NCI Rising Scholars: Cancer Research Seminar Series (Upcoming Webinars)

Upcoming Webinars

  Thursday, February 16, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Donor Clonal Hematopoiesis and Recipient Outcomes After Transplantation"
Dr. Chris Gibson, K08 Awardee
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Chris Gibson graduated from Yale University School of Medicine in 2009 and trained in internal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he was also chief medical resident. He completed his oncology and hematology fellowships at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2017. His research focuses on how genetic mutations in the blood cells of bone marrow transplant donors and recipients affect recipient outcomes.

Clonal hematopoiesis (CH) can be transmitted from a donor to a recipient during allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. Exclusion of candidate donors with CH is controversial since its impact on recipient outcomes and graft alloimmune function is uncertain. We performed targeted error-corrected sequencing on samples from 1,727 donors age 40 years or older and assessed the effect of donor CH on recipient clinical outcomes. We measured long-term engraftment of 102 donor clones and cytokine levels in 256 recipients at 3 and 12 months after transplant. We found that donor CH is closely associated with clinical outcomes in transplant recipients, with differential impact on graft alloimmune function and potential for leukemic transformation related to mutated gene and somatic clonal abundance. Donor DNMT3A-CH is associated with improved recipient survival because of reduced relapse risk and with an augmented network of inflammatory cytokines in recipients. Risk of donor cell leukemia in allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation is driven by somatic myelodysplastic syndrome–associated mutations or germline predisposition in donors.


  Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Exploring the Role of Masculine Role norms, Medical mistrust, and Normative Support on Colorectal Cancer Screening Uptake among African-American Men"
Dr. Charles R. Rogers, K01 Awardee
Medical College of Wisconsin

Dr. Charles R. Rogers is an Associate Professor in the Institute for Health & Equity at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), an MCW Cancer Center Research Scholar Endowed Chair, and the inaugural Associate Director of Community Outreach & Engagement at MCW’s Cancer Center. He is also the Founding Director of his Men’s Health Inequities Research Lab and an Associate Member of the University of Michigan Mixed Methods Program. He is committed to dismantling systems of oppression to ensure equitable health for all. His transdisciplinary training in applied mathematics and statistics, health education, public health administration and policy, community-based participatory research, and cancer-related health disparities provides a unique perspective on translating research findings into effective approaches to disease prevention. For more than 20 years, Dr. Rogers has shared his knowledge across the world and via numerous media outlets. To learn more, visit or follow Dr. Rogers on Twitter: @crrogersPhD.

Among all racial and ethnic groups, African-American men are the most likely to get colorectal cancer (CRC) and to die of it. Screening can prevent CRC and save lives, but few African-American men receive a CRC screening test. This study recruited English-speaking African-American men aged 45 to 75 into focus groups to examine how their attitudes, beliefs, and life circumstances affected their likelihood of getting a CRC screening test. These focus groups revealed two important barriers for these African-American men to getting screened for CRC: the way they thought about the social expectations of being a man and their mistrust of doctors. The researchers concluded that healthcare professionals need to find ways to address these barriers when they develop programs aimed at encouraging African-American men to get screened for CRC.


  Thursday, April 20, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Qualitative analysis of shared decision-making for chemoprevention in the primary care setting: provider-related barriers"
Dr. Tarsha Jones, K01 Awardee
Florida Atlantic University

Speaker bio coming soon.


  Thursday, May 18, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Utilizing Multiple Strategies to Advance Equitable Implementation of Lung Cancer Screening: Implications of Varying Eligibility Criteria by Race and Ethnicity"
Dr. Randi Williams, K99/R00 Awardee
Georgetown University

Randi M. Williams, PhD, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Oncology and a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program within the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center. Her research focuses on methods to promote the adoption of evidence-based lung cancer control practices to advance health equity.

Dr. Williams’s research utilizes multilevel approaches to promote equitable care within the healthcare setting. In her ongoing National Cancer Institute-funded K99/R00, Dr. Williams is targeting provider and patient behavior to promote patient-provider communication about lung cancer screening and to advance equity in screening rates between Black and White patients.

Dr. Williams completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Lombardi under a Diversity Supplement. She received her PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park, School of Public Health, her MPH in behavioral sciences and health education from Emory University and a BA degree in psychology from Syracuse University.

In 2013, lung cancer screening (lung screening) was recommended for high-risk individuals. The annual rate of lung screening has risen slowly, particularly among Black individuals. In part, this racial disparity resulted in expanded 2021 screening criteria. Methods: Survey data were used to: 1) describe the number of people screened in 2019, 2) compare the percent eligible for lung screening using the 2013 versus the 2021 guidelines, and 3) determine the percent eligible using more detailed criteria. Results: Lung screening rates increased in 2019, and the 2021 criteria will result in more individuals eligible for screening. Using additional criteria may identify more individuals eligible for lung screening. Conclusions: This presentation will discuss ways to include more individuals who may benefit from lung screening and other strategies that can improve screening rates in an equitable manner


  Thursday, June 15, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Site-specific regulation of translation initiation through RNA modifications"
Dr. Daniel Arango, K99/R00 Awardee
Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine

Dr. Daniel Arango is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at Northwestern University. His research program investigates how chemical modifications of RNA regulate protein synthesis and how this interplay affects cell fate decisions such as cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and cell death in cancer. Dr. Arango received a B.S. in Biology from Universidad de Antioquia – Colombia, obtained a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from The Ohio State University, and conducted postdoctoral training in RNA biology at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The Arango lab works to unravel the molecular mechanisms by which post-transcriptional modifications of RNA regulate mRNA processing, stability, and translation and how this interplay affects cell fate decisions in homeostasis and disease. With more than 150 ribonucleotide modifications in all classes of RNA, the epitranscriptome has become a crucial regulatory layer of gene expression regulation. Although the vast diversity of RNA modifications entails an immense regulatory potential, deciphering the epitranscriptome is an enormous scientific challenge. Yet, its decryption will reveal fundamental aspects of gene expression regulation during normal metabolism and disease, which can potentially be leveraged for therapeutic applications. This seminar will focus on our recent findings that acetylation of cytidines in RNA regulates translation in a position-specific manner and the Arango’s laboratory ongoing studies to determine the mechanisms by which the RNA acetyltransferase complexes promote cell proliferation and cancer growth.


  Thursday, July 20, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Enduring, Intersectional Cancer Mortality Disparities in Persistent Poverty Counties"
Dr. Jennifer Moss, K22 Awardee
Penn State College of Medicine

Jennifer Moss, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Family and Community Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. She also serves as Assistant Director of Data and Analysis in the Office of Cancer Health Equity at the Penn State Cancer Institute. Dr. Moss received her PhD in Health Behavior at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and she served as a post-doctoral Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Moss is a social and behavioral scientist focused on geographic disparities in the cancer control continuum. Her work examines aspects of the social and built environment that impact health and healthcare outcomes relevant to cancer, with a special interest in underserved and rural communities. Dr. Moss has published more than 60 peer-reviewed manuscripts and has an extensive history of teaching and service.

Counties with higher levels of poverty since 1980 (“persistent poverty”) tend to be rural and racially diverse, but it is not clear how poverty, rurality, and race work together to influence trends in cancer mortality. We analyzed cancer deaths from 1990-1992 and 2014-2018. During each time period, compared to other counties, persistent poverty counties had about 12 excess cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year (1990-1992: 12.7, 95% confidence interval[CI]=11.4-14.1; 2014-2018: 11.0, 95% CI=10.2-11.8). Over time, disparities by persistent poverty widened for colorectal and breast cancers, but they were stable or mixed for the remaining cancer types. The highest mortality rates were observed among African American or Black residents of rural, persistent poverty counties for colorectal, oropharyngeal, breast, cervical, and prostate cancers. Since several factors influence cancer mortality, a multi-faceted approach is needed to improve outcomes in persistent poverty counties.


  Thursday, August 17, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Are beliefs about the importance of genetics for cancer prevention and early detection associated with high risk cancer genetic testing in the U.S. Population?"
Dr. Sukh Makhnoon, K99/R00 Awardee
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Sukh Makhnoon is an Assistant Professor at the Peter O’Donnell School of Public Health and Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. Makhnoon is a genetic epidemiologist who focuses on public health genomics and the translation of genomic applications into clinical practice. Her research uses genetics, behavioral science, epidemiology, health services, and clinical perspectives to improve utilization of cancer prevention and control innovations across the cancer continuum, with a focus on uncertain and reclassified genetic test results. Her research interests include uncertainty related to genomic sequencing, genomic variant reclassification, and patients’ experiences with genomic sequencing. Prior to joining UTSW, Dr. Makhnoon was a postdoctoral fellow at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. She received her PhD in Public Health Genetics and MS in Genetic Epidemiology from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Public attitudes towards germline genetic testing for inherited cancers have been found to be generally positive. We know that diverse causal beliefs about cancer and sociodemographic factors are associated with uptake of cancer genetic testing. However, it is unclear how beliefs about genetically informed cancer prevention and genetically informed early detection of cancer shape testing behaviors. Using data from the National Health Information National Trends Survey, we studied this relationship between belief about cancer genetics and participation in cancer genetic testing. Interestingly, we find that belief in the importance of genetics for early detection of cancer was associated with testing however, belief in the importance of genetics for cancer prevention was not. The pattern of association is a surprising finding that warrants further investigation as better understanding cancer prevention beliefs and their impact on genetic test uptake may inform population genetic testing efforts.


  Thursday, September 21, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

“Immune cell gene expression signatures in diffuse glioma are associated with IDH mutation status, patient outcome and malignant cell state, and highlight the importance of specific cell subsets in glioma biology”
Dr. Bharati Mehani, NCI Cancer Research Training Awardee
National Cancer Institute

Speaker bio coming soon.


  Thursday, October 19, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

“Distinct MUNC lncRNA structural domains regulate transcription of different promyogenic factors"
Dr. Roza Przanowska, F99/K00 Awardee
University of Virginia

Dr. Róża Kamila Przanowska is a Polish molecular biologist. She obtained Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in biotechnology at University of Warsaw (Warsaw, Poland). She was a Summer Intern in Max Planck Institute (Bad Nauheim, Germany) and a Fulbright Scholar at University of Virginia (Charlottesville, USA). In 2021 she defended her dissertation entitled “Essentiality and functional importance of short and long non-coding RNAs in myogenesis” in the lab of Dr. Anindya Dutta at University of Virginia. During her PhD studies she was awarded among others the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship, Graduate Biosciences Society Student Leadership Award, and F99/K00 NCI Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award. She is currently a Research Associate in Dr. Kevin Janes’s laboratory at University of Virginia working on non-coding RNA heterogeneity in breast cancer.

She is married to the Polish molecular biologist and HEMA fencer Dr. Piotr Przanowski. They have three kids.

Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) are a type of RNA that is not translated into protein. Many lncRNAs have been discovered using high-throughput sequencing data; however, it is unclear what fraction of them is functional and what structural properties affect their phenotype. One of the lncRNAs important for skeletal muscle differentiation is MUNC acting in cis as an enhancer RNA for the Myod1 gene and in trans by recruiting the cohesin complex. Here, experimental probing of the RNA structure revealed that MUNC contains multiple structural domains not detected by prediction algorithms in the absence of experimental information. We show that these specific and structurally distinct domains are required for induction of muscle-related genes, for binding genomic sites and gene expression regulation, and for binding the cohesin complex. Our study reveals unexpectedly complex, structure-driven functions for the MUNC and emphasizes the importance of experimentally determined structures for understanding structure-function relationships in lncRNAs.


  Thursday, November 16, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

“Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans Are De Facto Cellular Receptors for Human Papillomavirus 16 under High Serum Conditions"
Dr. Nathan Fons, NCI Cancer Research Training Awardee
National Cancer Institute

Dr. Nathan Fons did his undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then went on to get a Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology from Yale University. Nathan is currently a postdoctoral research fellow under the mentorship of Dr. John Schiller in the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology at the NCI. His work investigates the binding interactions of human papillomaviruses with host cells and hopes to answer key questions in the field relating to the initial binding and entry receptors for these viruses. Using a variety of approaches including high content microscopy, CRISPR-screening, and bioinformatic tools, this work has implications spanning the fields of basic virology, cell biology, and glycobiology. Expanding on this work, Nathan is also actively involved in the characterization of Belzupacap sarotalocan, an investigational tumor-targeted therapy derived from human papillomavirus capsids, to better define biological signatures mediating its effectiveness.

Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) have previously been identified as the predominant host attachment factors used by human papillomaviruses (HPVs) prior to infection. Here, we demonstrate that in vitro, HPV binding to HSPGs is strongly dependent on the surrounding experimental conditions, including the concentration of fetal bovine serum (FBS). We found that high concentrations of FBS can block HSPG-binding sites and cause a dependence on sulfated chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs) as alternative initial viral receptors. Further, we demonstrate that use of a human-derived alternative to FBS, human platelet lysate, also occludes HSPG-dependent binding, causing a shift toward CSPGs for viral attachment. As HPV infection of basal epithelial cells is thought to occur at sites of microtrauma with exposure to high serum levels and platelet factors, these unexpected findings highlight a possible role for CSPGs as important cellular receptors for the binding and infectivity of HPV in vivo.


  Thursday, December 21, 2023 | 2 to 3 pm EST

"Altered propionate metabolism contributes to tumour progression and aggressiveness"
Dr. Ana Gomes, K99/R00 Awardee
Moffitt Cancer Center

Ana P. Gomes is an Assistant Member of the Department of Molecular Oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center. She received a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Coimbra and did her PhD work under the supervision of Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard Medical School studying the role of NAD+ in skeletal muscle aging. She completed her postdoctoral training with Dr. John Blenis at Weill Cornell Medicine, studying the influence of age-driven metabolic and epigenetic reprogramming in tumor progression. Her laboratory aims to define how aging shapes the tumorigenic process spanning from signaling paradigms to epigenetic reprogramming and metabolic rewiring. Ana has received a Susan G. Komen postdoctoral fellowship, a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, the Tri-Institutional Breakout Prize, an American Cancer Society Scholar Award and was selected as a Forbeck Scholar, a STAT Wunderkind and a Rising Star in Cancer Metabolism and Signaling by the NYAS.

The reprogramming of cellular metabolism for both the development of cancer and its progression to metastasis presents a ripe area of research. Far from simply existing as the process of breakdown and buildup of nutrients in the cell, cellular metabolism has become recognized as a fundamental determinant of cellular identity and function. It is now evident that certain metabolites can drive cancer progression and metastasis, functioning in autocrine, paracrine and endocrine fashions. We have previously demonstrated how a systemic age-induced increase of a single metabolite, contributes to poor cancer prognosis and increased cancer-related mortality in elderly patients, highlighting the importance of metabolic alterations in determining tumor progression. Building on these findings, we have identified that production of this age-related metabolite occurs in cancer cells through deregulation of its biosynthetic pathway and elicits a transcriptional reprogramming that enables cancer cells to attain the traits necessary for progression into metastatic disease.