Trainee Members

The following Trainee Members of the CCS have provided their bios to be featured here.
If other CCS Trainee Members would like to be similarly featured, please contact us at:
[email protected]

Paige C. Arneson-Wissink, PhD

 


Postdoctoral Scholar
Grossberg Lab
Oregon Health and Science University

I am a third year postdoc at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR. I am working in the lab of Dr. Aaron Grossberg, and studying the interactions of central liver metabolism and muscle wasting in pancreatic cancer associated cachexia. I became interested in cancer cachexia over 7 years ago while completing my PhD at the Mayo Clinic School of Biomedical Sciences, in the lab of Dr. Jason Doles. My thesis focused on the response of muscle stem cells to tumor-derived factors in cancer cachexia. I received my PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2021. Prior to that, I completed my Bachelor’s of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2016. I aspire to have an independent academic research career focused on improving the quality of life, from diagnosis through cancer survival, of patients with cancer cachexia, and understanding the interorgan metabolic events that drive cancer cachexia. I am passionate about mentoring students, and I am committed to making the lab welcoming and supportive for scientists of all backgrounds.

Nour Al Zaeed, PhD

 


Postdoctoral Researcher
Judge Lab, University of Florida

As a second-year postdoc, my main area of interest is comprehending muscle atrophy and the processes that control skeletal muscle growth and function in both health and sickness. At the University of Debrecen in Hungary, where I was doing my PhD, I focused mostly on muscle regeneration, but I also investigated immunology, phagocytosis, and apoptosis.

Currently, at the University of Florida, under the mentorship of Prof. Andrew Judge and with the support of an NIH research grant, my study uses certain complement-deficient mice as models of cancer-induced cachexia to examine how the complement system regulates muscle mass and cancer-associated muscle disease. To deepen my understanding of skeletal muscle pathophysiology in cancer and other chronic diseases, my short-term goal is to enhance my research skills by mastering new techniques, learning new methodologies, and acquiring more expertise in scientific thinking. Achieving this will support my long-term ambition of becoming a talented scientist, enabling me to contribute to the creation of innovative treatments and therapies for muscle-related conditions.

Marc Beltrà, PhD

 


Postdoc Researcher
Zorzano Lab (IRB Barcelona)

I am a postdoc conducting research on the role of mitochondrial dynamics and autophagy in the development of liver metabolic diseases. As a predoc fellow in Dr. Paola Costelli’s lab (University of Turin, Italy) I characterized the dysregulation of sncRNAs (including miRNAs) in circulating microvesicles and the skeletal muscle during cancer cachexia. In parallel, I also studied the relevance of PGC-1α in modulating muscle stem cell fate. Following my PhD defense, I enrolled as a postdoc researcher in a project directed by Dr. Fabio Penna (University of Turin) focused on ameliorating muscle wasting and mitochondrial dysfunction in cancer cachexia by targeting NAD metabolism. In January 2023, I became part of Dr. Antonio Zorzano’s lab (IRB Barcelona, Spain) after being awarded two individual grants: a Fellowship for Abroad Post-Doc (Fondazione AIRC) and an MSCA Postdoctoral Fellowship (Horizon Europe). Currently, I am investigating the involvement of FATP2 in autophagosome formation in mitochondria-associated membranes and its relevance during the transition from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis to hepatocellular carcinoma.

Nikita Bhalerao, PhD

 


Postdoctoral Fellow
Pitarresi Lab

My postdoc research is broadly focused on investigating the molecular underpinnings of cancer-associated cachexia in pancreatic cancer in the lab of Jason Pitarresi at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. During my graduate research, I worked on elucidating the role of tumor cell sialylation via ST6Gal1 in promoting pancreatic cancer by fostering the key initiation event of acinar to ductal metaplasia (ADM). I am motivated to define new drivers of pancreatic cancer-associated cachexia during my postdoc to help extend the survival of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) patients, who exhibit the highest rates and most severe forms of cachexia. Currently, I’m working on understanding the tumor cell - host cell crosstalk to mediate adipose loss and muscle atrophy, and specifically targeting the PTHrP – PTH1R axis to prevent tissue wasting phenotypes in preclinical cachectic models. To this end, we utilize orthogonal approaches such as genetically engineered mouse models of cachexia, PDAC patient organoid models and metabolic flux assays to further our advances to reverting the cachexia seen in PDAC patients. My long-term aspiration is to be an independent academic investigator and dedicate my research eTorts to finding novel therapies for PDAC and cachexia.

Leo R. Brown, BMedSci (Hons) MBChB PGCert MRCS

 


PhD Fellow /
Specialty Registrar in General Surgery Cachexia Group at University of Edinburgh

I am a final-year PhD fellow at University of Edinburgh working under the supervision of Mr. Richard Skipworth and Professor Steve Wigmore. The focus of my research is ‘staging the host’ – the application of clinical features of the cachexia, as an adjunct to tumour stage, for risk stratification and prognostication in patients with cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract. I have been supported in my research by the Maurice Wohl Research Fellowship from the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) and charitable grant funding. At present, I am running two observational trials: first attempting to holistically and longitudinal characterize cachexia in patients with a curatively treated malignancy, and second evaluating the use of a novel form of MRI imaging to assess muscle for features of cachexia. I also have an interest in data science and the effective use of routinely collected clinical data. In August 2024, I will return to clinical practice and finish my specialty training working towards a career as an academic oesophagogastric cancer surgeon.

Aneesha Dasgupta, PhD

 


Assistant Research Professor
Jason Doles Lab
Indiana University School of Medicine, IN, USA

I am born and raised in India. In 2014, I joined the PhD program in the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha. My PhD dissertation under Dr. Pankaj Singh was understanding molecular mechanisms of cachexia. In 2019, I joined the laboratory of Dr. Jason Doles at the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota as postdoctoral fellow. The first project that I started was to develop translational pre-clinical models of cachexia. Using age as a contributing factor in models, we discovered targets that might have been obscured in other models of cachexia. Serendipitously, I discovered a novel tumor promoter Perp, which is also upregulated in cachectic muscles, potentially making it a dual target for cancer and cachexia. My current efforts are based on elucidating the role of Perp in the tumor and muscles and then developing small molecule inhibitors for Perp. One of my major interests is also studying tumor-muscle crosstalk. My ongoing work is based on elucidating the changes occurring in tumor biology as a consequence of muscle wasting. In 2022, our lab moved to Indiana University School of Medicine, and I am currently an Assistant Research Professor in Dr. Jason Doles’ lab. My long-term goal is to be an independent investigator studying tumor-muscle crosstalk and rethinking the ways we model cachexia. I am committed to working towards increasing inclusion and belonging in academia via actionable items, which would also be the foundation of how I lead/mentor trainees in my independent lab in the future.

Luca Delfinis, MSc

 


PhD Candidate
Christopher Perry Lab
York University
Muscle Health Research Centre

I am a 4th year PhD student interested in the relationship between mitochondria and skeletal muscle health in cancer cachexia. My PhD projects explore the relationships between mitochondrial function and muscle weakness across cancer progression in both colorectal and ovarian cancer preclinical models. In these models, we have found muscle weakness often precedes muscle atrophy and is associated with mitochondrial bioenergetic stress. In my final project, we plan on targeting early mitochondrial bioenergetic stress with mitochondrial-targeted therapeutics in an attempt to delay the onset of cachexia and improve early muscle weakness.

Ross Dolan, PhD FRCS

 


NES/CSO Clinical Lecturer in Surgery –
University of Glasgow
Honorary Specialty Registrar in General Surgery –
West of Scotland Deanery

I am currently a final year surgical registrar and CSO/NES Clinical Lecturer at the University of Glasgow with an interest in the tumour/host interaction. I have previously worked as a research scientist having completed my initial degree in Neurosciences in Trinity College Dublin before taking up a position as a research biochemist in the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland in the epilepsy research group. I completed my medical training in the University of Dundee before completing my PhD under the supervision of Professor Donald McMillan and Professor Paul Horgan at the University of Glasgow. My PhD focused on the association between tumour metabolic activity, systemic inflammation, body composition and outcomes in patients with cancer. My current research continues my interest in the tumour/host interaction with an aim of establishing a plausible and targetable relationship between tumour inflammatory signalling, tumour meiosis/genetic instability, systemic inflammation and body composition in patients undergoing operable treatment for colorectal cancer. This could allow for the identification of new therapeutic targets as part of a multimodal treatment strategy for patients with cancer cachexia.

Jeremy B. Ducharme, PhD

 


Postdoctoral Fellow
Judge Lab

I am a first-year postdoc broadly interested in understanding mechanisms that regulate skeletal muscle size and function in health and disease. My PhD studies at the University of New Mexico covered diverse areas, including exercise physiology, exercise immunology, and muscle physiology and pathology. Now, under the co-mentorship of Dr. Andrew Judge and Dr. Sarah Judge at the University of Florida, and through the support of an NCI funded Team-based Interdisciplinary Cancer Research Training (TICaRT) T32 Program, my research is investigating the safety, efficacy, and mechanisms of action of novel therapeutics in the regulation of muscle mass and cancer-associated muscle pathology in pre-clinical models of cancer-induced cachexia in the absence, and presence, of chemotherapy. These studies are supported through an SBIR Phase II grant from the NCI. My long-term goal is to become an independent academic investigator dedicated to advancing our understanding of skeletal muscle pathophysiology in cancer and other chronic diseases.

Tinashe A. Mazhindu, MB ChB, M.MEd

 


Clinical Research Fellow
University of Zimbabwe
Department of Oncology

I am a clinical oncologist and research fellow interested in genomics and therapeutics- clinical discovery and implementation of pharmacogenomics in African populations. My studies are broadly in to implementation feasibility and clinical effectiveness of pharmacogenomics biomarker guided treatment in African gastrointestinal cancer patients receiving 5-fluorouracil and irinotecan based on DPYD and UGT1A1 genotype. This study involve a hybrid clinical trial and implementation study design. Coupled to this, I am also interested in the biochemical changes in cancer associated cachexia and the use of this in clinical decision to institute cancer specific therapy or not. These studies both include longitudinal plasma biobanking. Now, under the clinical co-mentorship of Prof. Ntokozo Ndlovu and Prof. Margaret Z. Borok of the University of Zimbabwe, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences and the scientific supervision of Distinguished Prof. Collen Masimirembwa, founder of the African Institute of Biomedical Sciences & Technology (AiBST). These studies are supported through a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Calestous Juma (BMGF-CJ) Science Leadership fellowship awarded to Prof. Masimirembwa. My long-term goal is to become an independent clinical researcher and trialist dedicated to advancing our understanding of African pharmacogenomics and cachexia biomarkers and implementation of personalized medicine.

Francielly Morena Clark

 


PhD Candidate
Nicholas P. Greene’s Laboratory

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate broadly interested in unraveling mechanisms behind muscle impairments in cancer-induced muscle loss. My dissertation focuses on targeting mitochondrial processes previously found altered in pre-clinical models of cancer cachexia, such as mitophagy and fusion, through genetic mouse models and myoAAV gene delivery strategies to mitigate muscle loss in cancer. Recently, following a data-driven curiosity, I established a collaboration with Dr. Karyn Esser from the University of Florida to explore the implications of muscle clocks in muscle health regulation in a cancerous environment. My long-term aspiration is to evolve into an independent academic investigator, committed to advancing efficacious therapies against the complex muscle disarray observed in cancer cachexia.

Ben T. Murphy

 


PhD Student
Professor Ken O’Halloran’s Lab
Department of Physiology
University College Cork

I graduated with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Sciences from the University of Limerick in 2018 and an MSc in Exercise Physiology from Loughborough University in 2020. I am currently undertaking my PhD studies at University College Cork under the supervision of Professor Ken O’Halloran and Dr John Mackrill. I am interested in the pathology of skeletal muscle atrophy, and in particular the pathophysiology underlying age-related and cancer-related muscle wasting. Coupled with this is my intrigue as to the mechanisms responsible for skeletal muscles adaption to exercise, and how understanding of these mechanisms can inform therapeutic implementation of exercise to combat disease. My PhD studies are focussed on exploring the benefit of exercise as an intervention in novel translatable mouse models of cachexia with a future view to the adoption of strategies for implementation in people with cancer.

Katherine Pelz

 


MD/PhD Student│Year 3 (Grad 1)
Oregon Health & Science University

I am a 3rd year MD/PhD student at Oregon Health and Science University working in the lab of Dr. Teresa Zimmers. My research focuses on understanding the intersection of cancer cachexia and metastasis. Given that I am early in my medical training, I am still deciding on what to specialize in. So far, I have really enjoyed my medical oncology rotation. My overarching career goal is to be able to work with and treat patients, while pursuing research that provides insight into their diseases and ultimately can translate into better treatment for them.

Clodagh Scannell

 


Registered Dietitian/
PhD candidate

I am a PhD researcher working with the Clinical Nutrition and Oncology Research group led by Professor Aoife Ryan, based at University College Cork, Ireland. My research focuses on identifying malnutrition in ambulatory oncology patients using body composition assessments particularly CT analysis. I have expertise in the running of nutritional intervention trials with oncology patients examining the impact of novel nutritional supplements on body composition, inflammation status, quality of life and systemic anti-cancer treatment tolerance. I have also been involved in the development of evidence-based patient resources which aim to improve nutrition knowledge in those diagnosed with cancer and improve patient outcomes. I have a keen interest in the use of biologically based complementary and alternative medicine in those diagnosed with cancer and have conducted research to quantity the use of these products and practices in Irish cancer survivors. Once finished my PhD I hope to continue my research in the area of nutrition and oncology as a Postdoctoral researcher.

Martin M. Schonk

 


Graduate Student Research Assistant
Judge Lab

I am a third-year PhD student at the University of Florida, with a particular interest in understanding the mechanisms that control skeletal muscle mass and function. My research training as an undergraduate and master’s student encompassed a range of areas, including patient’s musculoskeletal assessment, orthopeadic surgeries, clinical trials, and both muscle and tendon physiology using mouse, rat, and in vitro models. Under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Judge, I am currently investigating the role of the FoxO-FoxP1 axis as well as the complement system in the development and progression of cancer cachexia, using a mouse model of pancreatic cancer cachexia. These studies are supported through R01 grants from the NIH. I am driven to contribute to impactful research that helps people overcome musculoskeletal conditions and promote healthy aging.

Deena B. Snoke, PhD

 


Postdoctoral Fellow
Toth Laboratory
University of Vermont College of Medicine

I earned my Ph.D. in Nutrition at The Ohio State University in 2020, where my work focused on the effects of lipophilic dietary components to improve conditions of metabolic dysregulation, including cancer cachexia. Fascinated by unanswered questions about tissue wasting during cancer cachexia, I pursued a postdoctoral fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Michael Toth at The University of Vermont. Enriched by the support of the Vermont Lung Center Interdisciplinary Lung Biology T32 program, my ongoing work contributes to translational research aiming to decipher how lung cancer and its treatment cause metabolic dysfunction. These studies, supported by NHLBI and NCI grant funding, are focused on collecting longitudinal observations of body composition in patients and developing a novel model of lung cancer cachexia that better recapitulates the human condition. I seek to pursue a career as an academic investigator engaging in translational studies on the effect of pathological stimuli, including cancer and its treatment, and their influence on metabolic health outcomes.

Yan Sun, MD

 


PhD Student
Maastricht University
Surgery department

I am a fourth-year PhD student with a keen interest in the field of cancer cachexia. My PhD topic at Maastricht University covers radionics, cancer treatment, and cachexia-associated body composition. Currently, under the joint supervision of Steven W. Olde Damink, Sander S. Rensen, and David van Dijk, and with support from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Henan Cancer Hospital, and several European medical centers, we focus on investigating the effectiveness and safety of chemotherapy and immunotherapy in clinical models of cachexia induced by different types of tumors.
I have obtained a medical license and completed specialized training in oncology and clinical nutrition. My long-term goal is to become an oncologist and academic researcher, dedicated to promoting international multicenter research on cancer cachexia.


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Updated April 8, 2024