University of Georgia Cancer Center

Researcher Profiles

Cancer is a complex disease, and scientists at The University of Georgia Cancer Center take a broad, multidisciplinary approach to fighting it. Our scientists are gaining insights on the basic mechanisms that underlie cancer and developing new diagnostics and therapeutics. They’re also uncovering ways to design more effective health education campaigns and to improve the quality of life of patients and survivors.

Michael Bartlett

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Professor and Director-BS Program

Michael  Bartlett

Understanding how the body absorbs, metabolizes and excretes environmental toxins as well as anti-cancer drugs is vital to assessing their risks and benefits. Bartlett is looking for new and precise ways to detect and measure carcinogens in the body and working to better understand how the body processes drugs.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/michael_bartlett/

Carl W. Bergmann

Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC)

Associate VP Research-Facilities
Associate Director, CCRC
Executive Director, Animal Health Research Center
Senior Research Scientist

Carl W. Bergmann

Cells are embedded in an extracellular matrix made up of proteins and negatively charged carbohydrate chains. Bergman is exploring how these charged carbohydrates and proteins interact with cells to influence tumor growth and metastasis.

http://www.ccrc.uga.edu/world/personnel/templateperson.php?uid=117

Geert-Jan Boons

Department of Chemistry

Franklin Professor

Geert-Jan  Boons

When cells become cancerous, the sugars on their surfaces undergo distinct changes that set them apart from healthy cells. Boons has synthesized a vaccine that, in mice, has successfully triggered a strong immune response to cancer cells. His group is currently testing and refining the vaccine, and hopes to start clinical trials in humans soon.

http://cell.ccrc.uga.edu/~gjboons/boons/Home.htm

Houjan Cai

Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Assistant Professor

Houjan  Cai

Cai’s research focuses on the investigation of the molecular mechanisms involved in the initiation and progression of prostate cancer. We wish to identify novel strategies and small molecular inhibitors for targeting advanced stages of prostate cancer.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/houjian_cai/

David Chu

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Distinguished Research Professor, Emeritus

David  Chu

In addition to his developing new antiviral agents to treat diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B virus, Chu has discovered an experimental drug for the treatment of leukemia as well as solid tumors that's currently being tested in humans.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/david_chu/

Brian Condie

Department of Genetics

Associate Professor

Brian  Condie

http://www.genetics.uga.edu/people_bio_condie.html

Brian Cummings

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy; Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Brian  Cummings

Components of cell membranes known as lipids can play critical roles in the processes that turn normal cells into cancerous cells. By understanding the changes these lipids undergo and the key molecules involved, Cummings aims to find new targets for drugs that inhibit the growth of tumors.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/brian_cummings/

Steve Dalton

Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Molecular Cell Biology
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scientist

Steve  Dalton

Stem cells have the ability to turn into any type of tissue in the body, and may one day be used to treat degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But when stem cells go awry, they share distinct similarities to tumors. Dalton is working to better understand these similarities in hopes that they may be exploited to halt the growth of tumors.

http://www.daltonlab.uga.edu/

Melissa B. Davis

Department of Genetics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor

Melissa  B. Davis

Environmental factors impact cancer genes. Davis works to identify the factors impacting breast cancer subtypes in a sample group of 500 North Georgia women.

http://www.genetics.uga.edu/people_bio_davis.html

Shanta Dhar

Department of Chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor

Shanta  Dhar

Targeted treatment is effective against cancer cells, however precision delivery can be challenging. Dhar’s research focuses on the study and development of nanocarriers for targeted delivery of therapeutics, contrast agents, continuously at controlled rates for prolonged periods of time.

http://www.chem.uga.edu/research/pages/Dhar

Kevin Dobbin

Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Kevin  Dobbin

Microarray technology has revolutionized cancer research by allowing scientists to measure the expression of thousands of genes within healthy cells as well as tumors. Dobbin’s research focuses on modifying traditional statistical study design and analysis methods to accommodate such massive amounts of data. The goal is to accelerate the rate at which laboratory findings are translated into clinical tools that can be used to improve patient outcomes.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/epibio/about/directory/biostatistics/kevin_dobbin

Scott Dougan

Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scientist

Scott  Dougan

The process by which a fertilized egg becomes a functioning organism is coordinated through a complex series of interactions among cells. Dougan is exploring these basic mechanisms and how miscommunication among cells sets the stage for cancer and birth defects.

http://cellbio.uga.edu/directory/faculty/scott-t-dougan

Stephen Hajduk

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Professor and Department Head

Stephen  Hajduk

Cellular blueprints start as DNA but are then translated into RNA and then into proteins that do the work of cells. Hajduk is exploring how variations in the normal cellular process of RNA editing influence tumor formation and contribute to other diseases. In addition, a human blood protein he discovered in 1996 has been correlated with certain cancers, and he’s now working to understand why.

http://www.ctegd.uga.edu/hajduk.php

Biao He

Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine

GRA Distinguished Investigator
Professor

Biao  He

Viruses offer a viable alternative to surgery and chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer tumors. He’s research focuses on oncolytic viruses that can kill cancer cells without using escalating dosages. He has found parainfluenza virus 5 is an effective virus in mouse models of human breast, melanoma and lung cancer.

http://vet.uga.edu/id/labs/biao-he

Shelley B. Hooks

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Associate Professor

Shelley B. Hooks

Like most cancers, ovarian cancer is the result of improper growth signals that drive cancerous cells to multiply and spread to other tissues. The predominant growth signal in ovarian cancer cells is a molecule known as lysophosphatidic acid (LPA). Hooks and her team are investigating mechanisms for turning off LPA signaling that may lead to new treatments for ovarian cancer.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/shelley_hooks/

Su-I Hou

Health Promotion and Behavior, College of Public Health

Associate Professor & Director (TW-SA)

Su-I  Hou

Early detection of cancers can save lives, but many people still don’t get regular screenings. Hou is studying the psychosocial and cultural factors that influence screening behaviors and working to develop theory- and evidence-based interventions to encourage screening. She has focused on using community and worksite strategies to encourage cancer screenings, particularly among minorities.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/hpb/about/directory/faculty/su-i_hou

Takahiro Ito

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor

Takahiro  Ito

Takahiro Ito research is focused on the mechanisms that regulate cell division in normal and malignant cells. These studies have broad implications in both stem cell and cancer biology.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/directory/takahiro-ito

Natarajan Kannan

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Natarajan  Kannan

Many human cancers are associated with abnormal functioning of protein kinases- a large family of proteins that switch "on" and "off" signals required for cell growth and differentiation. Kannan's research is focused on understanding how genomic alterations (mutations) in protein kinases alters this on-off switch.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/directory/natarajan-kannan

Eileen J. Kennedy

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Assistant Professor

Eileen J. Kennedy

Cancer grows when cells signal to one another to reproduce. The Kennedy Lab works to develop methods to block the communication between breast and lung cancer cells by stopping certain protein interactions.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/eileen_kennedy/

Edward Kipreos

Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Professor

Edward  Kipreos

The degradation of proteins plays key roles in the normal process by which cells grow and divide. Kipreos and his team are working to better understand these degradation mechanisms, which also act on proteins that promote or inhibit cancer formation.

http://cellbio.uga.edu/directory/faculty/edward-t-kipreos

David Lee

Office of the Vice-President of Research

Vice-president

David  Lee

David Lee is the Vice President for Research at the University of Georgia (UGA) and also the Executive Vice President of the UGA Research Foundation (UGARF). Dr. Lee is recognized for research into the molecular regulation of normal and cancer cell growth, and in particular for studies describing Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-like protein activators of the erbB/HER family of tyrosine kinase receptors.

http://www.ovpr.uga.edu/about/vp

Dexi Liu

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Department Head
Panoz Professor of Pharmacy

Dexi  Liu

Liu’s research focuses on identification of factors that control the growth of metastasized tumors and the influence of the microenvironment on cancer therapy.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/dexi_liu/

Robert Maier

Department of Microbiology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

GRA Ramsey Eminent Scholar of Microbial Physiology

Robert  Maier

The bacterium Helicobacter pylori colonizes the stomach and liver of humans and can persist for years, potentially resulting in cancer. Maier is studying the proteins that allow the bacterium to survive with the ultimate goal of finding its Achilles’ heel.

http://mib.uga.edu/directory/robert-j-maier

Michael McEachern

Department of Genetics, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Professor

Michael  McEachern

By limiting the number of times a cell can divide, structures on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres play an important role in keeping cells healthy and non-cancerous. McEachern uses yeast as a model system to explore how telomeres are maintained, both by the normal mechanism involving the enzyme telomerase and by an alternative mechanism involving the DNA repair pathway known as recombination.

http://www.genetics.uga.edu/people_bio_mceachern.html

Debra Mohnen

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Professor

Debra  Mohnen

Mohnen was the first scientist to show that pectin, a natural fiber found in fruits and vegetables, kills prostate cancer cells. She is now working to better understand the mechanisms by which pectin kills cancer cells and to identify the specific pectin structure responsible for its anti-cancer activity. The ultimate goal is to develop pectin-based pharmaceuticals or foods with enhanced health benefits.

http://www.ccrc.uga.edu/world/personnel/templateperson.php?uid=25

Kelley Moremen

Complex Carbohydrate Research Center; Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Professor

Kelley  Moremen

Specific changes in the carbohydrates attached to the surfaces of cells play roles in their adhesion and migration. Moremen’s lab is focused on generating inhibitors to block these changes with the goal of creating new targets for drugs that prevent the metastasis of cancer cells.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/moremen/lab/

Mandi Murph

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Mandi  Murph

Murph is working to better understand a cellular signaling pathway known as the lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) pathway that is involved in the progression of specific types of cancer. Drugs are under development targeting this pathway, and Murph’s research also aims to reveal their mechanisms of action to determine potential side effects before clinical trials and to maximize the likelihood of safe development.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/mandi_murph/

Tamas Nagy

Comparative Pathology Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine

Assistant Professor
Director, Comparative Pathology Laboratory

Tamas   Nagy

As the director of the Comparative Pathology Laboratory, Nagy’s research studies the involvement of small G proteins in mammary gland development and carcinogenesis.

http://www.vet.uga.edu/vpp/services/labs/comppath.php

Vasu Nair

UGA Center for Drug Discovery, College of Pharmacy

William Henry Terry, Sr. Professor-GRA Eminent Scholar in Drug Discovery
Director, UGA Center for Drug Discovery

Vasu  Nair

In addition to developing antiviral drugs that fight HIV, Nair is also working to create drugs that inhibit an enzyme known as IMPDH that, in one of its two forms, is found in tumors and other rapidly proliferating cells.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/vasu_nair/

Nicole Northrup

Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine

Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Medicine Specialty of Oncology
Chief of Staff, Out-patient Medicine

Nicole  Northrup

Dogs and cats develop the same cancers as people. In the College of Veterinary Medicine's Teaching Hospital, Dr. Northrup and her colleagues provide the highest quality care for veterinary cancer patients. Through clinical studies, they improve diagnostic and therapeutic options for companion animals and people.

http://vet.uga.edu/sams/people/northrup

Michael Pierce

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

UGA Cancer Center Director
Mudter Professor in Cancer Research
Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Michael  Pierce

Pierce and his team have isolated a specific enzyme that is elevated in colorectal and breast cancer cells, as well as other types of cancer. The team is now looking for ways to inhibit the enzyme to slow the growth of tumors and prevent metastasis. His team is also working to find biomarkers that would allow doctors to diagnose pancreatic cancer early, when it’s more easily treated.

/people/mpierce.html

Simon Platt

Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine

Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery

Simon  Platt

Dogs and cats have many of the same diseases as people. As a faculty member in College of Veterinary Medicine, Platt studies canine brain tumor treatment using convection enhanced delivery, nanoparticles and polylactide-co-glycolide technology. The therapies he creates may also translate to the treatment of human patients.

http://vet.uga.edu/sams/people/platt

Vladimir Popik

Department of Chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Vladimir   Popik

Getting chemotherapy drugs to the right part of the body is crucial to making them work effectively and minimizing their side effects. Popik is working to create new chemotherapy drugs that are inactive in the dark but become active when irradiated by light of a specific wavelength. The goal is to use light to localize treatment to the tissue containing the malignant tumor while sparing the rest of the body from the drug’s toxic side-effects.

http://www.chem.uga.edu/people/faculty/popik

James Prestegard

Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC)

Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar of NMR Spectroscopy

James  Prestegard

Determining the structural characteristics of protein-carbohydrate interactions is vital to understanding protein functions as they bind to carbohydrates at cell surfaces. Using a technique known as NMR spectroscopy, Prestegard is studying proteins involved in the proliferation of cancer cells and revealing targets for the design of drugs that can block their action.

http://tesla.ccrc.uga.edu/

Walter K. Schmidt

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scientist
Associate Professor

Walter K. Schmidt

Schmidt is studying an enzyme that modifies and activates proteins, including those commonly associated with cancer development. By understanding the biochemical properties of the enzyme, known as the Ras Converting Enzyme, he hopes to eventually interfere with the ability of those proteins to cause cancer.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/wschmidt/

Somaneth Shenoy

Clinical and Administrative Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy

Associate Professor

Somaneth  Shenoy

Cancer cells can evade treatment. Shenoy’s research focuses on the development of new therapies for prostate and bladder cancers through better understanding of the cytokine known as Transforming Growth Factor β-induced molecular mechanisms regulating tumor growth and metastasis.

http://cap.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/shenoy/

Jeff Springston

Advertising and Public Relations, Grady College

Core director, Southern Center for Communication, Health and Poverty

Jeff  Springston

Health education campaigns have traditionally relied on print and broadcast materials that use a one-size-fits-all approach. Springston is exploring how new media technologies such as interactive DVDs, kiosks, cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) can be used to encourage cancer screenings and tailor messages to specific at-risk populations.

http://grady.uga.edu/directory/profile/springston

Michael Tiemeyer

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Professor

Michael  Tiemeyer

Many of the basic mechanisms involved in the development of an organism from a single-celled embryo to a multi-cellular adult are the same ones that go awry when cells become cancerous. Tiemeyer is working to better understand the process of development, specifically focusing on the role of cell-surface carbohydrates, in hopes that his findings will reveal new ways to treat cancer.

http://www.ccrc.uga.edu/personnel/index.php?uid=30&personnel=Tenure-Track%20Faculty

Jeffrey Urbauer

Department of Chemistry, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator

Jeffrey  Urbauer

Modern therapy for breast cancers relies on drugs known collectively as antiestrogens. Unfortunately, over time, many breast cancers become resistant to these drugs and cease to respond to the therapy. Urbauer's goal is to discover how antiestrogen resistance develops so that more effective drugs can be designed for breast cancer treatment.

http://www.chem.uga.edu/research/pages/Urbauer

John Vena

Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

John  Vena

Vena is working to better understand the factors that influence the health of populations. He is currently studying occupational and environmental risk factors that impact cancers of the bladder, breast and lungs.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/epibio/about/directory/epidemiology/john_vena

Jai-Sheng Wang

Environmental Health Sciences, College of Public Health

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar
Professor & Department Head of Environmental Health Sciences

Jai-Sheng  Wang

Wang’s research focuses on studying the impact of environmental toxins on the formation of liver and esophageal cancers. He’s also exploring the role natural products and dietary supplements may play in preventing cancer in high-risk populations.

http://www.publichealth.uga.edu/ehs/about/directory/faculty/jia-sheng_wang

Lianchun Wang

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Center Distinguished Scholar
Assistant Professor

Lianchun  Wang

A molecule known as heparan sulfate plays critical roles in tumor growth, metastasis and blood vessel development. Wang is exploring the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which the molecule acts in cancer in hopes of revealing new ways to treat the disease.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/labs/wanglianchun

Lance Wells

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Complex Carbohydrate Research Center

Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Adjunct Associate Professor of Chemistry
Georgia Cancer Coalition Scholar

Lance  Wells

Pancreatic cancer has the worst 5-year survival rate (1%) of any cancer, primarily due to a lack of early diagnostic tests. Wells is studying proteins and the sugars that adorn them in pancreatic ductal fluid from patients to find early diagnostic biomarkers. These biomarkers also have the potential to be targets for new therapeutic drugs.

http://www.ccrc.uga.edu/world/personnel/templateperson.php?uid=31

Ying Xu

Computer Science Department, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Director of UGA Bioinformatics Institute
Regents-Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Professor
Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar

Ying  Xu

Xu and his research team are analyzing thousands of tissue samples - both cancerous and non-cancerous - and comparing patterns of gene and protein expression and then using computational methods to predict protein secretion. The hope is to find differences that can be used to revolutionize early diagnostics by creating a blood test that accurately predicts whether a person has cancer.

http://csbl.bmb.uga.edu/~xyn/

Hang Yin

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Assistant Professor

Hang  Yin

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is the most common pediatric soft tissue sarcoma, which is derived from skeletal muscle stem/progenitor cells. We are interested in understanding functions of noncoding RNAs in the tumorigenesis of RMS and identifying novel non-coding RNA therapeutic targets for RMS.

http://www.yinlab.uga.edu

Jason Zastre

Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, College of Pharmacy

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar
Assistant Professor

Jason  Zastre

Cell membrane transporters actively move compounds in and out of cells. Zastre is studying these transporters with the goal of maximizing the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and reducing their toxic side effects.

http://pbs.rx.uga.edu/index.php/people/faculty/jason_zastre/

Qun Zhao

Physics and Astronomy, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Associate Professor of Physics

Qun  Zhao

With development of new contrast agent (such as iron oxide nanoparticles), early detection of tumors using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and targeted therapeutic treatment have become more feasible. The Zhao lab has focused on dynamic contrast enhanced MRI, tracking of nanoparticles-labeled cells, and evaluation of therapeutic treatment.

http://www.physast.uga.edu/people/qun_zhao

Shaying Zhao

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar

Shaying  Zhao

Colorectal cancer is known to have a strong genetic component, and Zhao is working to pinpoint the exact genes that play a role in the development and progression of the disease. Her work may ultimately help patients better understand their risk for colon cancer and may play a role in early detection.

http://www.bmb.uga.edu/directory/shaying-zhao