The faculty and Professional Staff of the SUPERS@PENN program continue to serve as mentors to me long after I finished my summer in the program. Their support was a big reason behind my decision to apply to Penn for graduate school and set my sights on a research career.
Lumena Louis – SUPERS 2010
Pharmacology Graduate Group, Univ. of Pennsylvania
By example, my SUPERS mentor taught me what it means to be a professional scientist, particularly the importance of taking ownership of my research project. The experience was extremely rewarding and helped clarify my desire to pursue a dual career in medicine and research.
Dencel Garcia-Velez – SUPERS 2013
Undergraduate, Univ. of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras
Sydney Evans VMD, MS: Dr. Evans studies pathologic processes associated with hypoxia, including radiation resistance, chemotherapy resistance and tumor aggression [metastasis, invasion]). Dr. Evans collaborated with Dr. Cameron Koch to develop EF5 as an agents for characterizing tumor hypoxia in preclinical animal models and in human clinical trials. Dr. Evans and Koch have also developed 18F-EF5 to detect tumor hypoxia by non invasive positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. Recently the lab has focused on the biogenesis and role of microvesicles (MV) in the tumor response to radiation therapy. Tumor MV have been shown to contain cargo that modulates metastasis, tumor invasion and immune system modulation. The studies in the Evan’s lab emphasize the role of the tumor microenvironment, specifically hypoxia, on MV biogenesis following radiation therapy. Dr. Evans is one of the Co-PIs on the SUPERS@PENN program grant.
Costas Koumenis PhD: Dr. Koumenis’ lab focuses on the molecular mechanisms that lead to adaptation of tumor cells to hypoxic and metabolic stress. Using targeted inhibition of the cells adaptive response to stress they hope to improve therapeutic outcomes in cancer patients. Dr. Koumenis lab was one of the first to demonstrate that hypoxia activates the integrated stress response (ISR), a coordinated cellular program that controls translation and ultimately cells survival. Specific drugs targeting components of the ISR are being closely examined to determine therapeutic efficacy. Another major project in this lab is to develop novel chemo- and radiosensitizers targeted to the molecular pathways implicated in radiation- and chemo- resistance; the lab screens small molecule libraries for compounds which have potential as response modifiers, gene therapy approaches combined with targeted delivery of drugs are also being investigated. Dr. Koumenis is one of the Co-PIs on the SUPERS@PENN program grant.
Stephen Tuttle PhD: Dr. Tuttle has been a member of the Radiobiology Division of the Department of Radiation Oncology at PENN for over 25 years. His research interests include the role of the bioenergetics and metabolomics in the cellular response to ionizing radiation and radiomimetic chemotherapeutics. He was the first to demonstrate that the oxidative pentose phosphate cycle is a key regulator of apoptosis in response to ionizing radiation as well as other forms of oxidative stress. Dr. Tuttle’s current research interestsis the down regulation of cellular oxygen consumption as a mechanism of decreasing tumor hypoxia. Studies on the mechanism of respiratory inhibition by on estrogenic steroids as well as anti estrogens are ongoing. Dr Tuttle also collaborates with Dr. Koumenis on investigations of the mechanism by which of natural polyphenolic antioxidants, such as curcumin, enhance the cellular radiation response in both transformed and non-transformed head and neck cancer cells, in vitro and in vivo.
Steven Avery PhD: Dr. Avery is an Assistant Professor in the Physics Division of the Department of Radiation Oncology Physics Division. Dr. Avery’s research is in the field of quality assurance in proton therapy treatment delivery and treatment planning techniques. His proposed methods meet a critical need in the clinic through the use of in vivo imaging of the proton beam range during treatment delivery. The goal of his work is to accurately measure the proton beam dose by reconstructing a 3D image of the distribution of characteristic prompt gammas created in tissue. Dr. Avery is the co-developer of the Minority Undergraduate Summer Experience (MUSE) program, which is sponsored by the American Association of Medical Physicists (AAPM). Dr Avery is a member of the admissions committee and an advisory board member for SUPERS@PENN.
Theresa Busch PhD: Dr. Busch is an Associate Professor in the Division of Radiation Biology of in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Busch’s laboratory performs detailed investigations of tumor physiology and treatment response to photodynamic therapy (PDT). This includes both preclinical and clinical studies of the role of tumor microenvironment in PDT, with a focus on how therapy responsiveness is dictated by the interdependence of physiologic and photobiologic characteristics. Of particular interest are the distributions of hypoxia, blood flow, photosensitizer and irradiance in tumors. Dr. Busch is a member of the advisory board for SUPERS@PENN.
Alejandro Carabe-Fernandez PhD, MIPEM: Dr. Carabe is an Assistant Professor in the Physics Division of Radiation Oncology. His research is focused on mathematical modeling of radiation effects in tissue and cell cultures. His work emphasizes the relative biological effectiveness of particles (protons and carbon ions) compared to conventional photon irradiation and normal tissue complications and tumor control probabilities. Dr. Carabe lectures in the Masters of Medical Physics Program and the Radiation Oncology Medical Residency program. Dr. Carabe’s serves as a part of the advisory board as well as a program advisor, mentor and lecturer of the SUPERS program. Dr. Carabe-Fernandez is a member of the admissions committee and an advisory board member for SUPERS@PENN.
Keith Cengel MD, PhD: Dr. Cengel is an Associate Professor and a clinician-scientist in the department of Radiation Oncology. Dr Cengel has a number of interests including, the role of epidermal growth factor receptor signaling in the cancer cell response to radiation therapy and/or PDT, mechanism(s) by which natural anti-oxidants such as Flaxseed or Curcumin can protect normal tissues while radiosensitizing cancer cells, and the impact of proton and aprticle beam radiation normal cells/tissues in animal models, this final project deals with modeling the types of damage that might result during interplanetary space flight.
Ann-Marie Chacko, PhD: Dr. Chacko is a Research Associate in the Department of Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine, Division of Nuclear Medicine and Clinical Molecular Imaging. Her research bridges the translation targeted diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals from pre-clinical stages to the clinical domain. The laboratory combines unique expertise in radiopharmaceutical chemistry, in vitro pharmacology, and animal models to develop ligands for different molecular targets. The current program includes the pursuit of various radioisotopes attached to small molecules, proteins and nanoparticles for PET/SPECT imaging and radiotherapy. This work includes: (i) development of in vitro screening assays to study binding and toxicity of radiolabeled materials, (ii) establishing animal models for determining biodistribution, pharmacokinetics, and/or in vivo radiotherapeutic effects (e.g., cancer xenografts, orthotopic brain cancer), and (iii) performing preclinical small animal PET, SPECT, MRI, CT and optical imaging for molecular, functional, and anatomic assessments.
Christos Davatzikos, Ph.D.: Dr. Davatzikos is a Professor in the Department of Radiology. As director of the Section of Biomedical Image Analysis, Christos is interested in many areas related to medical image analysis and computing, including image segmentation and registration, multiparametric image analysis as well as the use of machine learning and pattern recognition in medical imaging. His group is affiliated with clinical studies that employ imaging as a biomarker of diseases such as Alzheimers’s schizophrenia, diabetes and cancer.
Jay Dorsey MD, PhD: Dr. Dorsey is a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine and a member of the Abramson Cancer Center (Radiation Biology and Imaging Program), Nano/Bio Interface Center (NBIC), and the Bioengineering Graduate Group. Dr. Dorsey oversees an active translational research laboratory that emphasizes intracranial malignancies. He has scientific expertise in the areas of signal transduction, molecular therapeutics, molecular imaging, brain tumor biology, and radiation biology. He is actively involved in basic mechanistic studies, the application of in vivo imaging methods and characterization of nano-therapeutics in preclinical and early phase clinical trials.
Gary Kao MD, PhD: Dr. Kao is a physician-scientist Associate Professor in the department of Radiation Oncology. His laboratory engages in translationally significant projects. Two active projects are the detection and analysis of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and the development of nanoscale formulations of gold for radiosensitizing and imaging tumors.
Ann R. Kennedy DSc: Dr. Kennedy is a Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Division of Radiation Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Kennedy’s research is focused on i) determining the mechanisms of action involved in radiation-induced carcinogenesis and its modification by chemical agents, and ii) defining protection strategies and determining the mechanisms involved with adverse radiation effects. Much of her current work is focused on space radiation; proton radiation is a major type of radiation encountered during space travel. Proton radiation is also used in cancer radiotherapy and future research in her laboratory will be focused on various strategies to prevent radiation-induced adverse side effects from occurring in treating patients with protons.
Cameron Koch PhD: Dr. Koch is a Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Division of Radiation Biology of the Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Koch’s lab focuses on 1) oxygen detection and control methods both in vitro and in vivo, discerning microenvironmental aspects of oxygen and nutrient depletion and determining how these processes affect tumor response to therapy, 2) biologically important reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, 3) control of tumor respiration and blood flow and 4) DNA damage. Methods employed in Dr. Koch’s laboratory involve immunohistochemistry and its quantitative analysis using newly developed computer algorithms, PET imaging and analysis, HPLC methods of molecular detection and oxygen measurement and control.
Amit Maity MD, PhD: Dr. Maity is Professor and physician-scientist in the Department of Radiation Oncology. A primary focus of his lab is to develop ways of increasing the killing of cancer cells in response to radiotherapy by using agents that inhibit signaling pathways. Recent work has shown that agents that inhibit the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway lead to decreased oxygen consumption, which may result in less hypoxia within tumors and better response to radiotherapy. The Maity lab is trying to understand the mechanism behind inhibition of cellular respiration occurs and how to use this information to improve patient treatment.
Andy Minn PhD: Dr. Minn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology. His laboratory is focused on understanding how cancer cells acquire treatment resistant and aggressive metastatic phenotypes utilizing a functional genomics approach. He has identified gene expression signatures and signaling pathways that not only predict but also promote cancer phenotypes such as resistance to DNA damaging agents (chemotherapy and radiation) and aggressive organ-selective metastasis. He has discovered that signaling pathways that are normally associated with an anti-viral response are utilized by cancers to regulate many of the genes in our gene signatures, suggesting an overlap between the anti-viral response and metastasis/ treatment resistance.
Harish Poptani, PhD: Dr. Poptani is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Depts of Radiology and Radiation Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Poptani’s research focuses on developing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) for translational research. His interests include; the use of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and perfusion imaging to examine differentiating tumor recurrence and normal tissue damage following whole brain radiation therapy, developing high resolution 2D MRS techniques to detect metabolic abnormalities associated with schizophrenia, and the use of DTI imaging to examine mouse models of developmental brain disorders.
Daniel A. Pryma, MD: Dr. Pryma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiology at the Perelman School of medicine and Clinical Director of the Division of Nuclear Medicine and Clinical Molecular Imaging at the Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the use of targeted radiopharmaceuticals for the imaging and therapy of neuroendocrine cancers. He has developed a pre-clinical mouse model of neuroendocrine cancer that is used extensively in his research work. Dr Pryma’s research has a strong translational component, and he is invoved in the design, execution and analysis of data from of numerous clinical trials involving diagnostic and therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals
Tim Solberg, PhD: Dr. Solberg is a Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Director of the Physics Division. Dr. Solberg’s research focuses on technology-guided radiation treatment of cancers and prediction and response to high dose per faction regimens (i.e., stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)). He is a leading expert in the fields of stereotactic radiosurgery, SBRT and small field dosimetry and he has initiated a number of pre-clinical radiosurgery studies with species including mice, rats, swine and primates. Dr. Solberg is a member of the admissions committee and an advisory board member for SUPERS@PENN.
Andrew Tsourkas PhD: Dr. Tsourkas is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. His research is focused on the synthesis of nanoparticles for molecular imaging and drug delivery applications. Specifically his lab develops strategies to specifically target nanoparticle delivery to tumor tissues. These studies focus on new targeting ligands as well as the development of new bioconjugation strategies for the efficient and site-specific attachment of ligands onto the nanoparticle surface.
Arjun Yodh PhD: Dr. Yodh is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Penn. His lab emphasizes investigating the use of non-invasive optical imaging to evaluate tissue optical properties, photosensitizer concentration and tissue oxygenation. In collaboration with members of the Department of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Yodh has developed and applied a multi-modal diffuse optical probe combining diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) as a measurement of tumor blood oxygenation and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS), a measurement of tumor blood flow. These measurements are being applied both clinically and preclinically to the treatment modality photodynamic therapy (PDT).
Tim Zhu PhD: Dr. Zhu is a Professor in the physics division of the department of Radiation Oncology. His lab is centered in three broad areas: photodynamic therapy physics, radiation therapy physics, and image-guided treatment intervention. Within photodynamic therapy physics, his work emphasizes determination of explicit PDT dosimetry, including modeling of light, optical properties, photosensitizer concentration, tissue oxygenation, and singlet oxygen generation. This work also includes the development of an integrated system for interstitial PDT delivery and dosimetry. In the area of radiation therapy physics, his lab emphasizes external beam dose calculations for electrons, photons, and protons using empirical as well as analytical methods. The image-guided intervention work is concentrated in three areas: a robotic PDT delivery system for interstitial PDT, an infra red camera guidance system for intracavitary PDT, and image-guided radiation therapy based on real-time dose calculation and deformable image-registration.