Graduate Fellows

2020 Awardees

Stephanie Jones Stephanie Jones

Project: Genetic Variants in Smoking Cessation and Relapse: A Longitudinal Study

Mentor: Bethany Wolf, Ph.D.

"Genetics play a role in smoking cessation; this project aims to identify genetic variations associated with smoking cessation and the degree of relapse throughout adulthood. This research will improve understanding of the role of genetics in cessation failure and relapse throughout adulthood, which could guide the development of precision medicine cessation intervention approaches for cancer prevention and control."

Julia LeflerJulia Lefler

Project: The Role of Fibroblast Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 3 (STAT3) in Shaping the Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) Immune Microenvironment

Mentor: Michael Ostrowski, Ph.D.

"These studies highlight the importance of understanding how tumor cells communicate with their surrounding environment. With this strategy, we can find ways to block that communication to limit tumor growth. We hope to expand on our findings to ultimately discover new and improved strategies to treat PDAC."

Timothy SamecTimothy Samec

Project: Novel Tandem Peptide Targeted Delivery of Small interfering RNA (siRNA) for RNA interference (RNAi) Therapeutics in Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Mentor: Angela Alexander-Bryant, Ph.D.

"This work is focused on the development of an original peptide delivery system with the ability to selectively target ovarian cancer cells, avoid deterioration by natural pathways present within the cell, and effectively deliver therapeutic cargo to reduce expression of a gene responsible for ovarian cancer cell growth, proliferation, and invasion."

Prior Awardees


Ashley Howell Ashley Howell

Project: Investigation into factors that may affect response to immune checkpoint inhibitors in elderly patients with melanoma

Mentor: Kristin Wallace, Ph.D.

"Changes to the composition and function of the immune system occur naturally with age, which may affect an elderly patient's response to cancer immunotherapy. This research will utilize national data from the SEER cancer registry and the Medicare program to investigate the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in elderly patients with advanced melanoma. Specifically, we will evaluate the impact of age and comorbidity burden on overall survival in older melanoma patients treated with checkpoint blockade therapy and determine whether the risk of experiencing immune-related adverse events increases with age."

Hannah KnochelmannHannah Knochelmann

Project: Mechanisms of enhanced anti-tumor efficacy of four-day expanded Th17 cells for adoptive transfer

Mentor: Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D.

"Generating personalized T cell products for cancer immunotherapy can take several months and is extremely expensive, which limits availability of this therapy and excludes many patients with aggressive malignancies. We recently developed a method where therapeutic T cells can be generated in only four days and now seek to understand their improved antitumor properties. These studies implicate new approaches to streamline T cell production, making this therapy more affordable and available worldwide."

Connor WestConnor West

Project: Determination of N-linked glycosylation changes in hepatocellular carcinoma and the associated glycoproteins for enhanced biomarker discovery and therapeutic targets

Mentor: Richard Drake, Ph.D.

"Our lab focuses primarily on sugar modifications to proteins known as glycans and how these glycans change with disease states. My research focuses on liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma, and how these sugar structures change during disease progression. Previously, we have found that specific glycan changes occur more frequently and abundantly in cancerous tissue. From this, we hope to use these glycan structure changes and the proteins they are attached to as potential biomarkers for earlier detection of liver cancer, therefore improving survival rates and treatment options."


Bradley Krisanits Bradley Krisanits

Project: Advanced Glycation End-Products: Lifestyle Contributions to Prostate Cancer Disparity and Intervention

Mentor: David Turner, Ph.D.

"The HCC fellowship will aid in the successful completion of a clinical trial investigating the benefits of lifestyle change on biomarkers of prostate cancer progression."

Hyunwoo (Tony) KwonHyunwoo (Tony) Kwon

Project: Investigation of IFNg-IDO1-Tryptophan Transport Axis as the Molecular Basis for Bladder Cancer Sex Bias

Mentor: Zihai Li, M.D., Ph.D.

"Males and females share robust differences in their susceptibility to various autoimmune and infectious diseases, emphasizing that sex is an important biological variable regulating the immune system. My research studies the potential implication of sex-based immunological differences on the pathogenesis of various malignancies."

Steven SchuttSteven Schutt

Project: Fli-1: A Promising Therapeutic Target in Graft-versus-Host Disease and Leukemia

Mentor: Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D.

"The protein Friend leukemia virus integration 1 (Fli-1) is responsible for development of Ewing's Sarcoma and certain types of leukemia, while also being associated with systemic lupus (SLE) in humans. This association led us to test if targeting Fli-1 in pre-clinical animal models would be beneficial for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), where we indeed found that targeting Fli-1 using a genetic approach was able to prevent GVHD development."

Aubrey SmithAubrey Smith

Project: Defining the Role of Toll-like Receptor Agonists in T Cell-based Immunotherapy

Mentor: Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D.

"We recently discovered that Toll-like receptor 9 agonist, called CpG-ODN, dramatically augments the anti-tumor activity of adoptively transferred CD8+ T cells. This grant seeks to uncover the mechanisms underlining the effectiveness of this novel therapy. Our findings have the potential to revolutionize various forms of T cell-based therapies for cancer patients."

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