Translational Research

1. Gastrointestinal Cancers

Gastrointestinal cancer development and progression are linked with chronic inflammation and tumor microenvironment immune dysfunction. Ellen J. Beswick, PhD is NIH funded to investigate novel immune targets for colon and gastric cancer that can be explored in translational approaches to develop new combination therapeutics.

Approximately 30% of colon cancer develops from sessile serrated polyps (SSPs). Priyanka Kanth, MD has been working to understand the molecular differences between benign and pre-neoplastic serrated lesions using patient samples, patient-derived organoids and studying the risk of colon in the families of SSP patients. Ellen J. Beswick, PhD has developed a novel preclinical model of SSP to cancer development in the hopes of comparing translational therapeutics between colon cancers with different mutations.

Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors are increasing in incidence and particularly difficult to treat. Together, Heloisa Soares, MD, PhD, and Ellen Beswick, PhD are developing novel models of pancreatic neuroendorcrine tumors along with a preclinical treatment approach that could be translated to patients.

2. Esophageal Diseases  

Inflammatory conditions of the esophagus are increasing and difficult to treat due to a lack of understanding of etiology. Kathryn A. Peterson, MD studies familial risk for EoE, predisposition variants in targeted chromosomal regions, and underlying histologic immune milieu in order to improve prevention and treatment of this life-altering disease.

John C. Fang, MD, Kathryn A. Peterson, MD, and Ellen J. Beswick, PhD, study autoimmune manifestations in patients with esophageal disorders that are challenging to diagnose and treat.

3. Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease are debilitating inflammatory diseases that lack curative therapies and may increase the risk of colon cancer development. John F. Valentine, MD has developed a colonic gene signature that predicts the onset of dysplasia in IBD patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).

The Beswick lab examines mechanisms of fibroblast regulation of chronic inflammation and targeting novel inflammatory pathways in inflammatory bowel disease in order to gain insight to develop improved therapeutics. Drs Beswick and Valentine support collaboration and patient sample collection with Aaron Petrey, PhD,

The Petrey lab studies the interaction between the microvasculature and platelets in the initiation and progression of inflammatory bowel disease, which is disrupted and contributes to chronic disease. These studies focus on the extracellular matrix glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan (HA) as a key molecule that modulates innate immune mechanisms which when dysregulated can lead to disease.

4. Liver Disease

Tuan Pham, MD and Eduardo Rodriguez, MD investigate biomarkers and novel inflammatory targets for Non-Alcoholic SteatoHepatitis and Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. They are interested in the role of hepatic steatosis in advanced stage disease and novel biomarkers on disease outcome, recurrence, and post-transplant outcomes.

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