Team Science Awardees

Current Awardees

Spatial Omics in Early Liver Cancer

Peggi Angel

Peggi Angel, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Richard Drake

Richard Drake, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Professor, Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Anand Mehta

Anand Mehta, D.Phil.

Principal Investigator
Professor, Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Liver cancer is increasing in incidence with high mortality rates worldwide. It is expected to be the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. by 2035 and accounts for close to 5.5% of all cancer deaths in the state of South Carolina. Once liver cancer is diagnosed, there are currently no effective treatment options. The most effective treatments rely on early detection of liver cancer in people at the highest risk of developing it.

Our project is designed to systematically investigate the underlying cellular and tissue landscape of early liver cancers, as well as in blood samples. New methods developed in the investigator laboratories at MUSC will be used to detect specific effects of sugar changes and organ structure that occur in early liver tumors compared to pre-cancer and normal liver tissue. The studies will identify new diagnostic biomarkers that can aid in the early detection of liver cancer, as well as provide new mechanistic information that could be used in drug development and new detection assays.

Previous Awardees

Pancreatic Cancer Therapeutics Program

Nathan Dolloff 

Nathan Dolloff, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

nancy demore 

Nancy Klauber-DeMore, M.D.

Professor, Surgery

Dr. John O'Bryan 

John O'Bryan, Ph.D.

Professor, Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the most common form of pancreas cancer, is a deadly disease with a 5-year survival rate of only 10%, highlighting the need for new and effective treatments. This team science project will support a PDAC Therapeutics Program with the major objective to identify and develop new small molecule drugs and immunotherapies for pancreas cancer.

Individual projects will explore new drug targets and PDAC-specific molecular mechanisms and position drug candidates for follow-on funding and ultimately clinical translation. Drug targets include Anterior GRadient-2 (AGR2, Dolloff Lab), KRAS (O’Bryan Lab), and hSFRP2 (DeMore Lab), all of which are highly expressed or mutated in PDAC.

This award will provide critical funding support to characterize the mechanistic synergy between these signaling pathways, conduct discovery programs to identify lead drug candidates, and capitalize on the strengths and expertise of the three investigators and their research groups to establish a research cluster focused on developing the next generation of PDAC therapeutics.

Sphingolipid Metabolism in T-Cell Immunity and Cancer Immunotherapy

Besim Ogretmen 

Besim Ogretmen, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Dr. Xue-Zhong Yu 

Xue-Zhong Yu, M.D.

Principal Investigator
Professor, Microbiology and Immunology

Shikhar Mehrotra 

Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Surgery

This team science project is designed to advance our understanding of the link between sphingolipid metabolism, T-cell immunobiology, and immunotherapy. The overall objective of this project is to define the roles and mechanistic actions of ceramide and sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) in regulating T-cell bioenergetics and T-cell receptor signaling in anti-cancer immunotherapy, aging-related immune dysfunction, and transplantation.

Head and Neck Cancer Pre-SPORE

Besim Ogretmen

Besim Ogretmen, Ph.D.

Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

terry day

Terry Day, M.D.

Professor, Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery

The goal of the researchers’ multidisciplinary head and neck cancer team science project is to provide basic and clinical knowledge of head and neck cancer diagnosis, treatment, and control. They propose studies related to cancer metabolism, cell cycle regulation, and immunotherapy to reduce head and neck squamous cell carcinoma disparities and improve the clinical outcome for patients with this disease.

This team science program contains three main projects, led by Ogretmen and Day, in addition to other Hollings cancer researchers David Neskey, M.D., Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D., Marvella Ford, Ph.D., and Evan Graboyes, M.D. The proposed experiments will provide preliminary data to undergird the researchers’ Head and Neck Cancer SPORE (specialized programs of research excellence) application that will be submitted to the NIH in 2021.

Rejuvenating T Cells

Chrystal Paulos

Chrystal Paulos, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology

Project: Rejuvenating T Cells for Treatment of Lung Cancer

Smoking Cessation Interventions

Matthew Carpenter

Matthew Carpenter, Ph.D.

Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Project: Translational Science to Innovate Smoking Cessation Interventions Through Enhancement of Self-Regulation