New Faculty: Pathology Welcomes Drs. Blau, Tanas and Zhao

July 2, 2014

Dr. Munir Tanas received his B.S. degree in Biochemistry from Whitworth College in Spokane, and his M.D. degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. Munir remained in Seattle to perform his Anatomic Pathology Residency and Surgical Pathology Fellowship at the University of Washington Medical Center. During his last year at the University of Washington, he also served as Chief Resident. In 2007, Dr. Tanas left the west coast and moved to Cleveland to perform a fellowship in Bone and Soft Tissue Pathology at the Cleveland Clinic under the mentorship of Dr. Brian Rubin and Dr. John Goldblum.

At Cleveland Clinic, Munir worked on both applied and basic projects with an emphasis on soft tissue cancers. On the clinical side, he and Dr. Goldblum evaluated the utility of FISH in the diagnosis of mesenchymal neoplasms. Upon completion of his bone and soft tissue subspecialty training, Dr. Tanas embarked on a post-doctoral research fellowship in Dr. Rubin’s laboratory. During his post-doctoral fellowship, Munir identified the presence of a WWTR1-CAMTA1 gene fusion in 90% of epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a rare vascular cancer. This finding was published in Science Translational Medicine. He followed up on this discovery by showing that WWTR1-CAMTA1 transforms cells by constitutively activating the WWTR1 (also called TAZ) portion of the fusion and is submitting the manuscript for publication.

Munir plans to take his insights into TAZ and YAP (TAZ paralogue) activation from his post-doctoral training experience and apply them to more common solid tumors, including breast cancer, as well as sarcomas. There is no question that he will bring unique tools and lines of investigation to campus. Equally important, there is a range of faculty in the College of Medicine who have shared interests with Munir indicating strong potential for collaboration and multi-investigator grants.

In his spare time he enjoys running and spending time with his family. He is married to wife Jamie, and has three girls, Vera (age 7), Lydia (age 4), and Vivian (age 1).

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Dr. Chen Zhao received his M.D. and initial pathology training in China, followed by a move to Tokyo where he pursued his Ph.D. training at Keio University School of Medicine. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2002, he stayed on at Keio University as an assistant professor in the department of Immunology and Microbiology where he published several high profile papers in the area of bone metabolism and homeostasis. In 2004 he moved to Duke University to work in the laboratory of Tannishtha Reya. Her lab is focused on stem cells and cancer, and Chen again proved to be productive with a number of high impact papers including reports in Nature and Cancer Cell. After five years as a post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Zhao elected to resume his medical training and performed his pathology residency at the University of Rochester (2009-2013). He is currently a Hematopathology Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Zhao's recruitment is part of an ongoing effort to increase the number of physician-scientist investigators in the Department and further enhance our cancer biology research program. Although the majority of Chen's time will be dedicated to establishing a competitive research program, approximately 25% of his effort will be spent on the Hematopathology service.

His wife is doing research and they have an eight-year-old boy, a baseball maniac! In his spare time he likes reading and traveling but now just playing with his son.