rep. 2021 Apr 6; 35(1):1089444.

Pancreatic Cancer in Young Adults: Can Innovative Approaches Lead to Better Outcomes? Cardin D, Eng Cathy. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 23 March 2021.

The Complex Integration of T-cell Metabolism and Immunotherapy
Madden MZ, Rathmell JC. Cancer Discov. 2021 Apr1.

Obesity, Immunity, and Cancer Rathmell JC. N Engl J Med. 2021 Mar 25;384(12):1160-1162.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
— Steve Jobs

Program in Cancer Biology Graduates!


Aaron R Lim, PhD
(Rathmell Lab) Congratulations to our newest PhD in the Program of Cancer Biology!!  Aaron grew up in sunny Los Angeles, California, and completed his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and French at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Lim’s defense topic was titled, “Synthetic Lethality and Extracellular Vesicle Metabolism in Renal Cell Carcinoma.” As a trainee in the Vanderbilt University Medical Scientist Training Program, the next step will be obtaining his Medical Doctor degree! Aaron enjoys skiing, traveling, watching movies, finding good restaurants in Nashville, and spending time with his wife and newborn daughter.


Paula Marincola Smith, MD, PhD
(Beauchamp Lab) Paula  successfully defended her dissertation research investigating the role of “TGFb signaling as a modulator of epithelial inflammation and barrier function in the mouse colon” on May 7. Her study found that mice with defective TGFb signaling in their colons had evidence of increased inflammation and impaired barrier function. In vitro assays demonstrated that the canonical TGFb signaling pathway directly regulates the expression of several tight junction-related genes. This pathway also regulates transepithelial resistance in a cell-autonomous manner. In her spare time, Paula enjoys spending time with her husband Peyton and James, her 2-year-old son. Paula and Peyton are expecting a baby girl in July!


Victoria Ng, PhD
(Lee lab) successfully defended her PhD and graduated this year from Vanderbilt University! Victoria has accepted a postdoctoral position in the Lee lab and is continuing her research on  the Ubiquitylation in Canonical Wnt Signaling. We are happy that Victoria is continuing her research here at Vanderbilt.






Laura Kim, PhD
(Chen Lab)  successfully defended her PhD dissertation on June 17, 2020; due to Covid-19, Laura’s graduation was postponed until 2021. Her defense title was “Targeting mLST8 in mTORC2-Dependent Cancers.” Laura is currently doing her Postdoctoral Fellowship in the lab of Celeste Simon at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Laura is studying the analysis of altered tumor metabolism, growth, recruitment of immune cells, and metastasis that drive disease. She is particularly interested in how tumor cells and endothelial cells, immune cells, and fibroblasts of the microenvironment “compete” for limited O2 and nutrient availability.


Eileen Shiuan, MD, PhD.
(Chen Lab )  successfully defended her PhD April 29, 2020 but due to covid-19 her graduation ceremony was this month. Eileen is currently a resident in Hematology and Oncology at UCLA. Eileen and Aaron Lim (above) recently published a paper in  Cancer (Basel). 2021 March 23;13(6) Clinical Features and Multiplatform Molecular Analysis Assist in Understanding Patient Response to Anti-PD-1/PD-L1 in Renal Cell Carcinoma. The paper notes that predicting response to ICI therapy among patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) has been uniquely challenging. Their research concluded that the response to ICI therapy remains challenging to predict in RCC. Still, these data build upon previous works and suggest that PD-L1 staining alone does not give sufficient information to predict response. Checkpoint inhibitors elicit complex biology that will require a combination of biomarkers to predict response. Platforms analyzing TCR diversity, gene expression, multiplex IHC or IF, and chromosomal alterations or endogenous retroviruses will need to be assessed in large prospective clinical trials moving forward to develop sensitive and specific biomarkers that can be used in the clinic.


Please join the Program in Cancer Biology LinkedIn Group here

News from the Vanderbilt University Undergraduate Immersion Program


Zhizhu Zhang, BS
(Richmond Lab), is a rising senior majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Art at Vanderbilt University. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences published her first author review on May 7, 2021. “The role of PI3K inhibition in the treatment of breast cancer, alone or combined with immune checkpoint inhibitors.” The review discusses the role for dysregulation of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling is in tumorigenesis, disease progression, and the development of resistance to the current standard of care treatments for breast cancer patients. This review discusses the role of PI3K pathway in breast cancer and evaluates the clinical development of PI3K inhibitors in both early and metastatic breast cancer settings. Further, this review examines the evidence for the potential synergistic benefit for the combination treatment of PI3K inhibition and immunotherapy in breast cancer treatment. Zhizhu is from Shanghai, China and in her spare time enjoys drawing, traveling and baking. 


        Program in Cancer Biology Faculty



Alissa Weaver, MD, PhD

Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair and Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, and her team have received a $500,000 Future Manufacturing Seed Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop technologies for the production of “designer” extracellular
vesicles that can be packaged with specific
cargo to create drug delivery systems with “exquisite targeting.”



Michael Savona, MD

Professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, and holder of the Beverly and George Rawlings Directorship, is leading the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLCS) IMPACT (Influential Medicine Providing Access to Clinical Trials) research grants to increase enrollment of underrepresented communities in clinical trials. Read more


Vanderbilt’s chancellor, Daniel Diermeier, said that “Vanderbilt is able to attract and retain outstanding scholars, teachers and mentors with the generous support of our philanthropic partners, We are incredibly grateful for their visionary gifts, which sustain our momentum and ensure every member of the Vanderbilt community can reach their full potential.” The following Program in Cancer Biology faculty members are among Vanderbilt’s most recent endowed chair honorees.


Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Chair

Timothy S. Blackwell, MD, Rudy W. Jacobson Chair in Pulmonary Medicine

Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD, Hugh J. Morgan Chair in Medicine


CURED Documentary
June 17, 5:30-7:30 pm. Join the group to watch the 2020 documentary “CURED,” which tells the story of the LGBTQ activists and allies who fought to change an insidious bias in the mental health community. Their actions resulted in the APA’s removal of homosexuality from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual in 1973. You can watch the trailer for the film here. The film will be followed by an audience debrief and discussion facilitated by Rosemary Cope, LPC, MHSP from VUMC Work/Life connections and Katherine Crawford, Director of Women’s and Gender Studies and Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. Register at: redcap.link/CUREDdoc











Shane Michael Taylor is an ordinary guy who has overcome obstacles and transcended physical limitations to become a respected author, musician and motivational speaker. Shane navigates the world in a wheelchair. In addition, he struggles to communicate verbally as a result of being born with a severe form of Cerebral Palsy, a developmental disorder affecting movement, speech and posture. Making excuses, however, was never an option for this Nashville TN songwriter, who taught himself to type with his nose at the age of five. Shane has written over 350 songs, and his latest single, “I’m Giving In,” was released on April 23rd. This song is dedicated to our elderly and disabled populations who have suffered crippling isolation and suicidal thoughts during this global Covid-19 pandemic.  “Warrior Cowboy,” his debut single, proves that true strength comes from within by always staying true to ourselves. It is dedicated to our veterans who have suffered injuries while serving our great country. Shane’s song writing reminds us all that the spirit cannot be destroyed! Visit him on Facebook.
ShaneMichael.us || Facebook.com/ShaneMichaelTaylor

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”. Photo and article credit to VU and VUMC. Graduation hats photo credit Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash. Heart and hands photo credit  mayur-gala-2PODhmrvLik-unsplash. Cancer cells photo credit 1576086085526-0de1930a57c7@unsplash and national-cancer-institute-LnvCEXQwC-o-unsplash. Welcome sign Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash. Shane Michael Taylor picture and article credit to him.

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. ©2023 Vanderbilt University. All rights reserved.