Current Research

2018-2019 Katzen Innovative Research Pilot Awards

Pilot Awards are intended to directly advance the scientific themes of the GW Cancer Center, including cancer biology; microbial oncology; immunology and immunotherapy; cancer engineering and technology; cancer control, prevention and policy. Awards are intended to lead to competitive peer-reviewed, external grant applications that bring sustained funding.

Rebecca Kaltman, MD "Cancer Telegentics for Underserved Women in the D.C. Area: An Innovative Approach to Address Health Disparities"
  • Aim 1: To identify multi-level barriers to implementation of telegenetic counseling (genetic counseling via live videoconferencing) and testing for hereditary cancer at a Hispanic-serving community clinic in the DC area.
  • Aim 2: To adapt commonly used screening tools for the Spanish speaking population and to evaluate the cultural sensitivity of telegenetic counseling as compared to in-person genetic counseling and testing of the Hispanic population.
  • Aim 3: To compare the use of an iPad (Spanish or English with facilitated translation into Spanish) or paper-based (Spanish) hereditary cancer screening tool adapted from National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines for Further Genetic Risk Evaluation to identify appropriate individuals for cancer genetic counseling.
Erik Rodriguez, PhD “Tools to Image and Treat Cancer"

Tools that can image early stage cancer in humans have a vital role for the precise removal and treatment of cancer after early detection.

  • Aim 1: Using the removed cells would be advantageous for developing personalized postoperative treatment for patients.
  • Aim 2: The long term goal for this research is to use our evolved fluorescent protein to create nanoparticles for cancer imaging and treatment in humans (Aim 1) and image the cell cycle of cancer cells, removed from a patient, to screen drugs for personalized postoperative treatment (Aim 2).

We envision these aims as being synergistic with early detection in a three pronged approach:

  1. Cancer is detected early
  2. Our tools are used to guide the clinician for removal and/or treatment of very small tumors not amenable for surgery (Aim 1), and
  3. Removed cancer cells are genetically encoded with our cell cycle indicator to screen drug therapy for personalized medicine approach to postoperative treatment (Aim 2).

The objective for this application is to create nanoparticles for imaging and treatment (Aim 1) and genetically placing fluorescent cell cycle indicators in human cancer cells and test FDA approved cancer drugs as diagnostics for the screen.

Avi Dor, PhD "Impact of Policy and System Interventions on HPV Vaccination and Incidence of Cervical Cancer"

The research objective of this project is to investigate two different methods of promoting Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for the purpose of cervical cancer prevention: physician recommendations and public health policies enacted by states. Accordingly, we will provide estimates of the influence of physician recommendations on HPV vaccine uptake, and compare the effect with public policies (e.g, legal mandates, educational requirements) promoting HPV vaccination. We will also study the potential impact of physician recommendations on racial and ethnic disparities in HPV vaccination rates, and downstream cervical cancer incidence and mortality.

Inhee Chung, PhD "Integrated 3D Cellular Imaging Platform for Assessing Cancer Dissemination Potential"

Cancer cells undergo drastic changes as they become metastatic. These changes include biophysical alterations of the plasma membrane that weaken the interactions between the cell surface and the surrounding environment and thus promote dissemination. Detecting such changes can provide prognostic indicators of cancer dissemination, and uncovering the underlying molecular mechanisms may lead to development of novel anti-metastatic therapeutic strategies. However, the biophysical signatures of disseminating cancer cells are difficult to identify and measure, and dissection of the molecular mechanisms that drive these processes is challenging with currently available methods. In this proposal, we aim to construct novel optical imaging and analysis tools that can identify and quantify the pro-dissemination biophysical changes that occur at the cell surface. The proposed technologies will provide a foundation for future mechanistic studies to validate membrane remodeling as a biomarker for metastatic potential.

Previous Research

2018 Katzen Catchment Area Pilot Awards

Catchment Area Pilot Awards are intended to promote research that improve cancer health outcomes for individuals in the Washington, D.C. area. These projects were funded from January 1, 2018-December 31, 2018.

Anne Rossier Markus, PhD, MHS, JD "An Analysis of Disparities and Cancer Screening Behaviors in the D.C. Region by Insurance Status: Applications for Future Medicaid Policy and Programmatic Interventions"

The main aim of this project is to examine the role of the insurance mandate requiring all insurers to pay for certain cancer screening services to see if it helps reduce cancer-related health disparities among minority and non-minority residents in the D.C. area. To the extent it reduces but doesn't close the gap, this project will also assess why the gap exists in accessing screening services. The results of analysis will inform recommendations for policy interventions or programmatic change, particularly focusing on the Medicaid program for implications.

Lorens Helmchen, PhD "The Impact of Greater Reimbursement for Chemotherapy Drugs on Cancer Care Among DC Medicaid Enrollees"

This project aims to study the effects of a 2016 D.C. Medicaid increase in reimbursement for physician-administered chemotherapy drugs on the (1) use, (2) mix of cancer therapies, (3) their cost, and (4) coordination of care. The project will specifically test whether the increase in reimbursement actually led to Medicaid paying more for chemotherapy treatments. The project also aims to examine whether the increase in reimbursement had any effect on whether Medicaid enrollees actually received the affected chemotheraphy drugs.

2014 Katzen Innovative Research Pilot Awards

Reseach Pilot Awards are intended to support collaborative GW Medical Faculty Associates and George Wshington University investigators as co-principal investigators with novel ideas and promising initiatives in clinical or translational research, or teams of three or more investigators to conduct synergistic or thematic grants.

Norris Nolan, MD and Arnold Schwartz, MD "Prognostic Markers in Early Stage Lung Cancer: Computer Algorithms and Bayesian Regression"

The objective of this study is to develop a computerized algorithm that can integrate pathologic, enrivonmental (tissue environment) and molecular markers to improve prognosis accuracy and decide on best treatment and care.

  • Aim 1: Improve the clustering-based algorithm and link with current database and validate the results by testing it.
  • Aim 2: Modify the programming for implementation on personal computer and IPads to faciliate use by clinicians.
  • Aim 3: Create a logistical Bayesian regression to better assess and characterize early stage lung cancer and establish contribution of newly identified prognostic markers.
Cherise Harrington, PhD, Neal Sikka, MD, Francis O'Connell, MD "Exploring Current Cancer Screening Rate and Testing Technological Solutions for Increased Adherence to Cancer Screening Guidelines in the GW Community"

This project aims to conduct formative work to assess rates and patterns of cancer screening to inform the development and feasibility of communication technologies to assist cancer care teams. The goals are to:

  1. Increase provider awareness of screening guidelines
  2. Increase cancer screenings
  3. Promote care coordination
Robert Siegel, MD, Lijie Grace Zhang, PhD, Joseph O'Brien, MD "Development of Innovative Nano Drug/Gene Delivery and Biometric 3D Printed Bone Model Platforms for Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment and Analysis"

This proposal aims to design a very novel delivery system involving rosette nanotubes (self-assembling guanine-cytosine dimers) covalently linked to a microRNA to target breast cancer cells, and within the nanotube will be a cytotoxic drug such as paclitaxel or tamoxifen.

Anelia Horvath, PhD, Rebecca Kaltman, MD, Christine Teal, MD "Molecular Mechanisms Reducing Presidsposed Risk to Breast Cancer"

This proposal aims to define the genetic and expression background accompanying BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic mutations in individuals who have not developed an early onset cancer, in comparison with mutation carriers with an early onset disease.

Robert Hawley, PhD, Imad Tabbara, MD, Zhenyu Li, PhD, Irene Riz, PhD, Teresa Hawley "Microfluidic Devices for Diagnosis and Treatment of Multiple Myeloma"

This research proposes to develop a novel microfluidics chip that will allow for single cell multiplexed characterization of a mixed population of cancer stem cells obtained by FACS (Fluorescence-activated cell sorting).

Jason Zara, PhD, Nader Sadeghi, MD "Concurrent Imaging and Treatmnt of Epithelial Cancers Using Opticla Coherence Tomography and Cold Plasmas: Imaging and Treatment of Excised Oral Cavity Tumors"

This proposal is a request for an additional stage of funding for a previously funded Katzen project to develop a cancer imaging and treatment probe that integrates optical coherence tomography for imaging and cold plasmas for selective plasma treatment.

Ajit Kumar, PhD, Patricia Latham, MD "Blocking HCV Infection-Associate Hapatocellular Carcinoma with LNA-antagomiR in Mouse Model"

This proposal involves a second year continuation of a project to develop and investigate a human/mouse chimeric model of the progression of Hepatitis C Viral infection to hepatocellular carcinoma.

2013 Katzen Innovative Research Pilot Awards

The Katzen Cancer Research Center established the Innovative Cancer Pilot Research Grant program in 2013 to stimulat collaborative investigation in unique and novel cancer research at the translational and clinical levels. The goal of these awards is to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, reduce mortality and improve the quality of life for individuals with cancer.

Kausik Sarkar, PhD and M. Reza Taheri, MD, PhD "Contrast Ultrasonography for Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis"

The objective of this research proposal is to develop a contrast-aided sonographic diagnosis of thyroid cancer using subharmonic contrast imaging.

Robert Hawley, PhD and Imad Tabbara "Prognostic and Predictive Significance of ABCB1 Expression in Multiple Myeloma"

Our major objective during the second year of this project is to determine whether ABCB1 expression has prognostic or predictive relevance in multiple myeloma, i.e., can it be used to inform treatment decisions and/or is it an indivator of worse clinical outcome.

Samir Agarwal, MD, FACS and Norman Lee, PhD "Genomics of Colon Cancer Disparities to Identify Markers for Patient Screening and Treatment"

This proposal aims to identify gene expression and splice variation differences in colon cancer between African American and Caucasian American patients in order to investigate differences in the natural progression of the disease between the two populations.

Jonathan Sherman, MD and Michael Keidar, PhD "Cold Atmospheric Plasma in the Treatment of Malignant Glioma"

Cold atmospheric plasma has been shown to induce in vitro glioblastoma cell death with limited response to normal cells in preliminary data. This study aims to further characterize the role of thsi new technology in glioblastoma treatment.

Sidney Fu, MD, PhD and Rachel Brem, MD "miRNAs as Potential Predictive Biomarkers for ADH Diagnosed by CNB"

The aim of this study is to identify mimRNA biomarkers, along with other known factors to predict the outcome of atypical ductal hyperplasia, or ADH, as diagnosed by core needle biopsy (CNB).

Ajit Kumar, PhD and Patricia Latham, MD "Molecular Markers of Liver Cancer in HCV-Infected Mouse Model"

Heaptitis C virus (HCV) infection is a leading cause of chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study may help define new biomarkers of HCV-induced liver cancer.