Directors and Staff

Jon Houtman, PhD

Jon Houtman, PhD is a Director of CROI, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Associate Director of Career Enhancement at Holden Cancer Center

David Lubaroff

David Lubaroff, PhD is a Director of CROI and Professor Emeritus of Urology.  He has directed cancer summer programs for 16 years.

Alicia Denman

Alicia Denman is the Cancer Education Programs Coordinator for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, and also coordinates the Cancer Biology PhD Program. 

Faculty mentors

Bryan Allen, MBA, MD, PhD

Dr. Allen is the Chair and DEO of Radiation Oncology, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Translational Research; Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the HCCC. 

Interests: understanding the basic science mechanisms by which pharmacological ascorbate can selectively act as a pro-oxidant in brain and lung cancer vs. normal cells, for the purpose of developing novel combined modality chemo-radio-therapies

Natoshia Askelson, MOH, PhD

Dr. Askelson, is Associate Professor of Community and Behavioral Health and Deputy Director of the Prevention Research Center.  

Interests: health communication, family and child health, intersection of health policy and behavioral change, evaluation

Gail Bishop, PhD

Dr. Bishop is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and Associate Director of Basic Science Research at the HCCC. 

Interests: molecular mechanisms underlying lymphocyte activation and tolerance, interactions between innate and adaptive immune receptors

John Buatti, MD

Dr. Buatti is a Professor of Radiation Oncology.

Interests: use of imaging outcomes for patients undergoing cancer therapy, tools and algorithms for quantitative imaging assessments, radiation therapy

James Byrne, MD, PhD

Dr. Byrne is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology.

Interests: developing transformative technologies to improve patient care, such as the development of biofoams that hold great promise in enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for rectal cancer patients

Joseph Caster, MD, PhD

Dr. Caster is an Assistant Professor in Radiation Oncology. 

Interests:  identifying novel ways of improving the therapeutic index of chemoradiotherapy; i.e. improving treatment the efficacy of chemoradiation and/or minimizing its toxicity

Catherine Cherwin, PhD, RN

Dr. Cherwin is an Assistant Professor of Nursing.

Interests: Cancer symptom science, gastrointestinal microbiome, symptom clusters, non-pharmacologic management of symptoms

Gary Christensen, DSc

Dr. Christensen is a Professor of Computer and Electrical Engineering, and Radiation Oncology.

Interests: medical imaging, global shape models, 3D visualization, computer architecture, parallel computing, modeling body and brain anatomy

John Colgan, PhD

Dr. Colgan is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Immunology and Anatomy and Cell Biology.

Interests: understanding the transcriptional mechanisms that control lymphocyte development and function; the importance of GON4L for the growth and survival of leukemias that arise from B and T cell precursors

David Cwiertny, PhD

Dr. Cwiertny is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemistry.

Interests:  Materials-based treatment strategies for water and wastewater, chemical transformation pathways for emerging contaminant classes in a natural aquatic systems

Sanjana Dayal, PhD

Dr. Dayal is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Hematology, Oncology, and Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

Interests: investigating mechanisms of thrombosis under a variety of pathological conditions using sophisticated animal models and clinically relevant human samples

Kris DeMali, PhD

Dr. DeMali is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Dermatology.

Interests: carcinomas, cellular mechanisms involved in assembly and maintenance of cell-cell adhesions, the function and regulation of proteins recruited to the cytoplasmic face of cadherins

Rebecca Dodd, PhD

Dr. Dodd is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Hematology, Oncology, and Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

Interests: soft-tissue sarcomas, genetics of sarcoma, tumor microenvironment, preclinical platform applications, novel genome editing tools

Melissa Fath, PhD

Dr. Fath is an Associate Research Scientist in Radiation Oncology.

Interests:  metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells, new therapeutic regimens, translational research, defeating the mechanism tumor cells use to evade therapy

Ernesto Fuentes, PhD

Dr. Fuentes is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 

Interests: signal transduction pertinent to human disease, molecular mechanisms governing specific signal transduction in eukaryotic and prokaryotic systems

Stephanie Gilbertson-White, PhD, APRN-BC

Dr. Gilbertson-White is an Associate Professor in Nursing.

Interests: trajectories and impact of cancer symptoms, the associated biological and psychological mechanisms, tailored symptom management support to underserved patients with advanced cancer 

David Gordon, MD, PhD

Dr. Gordon is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics- Hematology/Oncology.

Interests: Ewing sarcoma, creating genetically defined models of cancer, studying pathophysiology of Ewing sarcoma using a human stem cell models, pediatrics

Jess Gorzelitz, PhD

Dr. Gorzelitz is an Assistant Professor in Health and Human Physiology

Interests: physical activity and exercise in cancer survivorship, using innovative distance-based approaches to reach rural and underserved populations; the importance of muscle strengthening exercise for survivors to help reduce treatment related symptoms to focus on health through strength

Prajwal Gurung, PhD

Dr. Gurung is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine-Infectious Diseases

Interests: reducing inflammatory responses, how pattern recognition receptors are involved in sensing pathogen- and host-derived molecular patterns, roles of cytoplasmic sensors in health and disease

Hasem Habelhah, PhD

Dr. Habelhah is an Associate Professor of Pathology.

Interests: understanding the molecular mechanisms by which inflammatory cytokines and cellular stresses activate the NF-kB pathway


Michael Henry, PhD

Dr. Henry is the Interim Director of the HCCC and a Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. 

Interests: understanding the molecular and cellular basis of prostate cancer progression and metastasis in order to develop new methods for the diagnosis and treatment of this disease

Jon Houtman, PhD

Dr. Houtman is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.  

Interests: how current therapeutic agents are altering human T cell signaling and function, role of GRB2 in TCR signaling pathways, impact of GML on human T cell activation

Michelle Howard, PhD

Dr. Howard is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology.

Interests: combining novel therapeutic agents and radiation therapy, pediatric cancers, increasing effectiveness of radiation using redox modulating drugs

Kaikobad Irani, MD

Dr. Irani is a Professor of Internal Medicine-Cardiovascular Medicine.

Interests: vascular function and dysfunction, regulation of aging proteins which promote oxidative stress, regulation of p66shc and SIRT1, micro-RNA-mediated mechanisms and micro-RNA-depended redox pathways

Priya Issuree, PhD

Dr. Issuree is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine - Infectious Diseases.

Interests: cell fate decisions shaping T cell immunity; fundamental mechanisms that dictate T cell development using the thymus as a model

Ali Jabbari, MD, PhD, FAAD

Dr. Jabbari is the Chair and Head of Dermatology and an Associate Professor.

Interests: Cutaneous T cell lymphomas; identify the genetic and molecular perturbations among the different forms of CTCL to better match patients with treatment

Zhendong Jin, PhD

Dr. Jin is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics

Interests:  designing and developing the new generation of cytotoxic payloads with novel mechanisms of action; the interface of chemistry and biology of bioactive natural products

Jong Sung Kim, PhD

Dr. Kim is an Associate Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health.

Interests:  nanotoxicology, exposomics, metabolomics, mechanistic toxicology, human risk assessment, and biomarkers

Bing Li, PhD

Dr. Li is a Professor of Pathology.

Interests: the role of fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) that regulate immune cell lipid metabolism and function in the setting of a high fat diet

Yi Luo, MD, MS, PhD

Dr. Luo is a Professor of Urology.

Interests: role of regulatory T cells in controlling autoimmune cystitis, biological pathways and genes responsible for bladder cancer resistant to chemotherapy, new animal models for bladder cancer research

Vincent Magnotta, PhD

Dr. Magnotta is a Professor of Radiology-Neuroradiology.

Interests: novel imaging approaches and analysis strategies, diffusion tenor imaging, chemical shift imaging, analysis of brain morphology

Ashutosh Mangalam, PhD

Dr. Mangalam is an Associate Professor of Pathology.

Interests: gut microbiome, therapeutic potential of human gut derived bacteria as drug (BRUG) in  inflammatory diseases such as MS

Adam Mailloux, PhD

Dr. Mailloux is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.

Interests: changes in the extracellular matrix in a tumor and effect on infiltrating effector cells, novel technology using tumor-derived HLA complex, deep immune profiling during the anti-tumor response to make novel gene-modified cell therapies

Thorsten Maretzky, PhD

Dr. Maretzky is an Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine.

Interests: innate immune system, inflammation, Host-Pathogen interaction, iRhoms in disease and development, A Disintegrin and metalloprotease activation and regulation

Xiangbing Meng, PhD

Dr. Meng is a Research Associate Professor in Pathology. 

Interests: new prognosis biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets in gynecology, synthetic lethal studies in gynecology, Mitotic Catastrophe induction in ovarian and endometrial cancer

Michael O'Rorke, PhD

Dr. O'Rorke is an Assistant Professor in Epidemiology.

Interests: Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), molecular/clinical/cancer/pharmaco- epidemiology, biomarkers of treatment response and prognostication

Miles Pufall, PhD

Dr. Pufall is an Associate Professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Interests: childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), role of glucocorticoid receptors (GR) that induce cell death; how drugs and DNA sequence change the structure of GR 

Dawn Quelle, PhD

Dr. Quelle is a Professor in Neuroscience and Pharmacology.

Interests: pathogenesis of neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) and aggressive malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs), mechanisms driving cancer especially in cell cycle and mitogenic signaling pathways

David Roman, PhD

Dr. Roman is a Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics, Professor of the Office of the Dean, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education.

Interests: role of Regulator of G Protein Signaling (RGS) proteins in normal cellular signal transduction and in disease states

Aliasger Salem, PhD

Dr. Salem is the Bighley Endowed Chair and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and also Chemical and Biochemical Engineering.

Interests: Nanotechnology, polymer synthesis and biodegradable polymers, targeted drug delivery, nanotoxicity, microfabrication, microfluidics

Aaron Seaman, PhD

Dr. Seaman is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine-General Internal Medicine.

Interests: cancer survivorship and disparities in care and outcomes, rural health, health services research, medical anthropology

Jessica Sieren, PhD

Dr. Sieren is an Associate Professor of Radiology-Division of Physiologic Imaging.

Interests: lung cancer, multimodal investigation of lung nodules, dynamic perfusion computed tomography for nodule characterization, animal models for evaluation and drug treatment, lobar co-localization between lung disease and cancer

Andrean Simons-Burnett, PhD

Dr. Simons-Burnett is an Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics, and the Director of the Free Radical Radiation Biology Program.

Interests: head and neck cancer, signaling pathways and oxidative stress in cancer prevention, anti-tumor efficacy of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors, mechanisms of resistance to EGFR-based chemotherapy

Maria Spies, PhD

Dr. Spies is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Radiation Oncology.

Interests: DNA repair, physical and single-molecule biochemistry, molecular mechanisms of key players in the DNA repair pathways and how protein partners and posttranslational modifications affect their action, regulation of RAD51 protein

Doug Spitz, PhD

Dr. Spitz is a Professor of Radiation Oncology.

Interests: redox metabolism, metabolic oxidative stress, improving cancer therapy outcomes and protecting normal tissue during radiotherapy, cancer cell mitochondrial metabolism

Christopher Stipp, PhD

Dr. Stipp is an Associate Professor in Biology.

Interests: cell surface interaction maps, cell migration, mechanisms of integrin functional diversity, defining the range of α3β1 functions in tumor cells

Erin Talbert, PhD

Dr. Talbert is an Assistant Professor of Health and Human Physiology.

Interests: Anorexia-Cachexia syndrome of cancer; loss of skeletal muscle mass in people and animals, particularly in pancreatic cancer

Munir Tanas, MD

Dr. Tanas is an Associate Professor of Pathology.

Interests: sarcomas, the Hippo pathway as a novel therapeutic target, mechanisms of oncogene activation, tumorigenesis and metastasis, identification of new therapeutic drugs

Eric Taylor, PhD

Dr. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and the Director of the Metabolomics Core Facility.

Interests: molecular mechanisms regulating mitochondrial function and their relationship to disease

Kristi Thiel, PhD

Dr. Thiel is an Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology - Reproductive Science Research

Interests: new therapeutic targets for endometrial cancer, estrogen and progesterone responsive cancer cell lines

Fatima Toor, PhD

Dr. Toor is an Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Physics and Astronomy, and Chair in Laser Engineering.

Interests: photonics, development of novel III-V and Si based optoelectronic devices and systems for applications in chemical sensing, biomedical imaging, and energy generation

Tina Tootle, PhD

Dr. Tootle is a Professor and Director of Biology.

Interests: prostaglandin signaling and function using Drosophila, understanding prostaglandin action throughout development and during cancer progression and metastasis. 

Jessica Tucker, PhD

Dr. Tucker is an Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology.

Interests: oncogenic Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus, transfer RNA (tRNA) regulation in mammal cells, non-canonical functions of tRNAs and tRNA dysfunction

Shannon Watkins, PhD

Dr. Watkins is an Assistant Professor in Community and Behavioral Health.

Interests: cancer prevention, reducing tobacco-related health disparities, adolescent and young adult health and tobacco use, epidemiology and econometric techniques

George Weiner, MD

Dr. Weiner is a Professor of Internal Medicine-Hematology, Oncology, and Blood and Marrow Transplantation and also of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics.

Interests: novel approaches to immunology of B-cell malignancies such as lymphoma, anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies, use of nanoparticles to enhance anti-tumor response, translational research

Michael Wright, PhD

Dr. Wright is an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biophysics.

Interests: prostate cancer, signal transduction pathways in normal and diseased cells, perturbations in androgen receptor signaling, quantitative mass spectrometry

Whitney Zahnd, PhD

Dr. Zahnd is an Assistant Professor of Health Management and Policy. 

Interests:  health services research, social epidemiology, rural cancer health disparities, health care access and equity, geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial statistics