CT2 Program Faculty

All program faculty are members of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. They represent 10 academic Departments (Cell & Molecular Medicine Program, Center For Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Division of Biological Sciences, Medicine, Nanoengineering, Pathology, Pediatrics, Pharmacology and Surgery) and 4 organized research units (the Cancer Center, The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and the Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence). The 20 participating faculty constitute a group of extremely productive investigators who are major leaders in their respective fields. This group includes 1 Nobel Prize winner (Tsien), 1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators (Tsien), 1 Ludwig Institute investigators (Kolodner),  and 2 members of the National Academy of Science  (Karin, Kolodner). All faculty mentors have agreed to participate in the Program’s courses and seminars, to accept trainees into their laboratories and research programs and to provide career guidance to trainees. The faculty have been carefully selected so as to bring expertise in all phases of drug development to the Program. 

Michael Bouvet, MD, Associate Professor In Residence, Surgery. Dr. Bouvet is a surgical oncologist with expertise in management of pancreatic, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and the major GI cancers.  His research interests include orthotopic models of pancreatic cancer and growth regulation of pancreatic cancer as well as novel fluorescent probes for imaging these tumors.

Joan Heller Brown, PhD, Professor of Pharmacology. Ligands such as thrombin, LPA and S1P act on G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs ) to activate RhoA and induce proliferation in the human glioblastoma multiforme 1321N1 cell line ( 1321N1) but the signaling pathways by which RhoA signals to cell proliferation is not well defined. The Brown Lab is currently working on determining the expression and secretion of the matricellular protein Cyr61/CCN1 , which bind to integrins, is highly upregulated in response to RhoA activation and is required for mitogenic responses to thrombin. GPCR mediated RhoA activation also leads to sustained activation of Rap1 and our recent studies suggest that this response is required for sustained ERK activation, proliferation, integrin mediated cell adhesion and in vivo glioblastoma cell growth.

David Cheresh, PhD, Professor, Pathology. The Cheresh laboratory studies tumor angiogenesis and tumor cell invasion and metastasis. They have developed a number of drugs that inhibit angiogenesis, including Vitaxin and Celingitide and a B-raf inhibitor,  that are now being tested clinically in cancer patients. Dr. Cheresh has also invented a novel drug delivery system with broad application for many types of drugs.

Steven Dowdy, PhD, Professor, Cellular & Molecular Medicine / Medicine. The Dowdy lab is interested in the treatment of cancer with siRNA-based drugs targeting cell cycle progression. His team has developed innovative techniques that are providing the basis for in vivo delivery of siRNA to tumors.

Sadik Esener, PhD, Professor, Bioengineering. Dr. Esener is the PI of the Center for Nanotechnology Excellence at UCSD. His laboratory is focused on the use of nanotechology and nanoparticles for the development of both novel diagnostic and imaging techniques as well as targeted drug delivery to tumors.

William Fenical, PhD, Professor & Director, Marine Research Division, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Center For Marine Biotechnology & Biomedicine and PI of a Collaborative Drug Discovery network grant. The Fenical group conducts research on the unique natural product toxins produced by sea floor organisms. He has successfully isolated and characterized hundreds of novel compounds, and has advanced many of these through preclinical development and into clinical trials.

Napoleone Ferrara, MD, Professor, Pathology. The Ferrara lab studies the biology of angiogenesis and the identification of its regulators. Over twenty years ago, the lab reported the isolation and cDNA cloning of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and proposed that this molecule played a unique role in the regulation of angiogenesis. The lab is now investigating mechanisms of tumor angiogenesis alternative to VEGF, in particular the role of factors produced by myeloid cells and fibroblasts.

Kelly Frazer, PhD, Professor, Pediatrics.  Dr. Frazer is a geneticist and expert in genomic analysis. Using next-generation genomic techniques, her lab focuses on identification of disease risk using genomic information. Such diseases include cancer, congenital heart disease, asthma, and obesity.

Mike Heller, PhD, Professor, Nanoengineering, Bioengineering. The Heller Lab is working toward the development of rapid highly parallel assisted self-assembly nanofabrication and heterogeneous integration processes and the creation of novel photonic energy transfer systems for next generation DNA genotyping assays.  Specifically, the Heller lab research is focused on the construction of precision nano-mechanical systems, assembly of nanoparticles into higher-order structures, efficient transduction of nanoscale optical & electrical forces in macroscopic information output, and creation of new methods and systems for use in cancer and amyloid disease therapeutics and diagnostics.

Stephen B. Howell, MD, Professor, Medicine. The overall goal of the Howell research program is to elucidate the mechanisms by which tumors become resistant to the platinum-containing drugs with the goal of developing strategies for preventing or overcoming resistance. This includes molecular and genetic studies of resistance mechanisms and the development of novel Pt drug tumor targeting and delivery systems.

Michael Karin, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology.  Dr. Karin is an expert on NFkB pathway signaling and cellular responses to stress and inflammation. His laboratory is elucidating how inflammatory cytokines drive malignant transformation and the progression of tumors, and the details of how signaling pathways activated by such cytokines operate.

Thomas Kipps, MD, PhD, Professor, Medicine.  Dr. Kipps is a hematologist/oncologist and expert in chronic lymphatic leukemia (CLL). Dr. Kipps leads a large international collaborative group focused on this disease. His laboratory is studying the etiology and treatment of CLL including immunotherapies and genetically targeted vaccines.

Richard Kolodner, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Medicine, Cell & Molecular Medicine Program and the Ludwig Institute. Dr. Koldner is a geneticist who uses S.cerevisiae as a model organism to study the mechanisms by which cells maintain the stability of their genomes including recombination and related repair events. His laboratory has played a major role in elucidating the role of DNA mismatch repair in colon cancer.

Andrew Lowy, MD, Professor, Surgery. Dr. Lowy laboratory created a Pdx-1-cre transgenic strain to develop the first murine model of KRAS-mediated pancreatic duct neoplasia. This model is now accepted as a standard in the field and our strain has been provided to more than 100 laboratories worldwide, licensed to pharma and now resides in the NCI MMHCC Repository. In addition, the Lowy laboratory has worked with all relevant models of pancreatic cancer including pancreatic cancer primary human xenografts. The Lowy group was the first to document the stepwise increase in RON receptor overexpression during pancreatic carcinogenesis and examines RON as a novel therapeutic target in pancreatic cancer.

Tony Reid, MD, PhD, Professor, Medicine. Dr. Reid is a medical oncologist and clinical trialist specializing in the treatment of patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. He heads the Cancer Center’s Clinical Trials Office. His laboratory focuses on gene therapy with viral vectors for the treatment of cancer.

David D. Schlaepfer, PhD, Professor, Reproductive Medicine. The Schlaepfer lab has over 20 years of experience in studying FAK signaling and has participated in small molecule inhibitor development as anti-tumor agents. Ongoing experiments combine mouse genetic, pharmacological, cell biological, real time confocal microscopy, and protein signaling analyses of ovarian tumor cell function. (Dr. Schlaepfer is not eligible to accept a trainee in July 2014.)

Sanford Shattil, MD, Professor, Medicine. Dr. Shattil is a hematologist/oncologist and Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology. He is an expert in integrin signaling as it pertains to hematopoietic and vascular cells, particularly platelets, megakaryocytes and endothelial cells.

Dwayne Stupack, PhD, Associate Professor, Reproductive Medicine. The Stupack laboratory studies tumor cell survival and invasion during the metastasis, or spread, of cancer. His lab is focused on the reprogramming mechanisms by which tumor cells avoid cell death, and the use of novel agents to reverse this process, as well as imaging of tumors and tumor cells to detect micrometastasis.

Roger Tsien, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology/Chemistry & Biochemistry (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2008).  The Tsien laboratory is developing new molecular imaging techniques based on tumor-specific enzyme activities. They are using non-optical readouts such as positron emission tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, or ultrasound, to noninvasively image gene expression in live opaque organisms.

Robert Tukey, PhD, Professor, Pharmacology and Chemistry & Biochemistry.  The Tukey  laboratory is investigating the contribution of molecular genetics and xenobiotic receptor control on the regulation of human UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) and cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes. The regulation of these genes dictates the fate through metabolism of most therapeutic drugs and many environmentally generated toxicants. To understand how these genes and their gene products function in vivo, transgenic and knockout technologies are being developed that allow for pharmacokinetic, regulatory and functional studies to be conducted in humanized animal models.

Judith Varner, PhD, Professor, Pathology. Dr. Varner is an expert on angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis that occurs in tumors. Her laboratory studies the role of integrins and mediating endothelial cell proliferation and migration in response to factors released by tumor cells, and the participation of bone marrow cells in creation of the metastatic niche. (Dr. Varner is not eligible to accept a trainee in July 2014.

Geoffrey Wahl, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, UCSD; Member, Salk Institute (former President, AACR). Dr. Wahl’s interests center on the mechanisms that insure faithful reproduction and segregation of DNA, and how such safeguards are abrogated during cancer progression. A major focus has concerned the mechanisms by which the p53 tumor suppressor insures the integrity of the genome. This work was stimulated by their finding that loss of p53 function makes cells competent to undergo DNA amplification in response to specific stressful growth conditions.

Jean Wang, PhD, Professor, Medicine. Dr. Wang is a cell biologist who currently heads the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Training Program for the School of Medicine. Her laboratory is elucidating the role of Rb, c-Abl and p73 in the control of DNA replication, cellular injury responses, and control of transcription and apoptosis. 

Jing Yang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Pharmacology and Pediatrics. Dr. Yang's research aims to uncover the genes and signaling pathways responsible for tumor metastasis.  Her laboratory specifically focuses on understanding how carcinoma cells gain the ability to migrate and degrade extracellular matrix during metastasis.  Their experimental approaches combine molecular and cell biology tools, mouse tumor models, functional genomics and in vivo imaging techniques.