The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has announced that eight The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson) faculty members have been named as AAAS Fellows.
The 140-year-old AAAS is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the “advance of science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people,” its mission statement encompassing the broad goals of enhancing communication among scientists, engineers, and the public; promotion and defense of the integrity of science and its use; to strengthen support for the science and technology enterprise; to provide a voice for science on societal issues; to promote responsible use of science in public policy; to strengthen and diversify the science and technology workforce; to foster education in science and technology for everyone; to increase public engagement with science and technology; and the advance of international cooperation in science.
The new Fellows from MD Anderson selected to receive this prestigious honor include Ronald DePinho, M.D., Burton F. Dickey, M.D., Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D., John Mendelsohn, M.D., Jeff Molldrem, M.D., David Piwnica-Worms, M.D., Ph.D, Sanjay Shete, Ph.D, and Stephen Ullrich, Ph.D.
“It is indeed a tremendous accomplishment to be selected as an AAAS Fellow,” comments Ethan Dmitrovsky, M.D., provost and executive vice president at MD Anderson. “MD Anderson is known worldwide for its leading patient care, research and education and, this recognition is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who, each day, bring their knowledge and dedication to our mission.”
Existing members of what is the world’s largest general scientific society elect new AAAS Fellows, and MD Anderson now has 32 AAAS Fellows on its faculty, 23 of them elected during the past four years.
Ronald DePinho, M.D., President Of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Dr. DePinho is also internationally recognized for his basic and translational research in cancer, aging and age-associated degenerative disorders. His laboratory’s investigations have produced an array of discoveries leading to better methods of early cancer detection, improved cancer patient care and new cancer drug development. The range of Dr. DePinho’s research focus includes cancer drug and biomarker development, cancer gene discovery, stem cell biology and development of genetically engineered mouse models to study cancer in humans. At MD Anderson, Dr. DePinho has established the Institute for Applied Cancer Science, where his lab focuses on basic-to-translational research programs for brain, colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers, as well as aging and neuro-degeneration.
Before joining MD Anderson, Dr. DePinho spent 14 years at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston. He was founding director of the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science at Dana-Farber, a professor in the Department of Medicine (genetics) at Harvard and an American Cancer Society Research Professor. He also held numerous faculty positions during 10 years at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York where his independent scientific career began while was the Feinberg Senior Scholar in Cancer Research. Also while there he established the first National Cancer Institute-supported shared transgenic and gene targeting facility, enabling his laboratory to model and study the genetic basis of cancer and other complex diseases.
In addition to executing his presidential duties at MD Anderson, Dr. DePinho remains active in his laboratory’s research projects and in the institution;a new Institute for Applied Cancer Science.
Burton F. Dickey, M.D., Professor Of Pulmonary Medicine
Burton F. Dickey, M.D.’s investigations have included study of the plasticity in structure, function and gene expression in lung epithelial cells, noting that in response to allergic inflammation, airway secretory cells produce large quantities of polymeric mucins. Dr, Dickey’s lab at MD Anderson studies molecular mechanisms of mucin secretion and the association of epithelial signaling by the beta-2-adrenoceptor in promoting allergic inflammation and mucin production. The lab’s investigations are being conducted in collaboration with Richard A. Bond of the University of Houston.
Additionally in response to toll-like receptor signaling, it has been observed that airway epithelial cells develop a high level of resistance to microbial infection. Dr. Dickey is investigating the molecular mechanism at work there in collaboration with Scott E. Evans, M.D., associate professor in pulmonary medicine in the interest of developing a clinical therapeutic to prevent pneumonia. Noting that airway inflammation also contributes to epithelial carcinogenesis, Dr. Dickey has established mouse models of this phenomenon and is dissecting mechanisms in collaboration with Seyed J. Moghaddam, M.D., assistant professor in pulmonary medicine. In all of these programs, the Dickey lab uses primarily a mouse genetic approach.
Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D.
Varsha Gandhi, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Leukemia, Division of Cancer Medicine,and Department Chair ad interim for the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, Division of Cancer Medicine at MD Anderson.
Dr. Ghandi’s research Interests include development of single agent and combination therapies for leukemias; met receptor tyrosine kinase in myeloma; transcription inhibitors; DNA- and RNA-directed nucleoside analogs, their mechanisms of action and development of resistance; apoptosis modulators as therapeutics (BH3-mimetics, smac-mimetics); the role of microenvironment in hematological malignancies; and pim kinase expression and targeting by small molecule inhibitors.
Her current primary research focus is on development of therapeutics for hematological malignancies, in which she uses biologic, biochemical and molecular approaches to understand the metabolism and mechanisms of action in different groups of chemotherapeutic agents. Based on mechanism of action of novel agents and biology and pathophysiology of the disease, Dr. Ghandi’s research group tests these drugs in hematological malignancies. Based on mechanisms of action of chemotherapeutic agents, the researchers also test and develop novel combination strategies. Dr. Gandhi has also published more than 250 scientific articles, and serves on the editorial board of several journals, including Clinical Cancer Research and Leukemia and Lymphoma.
John Mendelsohn, M.D., Professor In Experimental Therapeutics, Former President Of MD Anderson
John Mendelsohn, M.D. served as MD Anderson’s president of from 1996 to 2011 through what is deemed to have been “an incredibly productive period” of nearly 15 years. During Dr. Mendelsohn’s presidential tenure, the institution more than doubled in size. A list of the institution’s milestone accomplishments and vast expansion under his leadership is too lengthy to cite here (you can find a summary at: http://bit.ly/1rp8bBx)
Upon his arrival at MD Anderson, Dr. Mendelsohn’s focus shifted from laboratory research and clinical trials to the intricacies of leading an institution that grew to 18,000 employees, serves more than 100,000 patients a year, and had a budget of more than $3.2 billion in 2010-11. Prior to joining MD Anderson, dr. Mendelsohn was founding director of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center at the University of California, San Diego, and he subsequently chaired the Department of Medicine and co-chaired the Program in Pharmacology at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Mendelsohn also has an international reputation for his research on how the binding of growth factors to receptors on the surface of cells regulates cell function. He and collaborators in California produced monoclonal antibody 225, an inhibitory agent to human cancer cell proliferation that works by blocking signaling pathways that are activated by the receptors for epidermal growth factor.
His subsequent laboratory and clinical research pioneered now universally adopted concepts of anti-receptor therapy that targets key cell signaling pathways as a new form of cancer treatment. Antibody 225 (commercially known as Cetuximab, or Erbitux) against the receptor for epidermal growth factor was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of colon cancer in 2004 and for head and neck cancer in 2006.
Dr. Mendelsohn is a recognized leader in the areas of clinical and translational research and has developed and tested new cancer therapies that target the genetic and molecular abnormalities that cause the disease. Such targeted drugs open the door to customizing treatment based on the factors that drive an individual patient s cancer. Dr. Mendelsohn research in characterizing growth factor receptors and blocking their stimulation of cell proliferation launched anti-receptor therapy as a cancer treatment.
Jeff Molldrem, M.D., Professor Of Stem Cell Transplantation And Cellular Therapy
Jeff Molldrem, M.D. is a Professor (tenured) in the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, Division of Cancer Medicine at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Molldrem’s lab at MD Anderson’s current focus is on development of immunotherapies for leukemia and other hematological diseases through greater understanding of T cell immunity against hematopoietic progenitors.
Dr. Molldrem believes T cells target and eliminate these progenitors by recognizing determinants of self-antigens when tolerance has been reversed by aberrant self-antigen expression. His lab has studied myeloid leukemia and MDS models, finding that CD8 lymphocytes recognize the HLA-A2-restricted PR1 peptide, derived from both P3 and NE due to aberrant subcellular localization and over-expression.
“The long-term goal of my lab is to develop immunotherapies for leukemia and other hematological diseases through an understanding of T-cell immunity against hematopoietic progenitors,” says Dr. Molldrem. “Our central hypothesis is that T-cells target and eliminate these progenitors by recognizing determinants of self-antigens when tolerance has been reversed by aberrant self-antigen expression. As models, we have studied myeloid leukemia and MDS and have found that CD8 lymphocytes recognized the HLA-A2-restricted PR1 peptide, derived from both P3 and NE, due to aberrant subcellular localization and over-expression.”
David Piwnica-Worms, M.D., Ph.D., Professor And Chair Of Cancer Systems Imaging
David Piwnica-Worms, M.D., Ph.D. holds that Gerald Dewey Dodd, Jr., Endowed Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging, Division of Diagnostic Imaging the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he is also a professor in the Department of Cancer Biology as well as holding a variety of other appointments and offices.
The Piwnica-Worms lab’s current focus is study of molecular imaging of signal transduction pathways and protein-protein interactions in vivo. His research team is also studying the dynamic analysis of the NF-kB, beta-catenin and EGFR signaling pathways, genetically encoded reporters for bioluminescence, PET and SPECT imaging, and high throughput screening with siRNA to functionalize the genome.
His work also includes investigation of cell-penetrating activatable near-infrared fluorescent peptides for imaging and therapeutic cell-penetrating peptides, mechanisms and regulation of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily of transporter proteins, and multi-drug resistance in cancer; radiopharmaceutical chemistry, as well as medicinal utility of metal complexes.
Sanjay Shete, Ph.D., Professor Of Biostatistics
Sanjay Shete, Ph.D. Barnhart Family Distinguished Professor in Targeted Therapies, Division of Quantitative Sciences, is a genetic epidemiologist with interests in developing statistical methods for genetic data. He is section chief of behavioral and social statistics in the division of quantitative sciences at MD Anderson and currently serves as the principal investigator for a genome-wide association study of head and neck cancer, as well as being a principal investigator with Dr. Reyes-Gibby, an associate professor of emergency medicine, for a study of molecular epidemiology of neuropathic pain in head and neck cancer.
Additionally Dr. Shete is principal investigator for studies on innovative multidisciplinary education: the statistical genetics of addiction. He is currently director of the biostatistics, bioinformatics and systems biology program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and has institutional leadership responsibilities as vice-chair of one of the Institutional Review Boards. He was a member of Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Committee and fellow of the American Statistical Association. In his spare time he is also editor-in-chief of the Genetic Epidemiology Journal.
Stephen Ullrich, Ph.D., Professor Of Immunology
Stephen Ullrich, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Immunology at the The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Ullrich’s research efforts are currently focused on the mechanisms underlying UV-induced immune suppression and immune suppression and immunotherapy of pancreatic cancer, with a particular interest in the role of cell migration in UV-induced immune suppression. Specifically, since none of the energy contained in UVB wavelengths of sunlight penetrate beyond the skin’s surface, it is unclear how UV exposure induces systemic immune suppression. He notes that for years immunologists have recognized that UV-irradiation induces Langerhans cells to leave the skin and migrate to the draining lymph nodes, where they activate immune suppression, and the Ullrich laboratory has been instrumental in elucidating some of the key mechanisms mediating this action, including activation of natural killer T cells to secrete IL-4 and a possible role for platelet activating factor (PAF). Dr. Ullrich has also demonstrated that UV exposure induces dermal mast cells to leave the skin and migrate to the draining lymph nodes, where they mediate immune suppression.
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (MD Anderson)