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All Scholars, regardless of their career trajectory, will have both a clinical mentor and a translational research mentor in either molecular translational or population science research. K12 mentors all have extensive academic leadership, clinical and/or basic research, and mentoring experience. 

Clinical Research Mentors

Clinical research mentors include some of the University’s most accomplished clinical trials leaders and represent diverse oncology subspecialties. They have significant experience in protocol development and trial management and are PIs on investigator-initiated, industry-sponsored and/or cooperative group trials.

Marijo Bilusic, M.D., studies tumor immunology and novel immunotherapy approaches for prostate cancer and other GU tumors using therapeutic cancer vaccines, antibodies, or immune modulators capable of inducing the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.

Mark Gonzalgo, M.D., Ph.D., addresses novel methylation changes and chromosomal anomalies as detection and prognostic biomarkers in urologic cancers and participates in research on how ethnic disparities contribute to the burden of urologic malignancies. 

Peter Hosein, M.D., has been the principal investigator for multiple phase I and II clinical trials for patients with liver and pancreatic cancers. 

Gilberto Lopes, M.D., is a world leader in global oncology, with expertise in disparities and differences in cancer biology, prevention, care, research, education and social impact. He has also led drug development from phase I to phase IV studies, bringing novel therapies to the clinic. 

Susan Kesmodel, M.D., focuses on improving breast cancer treatment and long-term outcomes by optimizing local-regional and systemic therapy, with particular interest in improving selection of patients for surgical de-escalation and lymphatic reconstruction procedures to decrease the morbidity of axillary surgery.

Jose Lutzky, M.D., is a renowned expert in melanoma. He has been a PI on over one hundred clinical trials, and his research focuses on new treatments for melanoma and other cutaneous and ocular malignancies.

Craig Moskowitz, M.D., is an international expert in lymphoma. His focus is on Hodgkin lymphoma, diffuse large B cell lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma, with robust experience in developmental therapeutics and nuclear medicine. 

Sanoj Punnen, M.D., focuses on the early detection of aggressive prostate cancer, and novel molecular, genomic, and image-based biomarkers. 

Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., investigates novel antibody and gene therapy-based agents designed to augment anti-angiogenic and/or engage immune responses against tumors. 

Mikkael Sekeres, M.D., is a prominent hematologist who studies novel management algorithms for leukemia or myelodysplastic syndromes in the three areas: 1) novel therapeutics; 2) prognostic factors; and 3) decision-making, quality of life, and supportive care.

Jonathan Trent, M.D., Ph.D., has developed one of the nation’s largest sarcoma programs. His lab recently showed IDH1 mutations in chondrosarcoma make them responsive to IDH inhibitors, and he has initiated trials as a result of these findings.

Justin Watts, M.D., focuses on generating new therapeutic options for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. 

Clinical and Translational Research Mentors

These individuals are active clinically and also pursue basic and/or translational research, and they have track records of extramural funding.

Maria Abreu, M.D., is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). She developed the UM IBD Center Clinical Phenotype Database and Tissue Repository, a rich biorepository linked to well-annotated clinical data that includes the largest number of Hispanic IBD samples in the U.S. 

Julio Barredo, M.D., focuses on development of novel therapies targeting the metabolome for childhood and adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He leads a number of local clinical trials and a COG cooperative group trial.

Olveen Carrasquillo, M.D., M.P.H., focuses on cancer prevention within diverse clinical settings, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers and sub-specialty practices, including oncology, and has conducted large-scale clinical trials to evaluate the role of community health workers in improving care delivery. 

David Goldberg, M.D., is a trained clinical epidemiologist and health services researcher with expertise in organ transplantation, chronic liver disease, and healthcare disparities.

Ola Landgren, M.D., Ph.D., is a world-renowned expert in multiple myeloma. His early drug development focuses on phase I, I/II, and II studies, and his correlative science has a strong focus on genomic characterization.

Izidore Lossos, M.D., is an internationally recognized physician-scientist in lymphoma. He has led several studies that broadened understanding of the pathogenesis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, identifying diagnostic tools that correlate patient’s characteristics with outcome and developing novel therapeutic approaches.

Jaime Merchan, M.D., leads Sylvester’s Phase I Unit. His bench to bedside research recently brought a novel oncolytic virus to trial. 

Nipun Merchant, M.D., has investigated STAT3 and other signaling pathways in pancreatic cancer and mechanisms of therapeutic resistance. 

Stephen Nimer, M.D., investigates epigenetic regulators that govern normal and leukemic stem cells to regulate stem cell quiescence, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

Alan Pollack, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on prostate cancer management, including radiotherapy dose escalation, fractionation, androgen deprivation therapy, tissue and imaging outcome markers, targeted therapy, and, more recently, health disparities in men with African and Hispanic/Latino ancestry. 

Jonathan Schatz, M.D., investigates mechanisms of resistance to targeted therapy and evasion of apoptosis. He pursues both basic and translational approaches.

Translational Research Mentors

Translational research mentors all lead well-funded research labs and participate in translational research efforts, and many have ongoing projects in drug development.

Michael Antoni, Ph.D., studies the effects of stress management interventions on the adjustment to, and physical course of, HIV/AIDS, breast and prostate cancer, and cervical neoplasia. 

Karoline Briegel, Ph.D., discovered the LBH (Limb-bud and Heart) protein, a unique transcriptional regulator in the oncogenic WNT stem cell signaling pathway, as a new cancer stem cell driver and putative therapeutic target in worst prognosis triple-negative breast cancer.

Kerry Burnstein, Ph.D., studies androgen receptor signaling pathways that may be exploited therapeutically for the incurable stage of prostate cancer, castration resistance.

Rumela Chakrabarti, Ph.D., studies cell signaling events that are required for normal breast development but which are also exploited during cancer initiation and progression.

Tracy Crane, Ph.D., RDN , is a behavioral scientist focused on the design, testing, and implementation of lifestyle interventions that promote healthy lifestyle behaviors. Her program of research integrates digital measures and eHealth technologies to promote adherence to healthy lifestyle behaviors and reduce health disparities.

Maria (Ken) Figueroa, M.D., focuses on the DNA methylation epigenetics of leukemia. She has helped to initiate clinical trials of epigenetic drugs and run clinical studies to identify epigenetic prognostic biomarkers for AML and M.D.S.

Sophia George, Ph.D., studies the etiology of breast and gynecologic cancers in genetically high-risk germline mutation carriers.

Eli Gilboa, Ph.D., pioneered the use of oligonucleotide-based aptamer ligands to modulate tumor immunity. 

Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., conducts interdisciplinary disparities-focused research and intervention, particularly among racial/ethnic minorities and other medically underserved population sub-groups. 

Stephen Lee, Ph.D., studies cellular adaptation to stress, including the harsh conditions of the tumor microenvironment. 

Robert Levy, Ph.D., is a foremost expert in the study and animal modeling of graft-versus-host disease. 

Frank Penedo, Ph.D., evaluates sociocultural, biobehavioral, and psychosocial mechanisms underlying health outcomes and psychosocial interventions.

Priyamvada Rai, Ph.D., has demonstrated the importance of MTH1 inhibition as a novel means to target oncogenic RAS, which has proven intractable to direct targeting. 

Sabita Roy, Ph.D. focuses on establishing the role of the gut microbiome in cancer pain and the efficacy of opioids in pain management.

Ramin Shiekhattar, Ph.D., is a world-renowned researcher in the areas of epigenetics, non-coding RNAs, and chromatin structure. His lab is currently identifying and evaluating novel epigenetic inhibitors in cancer models. 

Emmanuel Thomas, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on hepatitis B/C and hepatocellular carcinoma. He has an active viral hepatitis screening program, and he is developing advanced models to study hepatocarcinogenesis. 

Scott Welford, Ph.D., works to identify tumor determinants of therapeutic resistance and devise strategies for sensitization.

Peer Mentors 

Peer mentors are drawn from among Sylvester’s current junior faculty and recently promoted Associate Professors, including our successful K12 graduates and others with institutional or individual mentored career development grants. They have developed a strong presence in their site disease groups, independently lead clinical trials, are stellar teachers, and have established themselves as up-and-coming mentors.

Juan Alderuccio, M.D., an inaugural Sylvester K12 scholar, uses deep learning and radiomics techniques to study the prognostic and predictive significance of baseline and post-therapy metabolic tumor volume in relapsed refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Jashodeep Datta, M.D., is a KL2 graduate and surgeon-scientist with expertise in hepatopancreatobiliary surgical oncology and translational gastrointestinal cancer immunology.

Macarena de la Fuente, M.D., is an international leader in the clinical care of malignant brain tumors, including the development of innovative treatments and radiographic biomarkers.

Christine Dinh, M.D., is an NIDCD K08-funded surgeon-scientist, otolaryngologist, and skull base surgeon whose goal is to identify, test, and translate new therapies from bench-to-bedside.

Neha Goel, M.D., an inaugural Sylvester K12 scholar, is a surgical oncologist and cancer researcher whose main interests are cancer disparities, genetic ancestry, and surgical outcomes research.

Brandon Mahal, M.D., is a DOD-funded early-career investigator who uses a multidisciplinary approach to study and address cancer disparities, combining a variety research methods and community outreach/engagement.

Francesco Maura, M.D., is an emerging leader in the genomics of lymphoproliferative disorders. Combining newly sequenced and publicly available data, his lab leverages single cell and bulk sequencing genomic platforms to decipher the genomic complexity of hematological cancers.

Eric Mellon, M.D., Ph.D., an NCI MERIT Awardee, uses advanced MRI methods and analysis of blood and tissue biomarkers to improve early recognition of poor glioblastoma response.

Justin Taylor, M.D., is an NCI K08-funded physician-scientist who studies the role of recurrent genetic and epigenetic alterations in hematologic malignancies.

Hansel Tookes, M.D., M.P.H., an NIH Avenir Awardee, uses community-based participatory approaches to improve health outcomes for intravenous drug users.