Team Archive - Page 4 of 5 - NFCR


Alice T. Shaw, M.D., Ph.D.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Boston, Massachusetts
Director of Thoracic Oncology and Attending Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor Medicine, Harvard Medical School


Dr. Alice Shaw’s laboratory focuses on developing new strategies to overcome lung cancer treatment resistance – specifically for anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), ROS1 and RET genetic mutations in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

By utilizing a large panel of laboratory research models that were uniquely created at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Shaw and her team developed a new platform to rapidly identify drug combinations for lung cancer patients whose tumors have stopped responding to targeted therapy. Using this platform, they identified several effective drug combinations, including some options that standard testing would not have predicted to work. Moreover, Dr. Shaw and her team assessed tumor biopsy samples to identify biomarkers that could predict how the patients will respond to the combination therapies. These biomarkers may greatly help doctors determine which patient will respond to the newly-discovered drug combinations. With further refinements, this strategy might be used to select the optimal treatment for each individual patient.

Since 2014, Dr. Shaw has been leading several clinical trials and translational efforts aimed at overcoming drug resistance for patients living with ALK+ NSCLC today. Previously, she was the lead investigator for the global registration studies of crizotinib (Xalkori®) and ceritinib (Zykadia®), which led to regulatory approval of both drugs in advanced ALK-rearranged NSCLC. She was also the lead investigator for crizotinib in ROS1-rearranged NSCLC.

She is now focusing new research on the most common site of metastasis for ALK+NCLC – the brain – and looking into why these tumor growths become resistant to crizotinib. Her team launched a clinical trial with the newest ALK inhibitor – lorlatinib – and they are using both tissue and liquid biopsies to identify genetic alterations that may be driving the resistance.

Lastly, since the majority of ALK+ NSCLC patients have no smoking history and do not respond to recently-approved immunotherapies like nivolumab (Opdivo®) or pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), Dr. Shaw is researching the immune microenvironment and other mutations in tumors which may underlie the low response to the new therapies.


Alice T. Shaw, M.D., Ph.D., received her B.A. in biochemistry at Harvard University and her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard Medical School (where she is currently an Associate Professor). She then completed her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and her postdoctoral work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Shaw was also a fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and is currently the Director of Thoracic Oncology and an Attending Physician there.

In addition to her funding from NFCR, Dr. Shaw has been awarded other research grants throughout her career, including from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Burroughs Welcome Fund, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, Uniting Against Lung Cancer and the National Institutes of Health.

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Helmut Sies, M.D.


Düsseldorf, Germany
Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology I, Faculty of Medicine
Adjunct Professor, University of Southern California at Los Angeles, CA
Professor of Biology and Biochemistry, College of Sciences, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Dr. Helmut Sies spent his career studying the role of micronutrients in cancer prevention and specifically focused on carotenoids and flavonoids.

He discovered that lycopene – a carotenoid and antioxidant found in tomatoes and carrots – can reduce the damaging effects of oxygen produced by our body’s essential metabolic processes and has strong skin cancer prevention effects. His research also illustrated how flavonoids (found in cocoa products) can prevent skin damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, improve blood vessel function and reduce cardiovascular risk.

Dr. Sies’ recent research was focused on selenium, a trace metal found in foods such as certain nuts, seafood and organ meats that is essential for good health. Selenium is required to repair oxidative damage in key antioxidant enzymes called seleno proteins. Dr. Sies discovered that not only are seleno proteins strongly decreased in colon cancer tumor cells, but they are also strongly expressed by immune cells in the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract. Moreover, he found that dietary selenium compounds stimulate colon cells to produce seleno proteins. That means that ingested food could provide a potential mechanism for how selenium supports immune health and cancer prevention.

In 1985, Dr. Sies established the concept of oxidative stress. He found that an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants in favor of the oxidant leads to a redox signaling and control disruption and can cause molecular damage. Click here for Dr. Sies’ latest Annual Review article on oxidative stress.

Additionally, during his career, Dr. Sies studied essential fatty acids that can prevent inflammation and cellular signaling pathways in cancer development, and looked at the role of nitric oxide in cancer and heart disease-related events.


Helmut Sies , M.D., grew up in northern Germany, where the natural environment instilled in him a fascination with science and discovery. At the age of 17, he traveled to a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio as part of a student exchange program and he lived with a physician whose dedication to medicine had a profound impact upon him. Upon returning to Germany, he graduated from Jakobson-Schule in Seesen in 1961. In 1967, he completed his M.D. certification in Munich.

Dr. Sies served as Professor and Chairman at the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf, Germany. He was President of the NRW Academy of Sciences and Arts, Chairman of the Gordon Research Conference on Carotenoids, President of the Society for Free Radical Research International, Vice-President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings and a member of the German National Academy of Sciences.

Throughout his career, he received numerous honors and awards, including an Honorary Ph.D. degree from the University of Buenos Aires and an Honorary M.D. from the Universidad de la República, Montevideo. He was awarded the FEBS Anniversary Prize (1978), the Ernst-Jung-Prize for Medicine (1988), the Claudius-Galenus-Prize (1990), the Werner-Heisenberg-Medal of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (1999), the Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research (2013) and the Trevor Slater Award of the Society for Free Radical Research International (2014).

Dr. Sies published more than 600 original research papers and book chapters about nutrition, antioxidants, cancer prevention and human health. NFCR funded Dr. Sies’ research for more than 30 years, until his retirement in 2016.

Areas of Focus

Cancer Types

Years of NFCR Funding

1983 – 2016

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Amos B. Smith III, Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Rhodes-Thompson Professor of Chemistry


Dr. Amos B. Smith’s research interests include three diverse scientific areas: natural product synthesis, bioorganic chemistry and materials science. His scientific expertise in the total synthesis of complex natural products has allowed him to collaborate with many researchers across a variety of disciplines.

One current collaboration is with NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Susan B. Horwitz¸ whose work focuses on combatting cancer drug resistance.  Dr. Horwitz’s earlier research discovered the key attributes of Taxol®, a now widely used anti-cancer drug for treating breast, lung and ovarian cancer.  She found that Taxol halts cell division by stabilizing the cellular building blocks known as microtubules.  Intriguingly, Dr. Smith was the first person to synthesize and enable large-scale production of another microtubule stabilizing agent (MSA) called discodermolide—a natural agent that comes from a Caribbean Sea sponge. The two scientists combined their efforts and compared the results of discodermolide to those of Taxol. They found that discodermolide interacts with microtubules in a way that may complement Taxol and could reduce the resistance that many patients experience with Taxol. Dr. Smith has synthesized a library of the hybrid Taxol–discodermolide drugs, and Dr. Horwitz has found two hybrid candidates that could be promising new drugs.

Additionally, Dr. Smith’s lab with non-naturally occurring MSAs includes the heterocyclic compounds triazolopyrimidines and phenylpyrimidines. The work holds considerable promise for the treatment of brain cancer, specifically the most deadly type of brain cancer – glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The compounds being created penetrate the brain tissue and can be taken orally (unlike more than 95% of all molecules).  Dr. Smith, in collaboration with Dr. Horwitz and other scientists, will elucidate how these compounds stabilize microtubules to set the stage for the development of a potential new treatment for GBM and other central nervous diseases.


Amos B. Smith III, Ph.D., received his Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Bucknell University and his Ph.D. from Rockefeller University, where he was also an associate from 1972-1973.

In addition to his fellowship with NFCR, Dr. Smith is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and member of the ESPCI ParisTech Scientific Council.

Dr. Smith’s laboratory has prepared more than 90 natural products possessing significant bioregulatory properties to date and his research achievements have been reported in more than 500 peer-reviewed publications. In 2015, Dr. Smith was awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Perkin Prize for Organic Chemistry.

Areas of Focus

Cancer Types

Years of NFCR Funding

2016 – Present

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Daniel Von Hoff, M.D.

NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

Phoenix, Arizona
Physician in Chief and Distinguished Professor, TGen
Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine
Chief Scientific Officer, Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center at Scottsdale Healthcare


Dr. Von Hoff has devoted his career to translational medicine – the movement of new therapies from the research institution to patient care – and has personally been a part of over 200 clinical trials.

Dr. Von Hoff and his colleagues have conducted early clinical investigations of many new cancer agents, including: gemcitabine, docetaxel, paclitaxel, topotecan, irinotecan, fludarabine, mitoxantrone, dexrazoxane, nab-paclitaxel, vismodegib and others. NFCR’s support for Dr. Von Hoff’s research with gemcitabine was profoundly successful as it became the first drug to improve survival for pancreatic patients. Many treatments he worked on are now helping tens of thousands of patients with breast, ovarian, prostate, colon, leukemia, skin (advanced basal cell carcinoma) and pancreatic cancer today.

At the NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies, Co-Directors Dr. Von Hoff and Dr. Laurence Hurley are currently pioneering new approaches to attack the so-called “undruggable” targets present in many tumors. They have identified multiple new compounds that selectively kill pancreatic cancer cells with mutations in the cancer-causing K-ras gene—which are present in more than 90% of pancreatic tumors. The leading compounds are being further developed for possible clinical translation.

Dr. Von Hoff is also working on an entirely new approach to treating cancer by developing drugs that block newly-recognized genetic structures called “super enhancers.” These large clusters of DNA regulatory elements control the expression of a host of genes — including the critical cancer gene c-Myc – and offer a great opportunity for cancer disruption. This new approach may lead to great improved treatments for pancreatic cancer, lung cancer (small-cell type, in particular), lymphoma, multiple myeloma, colorectal and other cancers.


Daniel Von Hoff, M.D., attended Carroll College and Columbia University before conducting his residency in internal medicine at UC San Francisco. After that, he had a fellowship in oncology at the National Cancer Institute before joining the faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center as a professor of medicine and cellular and structural biology. Dr. Von Hoff went on to become the founding director of the Institute for Drug Development at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center and director of the cancer center at the University of Arizona.

Dr. Von Hoff’s major interest is in the development of new anticancer agents, both in the clinic and in the laboratory.

Throughout his career, Dr. Von Hoff has published more than 650 papers, 140 book chapters and 1,000 abstracts. Dr. Von Hoff was selected as a 2016 Giant of Cancer Care® by OncLive, honored with the Scripps Genomic Medicine Award in 2011, named one of the American Society of Clinical Oncology 50 Oncology Luminaries in 2014 and among the first class selected in 2013 by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) for its Fellows of the AACR Academy.

In addition to leading the NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies, Dr. Von Hoff was appointed to President Bush’s National Cancer Advisory Board from 2004-2010, is the past President of AACR, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member and past board member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  He is also the founder and the Editor Emeritus of Investigational New Drugs – The Journal of New Anticancer Agents and past Editor-in-Chief of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

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Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.

University of Kansas Cancer Center

Kansas City, Kansas
Professor and Chair, Department of Cancer Biology
Adjunct faculty of Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Director, NFCR Center for Metastasis Research


Metastatic cancer (any cancer that has spread from the area it started to other areas of the body) is responsible for 90% of all cancer-related deaths. Dr. Danny Welch has devoted his career to finding out what causes cancer to metastasize or spread – and how the spread of cancer can be prevented or predicted.

Dr. Welch and his team have discovered eight of the more than 30 known metastasis suppressor genes. They have also recently discovered how some of those suppressors function and are designing therapies to take advantage of their mechanisms.

One of their research areas is focused on understanding how KISS1 proteins suppress metastasis so they can design molecules that mimic the proteins and either prevent metastasis from happening or maintain metastatic tumors in a dormant state.

Through recent research, they have also identified genetic changes that predict whether patients will or will not develop metastasis. At least some of these changes occur in mitochondrial DNA, which is present in every cell and small enough to be rapidly analyzed. These results could mean that a simple blood draw and analysis of mitochondrial DNA could be used to help doctors guide their strategy to treat patients.


Danny R. Welch, Ph.D., received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California at Irvine and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Houston in tumor biology. Following his doctoral research, he became a research scientist at the Upjohn Company and Glaxo pharmaceuticals. At both companies, he was responsible for pre-clinical testing of anti-cancer drugs. In 1990, he joined the faculty of the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine where he ascended the faculty ranks to the level of Associate Professor. In 2002, Dr. Welch joined the faculty of the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a Professor of Pathology and Director of the Metastasis Program at the Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Since 2002, Dr. Welch has led the NFCR Center for Cancer Metastasis. He is currently the Founding Director of the Department of Cancer Biology and a Professor at the University of Alabama. Moreover, Dr. Welch is a Komen scholar and president of the Cancer Biology Training Consortium. He has served on numerous grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health, Department Of Defense, American Cancer Society the Susan G. Komen organization, the European Union and other international agencies.

Dr. Welch has served as editor-in-chief for Clinical and Experimental Metastasis and is currently a deputy editor at Cancer Research. He is also co-editor of the textbook Cancer Metastasis. Throughout his career, Dr. Welch has authored more than 192 peer-reviewed publications and more than 20 book chapters, and he’s the recipient of numerous mentoring and teaching awards.

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Wei Zhang, Ph.D.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Director, Cancer Genomics and Precision Oncology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Professor, Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University
Co-Director, ISB/MDACC Genome Data Analysis Center
President and Director, United States Chinese Anti-Cancer Association, Inc.


Dr. Zhang has devoted his entire career to the pursuit of precision oncology – specifically to the key molecular and genomic events that drive the development and progression of cancer.

Over the last 18 years, Dr. Zhang and his team have identified multiple novel cancer markers and oncogenic signaling molecules. These molecules are under extensive investigation to see how well they can predict the outcomes for stage IV colorectal cancer patients.

Dr. Zhang has been using the microRNA molecule NGAL to make cancer cells more receptive to treatment. His research is uncovering defects in a BRCA2 gene that might sensitize gastric cancer to chemotherapy and, working with an international team of scientists from the U.S. and China, looking to discover a key factor that may explain drug resistance in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest form of brain cancer. These findings could give oncologists new diagnostic tools to improve disease management and patient survival.

Additionally, Dr. Zhang has used an expanded high throughput genomic screen to identify targets for the treatment of a soft tissue sarcoma that develops from tissues surrounding nerves called malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (MPNST). Results have provided evidence that the tyrosine kinase receptor pathway is a potential therapeutic target for patients with MPSNT.

In collaboration with the Tissue Bank Consortium in Asia and other scientists, Dr. Zhang led his team to analyze advanced genome-sequencing data from hundreds of gastric cancer samples and discovered defects in three cellular signaling pathways (BRCA2, Wnt and PI3-K-ERBB4). Several newly developed drugs that target these pathways have been tested in breast and ovarian cancers and may lead to improved treatments for patients with stomach cancer.

Dr. Zhang is currently studying how genetic expression, amplification and mutations relate to and regulate each other. Using data from next-generation sequencing, Dr. Zhang is identifying growth-promoting genes of a patient’s cancer.

Additionally, in July, 2017, Dr. Zhang released findings that African-American patients with smoking-related cancers have an increased mutation rate in several genes, including TP53. This discovery may help uncover why African-Americans typically have worse outcomes than Caucasians from smoking-related cancers. These findings may lead to the development of novel diagnostic and improved therapeutic options for patients.


Wei Zhang, Ph.D., is the Director of Cancer Genomics and Precision Oncology at the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest. He is also co-director of one of the Genome Data Analysis Centers.

Dr. Zhang graduated from Peking University in Beijing, China in 1985 before receiving his molecular biology from the University of Texas. From 1999 to 2016, Dr. Zhang was the director of the Genomics Core Laboratory at MD Anderson’s Cancer Center. In 2004, he joined the faculty of MD Anderson’s Cancer Center and, in just two years, rose to the rank of full professor, teaching pathology and cancer biology. From 2014 to 2016, Dr. Zhang was the Director of the NFCR Center for Cancer System Informatics at MD Anderson’s Cancer Center.

Dr. Zhang has published more than 320 peer-reviewed papers and his research has been supported by numerous grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and several foundations, including NFCR, the Goldhirsh Foundation, the James S. McDonald Foundation and the Shriver Initiatives for Sarcoma.

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Zeting Wang

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Jojo Huang

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Lorel Joslyn

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