Dario Palmieri, Ph.D.

The Palmieri lab studies the mechanisms that regulate how a cancer cell divides and proliferates. We are mostly interested in understanding what mechanisms controlling cell division and proliferation are mutated and lost in cancer, which impair conventional therapies. To achieve our goal, we take extensive advantage of cell and gene reprogramming using CRISPR-Cas9, a molecular tool that allows to modify the sequence of endogenous genes allowing their study.

Timothy Pawlik, MD, MPH, MTS, PhD, FACS, FRACS (Hon.), professor and chair, Department of Surgery

My research lab involves research using large databases to examine health care delivery, the economics of health care, as well as the impact of social determinants of health on receipt/utilization of surgical services. We also study how clinical and patient factors drive utilization and outcomes of surgical procedures. Part of my group also engages in mixed-methods (i.e. both qualitative and quantitative research) around patient-physician shared decision-making, as well as receipt of spiritual care along the cancer journey of patients.

Vincenzo Coppola, MD, director, GEMMC

The Coppola LAB is studying the relatively unknown CTLH proteins that regulate major cell signaling pathways and metabolism. The long-term goal is to exploit the gained knowledge to develop new treatment strategies for very prevalent malignancies such as lung cancer. One ongoing specific project is focused on elucidating how core CTLH proteins (RanBP9, RanBP10, and Gid8) are working to protect cells from DNA damage. To this aim, the lab has engineered by CRISPR/Cas9 new cell lines and innovative mouse models. Recent results show that lung cancer cells in which RanBP9 and RanBP10 are deleted are more sensitive to drugs commonly used in the clinics. Novel mouse models where RanBP9 is tagged are allowing precise and clean proteomic analyses of previously unknown partners of RanBP9. In a new NIH R03-funded unpublished mouse model, the study of RanBP9 interactions is taken to the next level allowing the identification in vivo of RanBP9 with different tags in different cells. To elucidate the role of CTLH proteins in normal development and physiology, the Coppola lab has ongoing collaborations with other groups on the OSU campus and outside.

Matthew Summers, Ph.D.

The loss of internal controls that limit and regulate cell growth is a hallmark of cancer cells. Although cancer cells tolerate certain levels of changes to their DNA they must retain the blueprints for building the machinery required for cell growth and survival. Thus, they must still duplicate and transmit their genomes from one generation to the next with minimal errors in order for the tumor to continue to grow. The checkpoints that monitor these processes are rarely defective in cancer cells and are often highly active due to the loss of other control mechanisms. By inducing additional stress and/or inhibiting these remaining checkpoints we can induce death in tumors. The goal of our research is to understand how cancer cells overcome their internal stress and cope with drug-induced stress to guide the development of improved therapeutic strategies. We currently have two main projects. In the first project, we are examining the role of the cancer-associated enzyme USP37 in helping cancer cells survive their own internal stress and that caused by chemotherapy. The second project focuses on the regulation of chromosome segregation in mitosis. We utilize a multi-faceted approach to achieve our goals including; proteomic, cellular, microscopy, and biochemical based analyses.

Potential projects include construction of cellular models for monitoring cell growth or to enhance proteomic studies, analysis of protein-protein interactions in a purified system, and live cell analysis of cellular response to drug-induced stress, among others.

Electra Paskett, Ph.D.

Project 1: Impact of COVID-19 on Behaviors across the Cancer Control Continuum in Ohio

COVID-19 has impacted all countries in the world. No populations has been untouched either directly or indirectly. Social distancing, isolation and a variety of challenges related to employment and access to basic needs are impacting every facet of everyday life. The impact of these COVID-19 restrictions and the disease must be quantified to understand and mitigate short and long term effects across the cancer continuum, especially among the most vulnerable — underserved and minority populations and cancer patients. The goal of this project is to assess how differences in demographics (rural/urban, age, gender, race, educational attainment) will impact engagement in cancer preventive behaviors (e.g., tobacco cessation, screening, diet) and cancer management/survivorship behaviors (e.g., adherence to treatment, adherence to surveillance). This will be done in the context of COVID-19 environmental constraints (e.g., social distancing, employment, mental health, etc.) among adult healthy volunteers, cancer patients, cancer survivors, and cancer patients and survivors caregivers in Ohio and from Indiana. A potential research/analytic project for a student involves analyzing baseline assessment and follow-up survey.

Project 2: Rural Intervention for Screening Effectiveness (RISE)

Women living in rural areas are more likely to get cancer and less likely to have received recommended cancer screening tests that prevent or find cancer early. Additionally, the number of women who die from breast, colon, and cervical cancer are higher in Ohio and Indiana than the rest of the US. Researchers at The Ohio State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis are working to reduce the cancer burden in rural areas and developed a program to help rural women understand the need for cancer screening. Through an intervention program which will compare the effectiveness of a tailored and interactive DVD (TIDVD) vs. TIDVD + telephone-based patient navigation (PN) intervention (TIDVD + PN) vs. Usual care (UC), RISE aims to increase guideline-based cancer screening rates at 12 months post randomization for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer; thereby reducing the cancer burden among women living in rural northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana. A potential research/analytic project for a student involves analyzing baseline assessment and exit surveys.

Yael Vodovotz, Ph.D., director, CAFFRE

The fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid are found primarily in fish. This project involves sourcing these fatty acids from genetically engineered yeast and algae and using them to fortify plant-based milks. The student project will be to help scale up production of the fortified beverage for clinical bioavailability studies. The student will learn about food processing and measurement of fatty acids and oxidation using novel nuclear magnetic techniques. Additionally they may be involved in preparation for the clinical study and sensory evaluation studies.

Leah Pyter, Ph.D., MS

The Pyter lab offers an excellent opportunity to participate in translational (basic and clinical) science research in an integrative biology setting. We are funded by the National Institutes of Health to investigate how cancer alters brain function (e.g., cognition). We primarily use a mouse model of breast cancer to study how tumors, stress, and cancer treatments alter the immune system, which then lead to changes in behavior. This research integrates the fields of cancer, immunology, endocrinology, and behavioral neuroscience. Summer students in the laboratory will gain experience with cancer models, wet lab bench work (immunohistochemistry, molecular biology), and mouse behavioral testing. Specific questions being studied this summer are: (1) What is the role of brain microglia in mammary tumor-induced neuroinflammation? (2) How do mammary tumors alter behavioral and biological immune responses to subsequent infections? Many trainees of Dr. Pyter have continued on to medical and graduate school. More info about our lab can be found on our website.

Hai Huang, MD

Research interests include innate immune and inflammatory responses in liver sterile injury, roles of damage-associated molecular patterns and their pattern recognition receptors in liver sterile inflammation, innate immunity in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, and the role of hepatic immune responses after pre-operative exercise therapy.

Namal Liyanaga, Ph.D.

We explore novel strategies to prevent and control viral infections such as SARS-CoV-2 and HIV through a better understanding of the innate and adaptive immune responses during infections.

Jerry Lio, Ph.D.

Our lab studies the epigenetic regulation during B cell differentiation and transformation. Recently we have identified the novel role of vitamin C in the nucleus, where it acts as the co-factor for epigenetic enzymes for histone and DNA demethylation. Using techniques including CRISPR-based methods and next-generation sequencing, we are trying to understand how vitamin C regulates the epigenome in B cells.

Lawrence S. Kirschner, MD, Ph.D.

The Kirschner lab studies the genetics of endocrine tumors, with a focus on genes that cause inherited human tumor syndromes. Our current studies involve studying the function of three genes, known as PRKAR1A, PTEN, and SDHD. Despite the fact that each of these genes is expressed in all tissues throughout the body, mutation of any one of them causes a distinct set of tumors in patients. These tumor syndromes are passed in families as autosomal dominant traits, meaning each child from an affected parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the mutation and the tumor predisposition. We use mouse models engineered to have mutations in each of these genes to understand the mechanism by which these mutations cause unregulated cellular growth. Working both in mouse models and in tissue culture cells (some from tumor cultures and some from cell lines) we study how these mutations affect cellular signaling and cellular metabolism. We are also interested in the question in how these genes affect the chance that a tumor will undergo metastatic spread from the original site to distant tissues in the body. By understanding these pathway both in inherited and non-inherited tumors, we hope one day to be able to suppress tumor growth and tumor spread in order to provide better treatment to patients with these and other tumors.

Anna Vilgelm, MD, Ph.D.

The main research focus of the Vilgelm laboratory is tumor immunology, particularly the factors that make tumor cells vulnerable to the recognition by the immune cells. We are interested to find actionable ways to make tumor cells more “visible” to the immune system. Current projects aim to increase the production of molecules by tumor cells that can attract and activate immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. To this end, we are using cutting-edge laboratory methods, including Patient-Derived tumor-immune cell co-cultures, automated microscopy, and spectral cytometry. Additionally, interested candidates may learn CRISPR editing technology and implement it to validate potential drivers of tumor immunogenicity. Vilgelm laboratory is affiliated with the Center for Cancer Engineering, Translational Therapeutics Program, and the Pelotonia Institute for ImmunoOncology.