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Congratulations to our Students

Thesis Exams

  • Divya Bhat defended her Thesis on April 6, 2023, titled "Therapeutic disruption of RAD52-ssDNA complexation using novel drug like scaffolds."  She was awarded her PhD in Spring 2023. 
  • Wade Gutierrez defended his Thesis on October 17, 2022, titled "Elucidating the Mechanism of a Novel Chemotherapy Regimen for Soft Tissue Sarcomas."  He is in the UI College of Medicine medical school to complete his MD/PhD.
  • Keith Garcia defended his Thesis on July 7, 2022, titled "TAZ and YAP dysregulation in sarcomas."  He was awarded his PhD in Summer 2022. 
  • Eliot Zhu defended his Thesis on January 7, 2022, titled "Modeling therapy resistance to targeted BRAF inhibition in cutaneous melanoma."   He was awarded his MD/PhD in Spring 2023. 
  • Devon Moose defended his Thesis on November 12, 2021, titled "The mechanism for adaption to fluid sheer stress."  He was awarded his PhD in Fall 2021.
  • Zhaoming Wang defended his Thesis on June 17, 2021, titled "Antibody Therapy and Tumor Microenvironment."   He was awarded his PhD in Summer 2021. 
  • Nick Borcherding defended his Thesis on  November 19, 2018, titled "Big Data Analytics and Cancer Biology: Lessons in Taking Science from the Processor to the Patient."   He was awarded his MD/PhD in Spring 2020. 

Comprehensive Exams

  • Ryan Reis, November 2023: "Integrating a single-cell, multi-modal sequencing approach and machine learning to uncover signatures of disease initiation and progression in cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL)"
  • Akshaya Warrier, June 2023: "Determining the impact of ARF and INK4a loss in NF1 associated Nerve Sheath Tumors"
  • Amira Zaher, April 2023: "GC4419 for radio-sensitization and accelerating wound healing in soft tissue sarcoma"
  • Sei Sho, August 2022: "Combination of Pharmacological Ascorbate and Depletion of NAD+ Metabolism as a Potential Therapeutic Strategy for KEAP1 mutant NSCLC"
  • Amanda Pope, July 2022: "Identifying activators and effectors of RhoA that allow resistance of fluid shear stresses"
  • Ellen Voigt, June 2022: "Transformation of PNFs to MPNSTs through cooperation of INK4a/ARF loss with RABL6A overexpression"
  • Joshua Lingo, May 2022: "RABL6A, a novel oncogene and regulator of immunomodulation"
  • Emma Croushore, September 2021: "Investigating the role of Hsf1 in osteosarcoma"
  • Kiarash Salari, September 2021: "Understanding SETDB1 oncogenic role and its mechanism of overexpression in endometrial cancer"
  • Zhijie Li, August 2021: "The Influence of SUMOylation on Transcriptional Regulation by ETV1 in Breast Cancer"
  • Divya Bhat, August 2020: "RAD52: a new frontier in anti- cancer therapy"
  • Wade Gutierrez, August 2019: "Elucidating the mechanism of a novel epigenetic combination therapy for the treatment of soft tissue sarcoma"
  • Eliot Zhu, August 2019 "Transcriptional Biomarkers of Drug Resistance to BRAF Inhibition in Melanoma"
  • Gavin McGivney, August 2019: "Examining Tumor Suppressor Dependent Metabolomic Changes in Novel Sarcoma Model" 
  • Keith Garcia, July 2019: "The TAZ-CAMTA1 fusion oncoprotein interacts with components of the ATAC (Ada-Two-A-Containing) complex to drive cellular transformation"
  • Zhaoming Wang, June 2019: "Identify the role of TIGIT as a therapeutic target and prognostic marker in B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma." 
  • Devon Moose, December 2018: "The mechanism for adaptation to fluid sheer stress."
  • Ajay Vishwakarma, Summer 2018: "Role of CD177 in Tumor-Infiltrating Regulatory T cells" 
  • Nick Borcherding, Summer 2017 passed his Comprehensive Exam in the Summer of 2017. 

Grants and Awards

NIH Awards and Training Grants

  • Joshua Lingo has been awarded a F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral NRSA, 1F31CA281312 "Intratumoral plasma cells in MPNST response to CDK4/6 targeted therapy and sensitization to immune checkpoint blockade" from 2023-2026.
  • Keith Garcia has been awarded an NCI Diversity Supplement for his mentor, Dr. Munir Tanas' grant R01 CA237031 "Epigenetic Modulation of the TAZ-CAMTA1 Transcriptional Program by the ADA2A-Containing Histone Acetyltransferase Complex"
  • Joshua Lingo was award an Pharmacology T32 Pre-Doctoral Training fellowship for 2021 through the present. 
  • Eliot Zhu has been awarded an NCI Research Fellowship Award 1F30CA247102-01 from 2020-2023  for "Drivers of MAPK-redundant resistance to BRAF inhibition in melanoma" 
  • Divya Bhat has received a CCB/T32 Pre-Doctoral Training fellowship in Biotechnology in July 2019  through June 2021.
  • Gavin McGivney was award a FRRB T32 Training fellowship for 2020.  
  • Devon Moose received a T32 Pre-Doctoral Training fellowship in Pharmacological Sciences.
  • Wade Gutierrez received a T32 Pre-Doctoral Training fellowship in Pharmacological Sciences in May 2018.   

Private Organizations

  • Gavin McGivney received the Children's Tumor Foundation Young Investigator Award from 2020-2022.
  • Eliot Zhu received the 2020 American Skin Association Medical Student Award.
  • Eliot Zhu received the 2019 Melanoma Research Foundation Medical Student Award.
  • Nick Borcherding won the 2016 MAGS (Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools) Distinguished Thesis Award for "Non-Canonical WNT Signaling in Breast Cancer Initiation and Progression"

University of Iowa

  • Zhijie Li was awarded a University of Iowa Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Fellowship for Spring 2022. 
  • Joshua Lingo won the Oral Presentation Award for the Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences Research Retreat in 2022. 
  • Wade Gutierrez was the winner of the best Clinical Trials & Cancer Outcomes presentation at the HCCC Cancer Retreat on June 17, 2020 for for "Epigenetic Combination Therapy Improves Survival in Soft Tissue Sarcoma by a Novel Immune-independent Mechanism"
  • Zhaoming Wang was awarded a University of Iowa Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Fellowship for Spring 2020.
  • Nick Borcherding won the L.B. Sims Outstanding Master's Thesis Award
  • Nick Borcherding was awarded the 2018 Hancher-Finkbine Medallion. 
  • Nick Borcherding won a $500 Travel Award for his poster "Targeting mismatch DNA repair in aggressive basal-like breast cancer," presented at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center's   Scientific Research Retreat June 22, 2017.


  • Ali Khan, summer 2023, Clinical Biomarker Intern at Moderna in Boston, MA

Selected Presentations

AACR (American Association for Cancer Research)

  • April 2023 Annual Meeting
    • Alexis Ramos, "Tumor hypoxia blocks the induction of antigen processing machinery."  Minority in Cancer Research Award. 
  • June 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting II
    • Zhaoming Wang, "The role of checkpoints in Rituximab-mediated NK cell activation"
  • October 2019, AACR Joint Conference on Engineering and Physical Sciences in Oncology, London, UK
    • Devon Moose, “Fluid Shear Stress Activates the RhoA-myosin II Axis Preventing Destruction of Cancer Cell sin the Circulation and Priming Metastatic Colonization" 
  • January 2019 AACR Melanoma: From Biology to Target, Houston, TX
    • Eliot Zhu, “Genome-scale shRNA screen provides insight into the role of CUL3 in adaptive mechanisms of resistance to mutant BRAF inhibition.”

ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology

  • 2020 Virtual Meeting:
    • Wade Gutierrez, "Phase Ib study of decitabine in combination with gemcitabine in treatment of advanced soft tissue and bone sarcomas"

Cold Spring Harbor Mechanism of Metabolic Signaling Conference

  • 2019
    • Gavin McGivney, “Tumor Suppressor Dependent Metabolomic Changes in Novel Sarcoma CRISPR-Cas9 Mouse Models" 

Children's Tumor Foundation End NF

  • 2023
    • Joshua Lingo, platform talk, "CDK4/6-MEK inhibition in MPNSTs causes plasma cell infiltration, sensitization to PD-L1 blockade, and tumor regression"
    • Ellen Voigt, poster "Cooperativity of INK4a/ARF/INK4b loss and RABL6A overexpression driving neurofibroma transformation"
  • 2020
    • Gavin McGivney, "Tumor Suppressor status alters MPNST metabolic profiles and gene expression"​
  • 2019
    • Gavin McGivney, “:"Tumor Suppressor Dependent Metabolomic Changes in Novel Sarcoma CRISPR-Cas9 Mouse Models"

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center Retreat poster and oral presentations:

  • June 2023
    • Alexis Ramos, "Tumor hypoxia blocks the induction of antigen processing machinery" (Oral and poster)
    • Kiarash Salari, "SETDB1 promotes tumorigenesis by enhancing proliferation and immune
      evasion in endometrial cancer" (Oral and poster)
    • Ellen Voigt, "New models to define cooperating events that drive PNF transformation into MPNST" 
    • Joshua Lingo, "CDK4/6-MEK inhibition in MPNSTs causes plasma cell infiltration, sensitization to PD-L1 blockade, and tumor regression"
    • Sarina Murray, "Determine the Mechanism of Resistance to Target Therapies for Uveal Melanoma"
    • Amanda Pope. "Resistance Mechanisms of Pharmacological Ascorbate in Pancreatic Cancer"
    • Michelle Buckman, "Daunorubicin-induced cardiovascular toxicity in a model of Down syndrome: a
      double-edged sword"
    • Travis Fischer, "Determining the effects of Vidutolimod on the anti-tumor T cell response"
    • Ryan Reis, "A meta-analysis of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) single cell RNA
      sequencing reveals distinct markers of disease"
    • Courtney Woodruff, "Cleavage of Gly-GCC-1 tRNAs during KSHV Infection"
    • Zhijie Li, "SUMO conjugated Etv1 is required for Neu-driven mammary oncogenesis"
    • Emma Croushore, "Activator protein-1 (AP-1) signaling inhibits the growth of Ewing sarcoma cells
      in response to DNA replication stress"
  • June 2022 - Combined conference with the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine Regional Conference 
    • Wade Gutierrez, "Augmenting chemotherapy with low-dose decitabine through an immune-independent mechanism" (Oral and poster)
    • Joshua Lingo, "Dual inhibition of CDK4/6 and MEK sensitizes MPNSTs to immune checkpoint blockades" (Poster)
    • Kiarash Salari, "Understanding SETDB1-mediated Tumor Immune Evasion Mechanism in Endometrial Cancer"
    • Zhijie Li, "The Influence of SUMOylation on Transcriptional Regulation by ETV1 in Breast Cancer" (Oral and poster)
    • Amanda Pope, "Resistance to Pharmacological Ascorbate in Pancreatic Cancer" (Oral and poster)
    • Sarina Murray, "Restore Functional Progesterone Receptor Expression in Endometrial Cancer" (Oral and poster)
    • Amira Zaher, "Pharmacological ascorbate selectively enhances NSCLC response to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy and chemo-radiation in an iron-dependent manner" (Oral and poster)
    • Gavin McGivney, "Multiomic analysis of mouse and human malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors (MPNSTs) identifies pentose phosphate pathway disruption as a metabolic vulnerability" (Poster)
  • June 2021
    • Gavin McGivney, "Multiomics analysis of somatic CRISPR/Cas9 MPNST models identifies dysregulation of metabolic pathways in MPNST" (Oral and poster)
    • Sarina Murray, "Dual HDAC/PI3K inhibitor, CUDC-907, effectively targets endometrial cancer in vitro and in vivo" (Oral)
    • Zhijie Li, "Understanding the role of SUMO Conjugation of ETV1 in Mammary Oncogenesis" (Oral and poster)
    • Keith Garcia, "TAZ/YAP are key effectors of PI3K signaling in sarcomas" (Oral and poster)
    • Zhaoming Wang, 'T cells, particularly activated CD4+ cells, maintain anti-CD20-mediated NK cell viability and antibody dependent cellular cytotoxicity" (Oral and poster)
    • Eliot Zhu, "Knowledge-guided machine learning reveals indicators and drivers of drug resistance to BRAF inhibition in cutaneous melanoma" (Oral and poster)
  • June 2020
    • Wade Gutierrez, "Epigenetic Combination Therapy Improves Survival in Soft Tissue Sarcoma by a Novel Immune-independent Mechanism"
    • Devon Moose, "Mechano-Activation of RhoA-Actomyosin Pathway Drives Hemodynamic Shear Stress Resistance"
    • Gavin McGivney, "Tumor suppressor status alters MPNST metabolic profiles and gene expression"
    • Keith Garcia, "TAZ-CAMTA1 and YAP-TFE3 modulate the TAZ/YAP transcriptional program by recruiting the ATAC histone acetyltransferase complex".
    • Zhaoming Wang, "The long-term effect of Rituximab on NK cell activation"
  • June 2019
    • Devon Moose, "Cancer Cells Adapt to Hemodynamic Forces to Survive Transit in Circulation and Enhance Metastatic Behavior" (Oral and poster)
    • Keith Garcia, "The TAZ-CAMTA1 and YAP-TFE3 fusion proteins transform cells by binding to subunits fo the histone acetyltransferase Ada-2s-Containing (ATAC) complex"
    • Wade Gutierrez, "Epigenetic Combination Therapy Improves Survival and Promotes Tumor-Specific Immunomodulation in Soft Tissue Sarcoma"
    • Zhaoming Wang, "Enhance the efficacy of CD20 monoclonal antibody via TIGIT blockade."
    • Eliot Zhu, "Revealing mechanisms of resistance to targeted Raf inhibition in melanoma by mining publicly available data with machine learning algorithms"

Iowa Center of Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing (CBB)

  • October 2019
    • Divya Bhat presented a poster, “Identification of RAD52 inhibitors using a FRET based analysis"

University of Iowa/Mayo Clinic Leukemia SPORE Retreat

  • October 2019
    • Zhaoming Wang gave an oral presentation, "Checkpoint blockade and anti-CD20 therapy"