PS-OC representatives

Physical Science Members

Dr. Franziska Michor, PhD is the Principal Investigator (PI) of the PS-OC. Dr. Michor is a Professor of Computational Biology in the Department of Data Sciences at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health, and in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. Dr. Michor obtained her undergraduate in mathematics and molecular biology from the University of Vienna, Austria, and her PhD from the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. Afterwards, she was awarded a fellowship from the Harvard Society of Fellows, which she used to perform research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. From 2007 until 2010, she was an Assistant Professor in the Computational Biology Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Michor is the Principal Investigator of an NIH R01 and has been the recipient of multiple prizes including the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize of the Society for the Study of Evolution, a Gerstner Young Investigator Award, a Leon Levy Young Investigator Award, the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science and the Robertson Stem Cell Prize from the New York Stem Cell Foundation. Dr. Michor’s laboratory investigates the evolutionary dynamics of cancer initiation, progression, response to therapy, and emergence of resistance.

Biological Science Members

Dr. Eric C. Holland, MD, PhD is the Principal Investigator (PI) of the PS-OC. Dr. Holland is the Director of the Alvord Brain Tumor Center; Chap and Eve Alvord and Elias Alvord Chair in Neuro-Oncology; and Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington and he is the Director of the Division of Human Biology and Solid Tumor Translational Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In his laboratory, his research team is seeking to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of central nervous system tumors.  This work is based on developing genetically accurate models of these cancers in mice. In this process, his laboratory has developed mouse models of many subtypes of gliomas, including glioblastoma -- the most lethal brain tumor in people. Using these models, they study the biology of gliomas and the biology of therapeutic response to standard treatment and novel signal transduction inhibitors, the presence of stem like cells and the microenvironmental niches that they live in, and developing molecular imaging strategies to follow pathway activation duringtumor development and therapeutic response.
Dr. Kornelia Polyak, MD, PhD is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and in the Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Polyak is a physician-scientist involved in biomedical research directed towards patient care. Research in her laboratory is dedicated to the molecular analysis of human breast cancer. Her goal is to identify differences between normal and cancerous breast tissue, determine their consequences, and use this information to improve the clinical management of breast cancer patients. The lab have devoted much effort to develop new ways to study tumors as a whole and to apply interdisciplinary approaches. Using these methods Dr. Polyak has been at the forefront of studies analyzing purified cell populations from normal and neoplastic human breast tissue at genomic scale and in situ at single cell level and to apply mathematical and ecological models for the better understanding of breast tumor evolution. Her group has also been successful with the clinical translation of their findings including the testing of efficacy of JAK and BET bromodomain inhibitors for the treatment of triple negative and inflammatory breast cancer in Phase I/II clinical trials. Dr. Polyak has worked with Dr. Michor for the past 10 years and has successfully completed several high impact studies and successfully competed for grants. Dr. Polyak is the leader of Project 3.
Dr. David Scadden, MD is the Gerald and Darlene Jordan Professor of Medicine at Harvard University. He is a practicing hematologist/oncologist who focuses on bringing stem cell biology to patient care. He founded and directs the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital and with Douglas Melton, co-founded and co-directs the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, the Board of External Experts for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and a former member of the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Counselors. Dr. Scadden received his MD from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He has received multiple honorary degrees, awards and memberships in honorary societies. His work emphasizes targeting the stem cell niche to attain novel therapies for blood diseases.



External advisors

Dr. Andrea Califano, PhD conducted his doctoral thesis in physics, at the University of Florence, was on the behavior of high-dimensional dynamical systems. From 1986 to 1990, as a Research Staff Member in the Exploratory Computer Vision Group at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center he worked on several algorithms for machine learning, more specifically for the interpretation of 2D and 3D visual scenes. In 1990 Dr. Califano started his activities in Computational Biology and, in 1997, became the program director of the IBM Computational Biology Center, a worldwide organization active in several research areas related to bioinformatics, chemoinformatics, complex biological system modeling/simulation, microarray analysis, protein structure prediction, and molecular-dynamics. In 2000 he co-founded First Genetic Trust, Inc. to actively pursue translational genomics research and infrastructure related activities in the context of large-scale patient studies with a genetic components. In 2003, he joined Columbia University as Professor of Biomedical Informatics, with appointments in the Department of Biomedical Informatics and in the Institute for Cancer Genetics. In 2008, he co-funded Therasis, Inc. a company dedicated to the development of combination therapy approaches. In 2013, Dr. Califano became the Founding Chair of a new department of systems biology (DSB) at Columbia University. Dr. Califano serves on numerous editorial and scientific advisory boards, including, among others, the Board of Scientific Advisors of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Koch Cancer Center, the Sanford-Burnham Institute, MD Anderson Genomic Medicine department, and the National Cancer Institute.
Dr. Giovanni Parmigiani, PhD is a Professor of Biostatistics in the Department of Data Sciences at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Professor Parmigiani is a statistician whose work creates statistical tools for understanding cancer data, with particular focus on genetic epidemiology and genomics. For example, he uses Bayesian modeling and machine learning concepts for predicting who is at risk of carrying genetic variants that confer susceptibility to cancer. For another example, he is interested in addressing the challenges of cross-study replication of predictions by constructing predictors that learn replicability from multiple studies. His overarching goals are to increase the rigor and efficiency with which we leverage the vast and complex information generated in today's cancer research; and to foster the use of data sciences as a common thread to facilitate interactions between fields and academic cultures. Dr. Parmigiani’s research includes Bayesian modeling and computation, multilevel models, decision theoretic approaches to inference, sequential experimental design and their application to adaptive and multistage studies in clinical and epidemiological research.
Dr. Ilya Shmulevich, PhD is a Professor at the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) and directs a Genome Data Analysis Center as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, a comprehensive and coordinated effort to accelerate our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer through the application of genome analysis technologies, including large-scale genome sequencing. He also directs the Computational Core of the Systems Approach to Immunity and Inflammation consortium, which consists of a large multidisciplinary team of investigators working in the fields of immunology and systems biology. Dr. Shmulevich received his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University in 1997. In 1998-2000, he worked as a senior researcher at the Tampere International Center for Signal Processing at the Signal Processing Laboratory in Tampere University of Technology in Finland. In 2001, Dr. Shmulevich joined the Department of Pathology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center as an Assistant Professor and held an adjunct faculty appointment in the Department of Statistics in Rice University. Dr. Shmulevich joined the ISB faculty in 2005. Dr. Shmulevich’s research interests include theoretical studies of complex systems, including information theoretic approaches, as well as the application of image processing and analysis to high-throughput cellular imaging. His work in cancer genomics research spans multiple cancers, with published work in glioma, lymphoma, leukemia, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and sarcoma.



NCI representatives

Dr. Mariam Eljanne, PhD serves as a Program Director for the Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers (PS-OC) initiative within the Division of Cancer Biology at the NCI. In this role, she oversees the scientific progress at different PS-OC Centers. Dr. Eljanne earned a MS. in Microbial Genetics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the University of Pittsburgh. She has broad expertise in basic sciences and clinical research. After earning her Master's degree, Dr. Eljanne managed the Molecular Diagnostics laboratory for infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She then joined the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh where she worked on gene therapy, stem cell research, and genomic imprinting. Dr. Eljanne studied the methylation pattern of DNA in the mouse. After earning her Ph.D. she joined Cytyc Corporation where she worked on breast and cervical cancer diagnostic assay development. In 2004 she moved to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) as a Senior Research Associate where she worked on prostate cancer diagnostic/prognostic assay development and prostate clinical research. With this clinical research experience from BIDMC, Dr. Eljanne joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Lupus Center as a Research Program Manager where she managed several industry-sponsored lupus clinical trials. In 2009 Dr. Eljanne joined NIAID to manage the Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Units clinical trial contract. Dr. Eljanne's interest lies in understanding the epigenetic modifications of DNA that lead to cancer development and in testing some of the new discoveries in preclinical and clinical settings.


Dr. Nastaran Zahir, PhD joined the Division of Cancer Biology at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2013 where her primary role as Program Director is to coordinate transdisciplinary efforts in bringing physical sciences perspectives to cancer research. She oversees and manages scientific projects for the Physical Sciences in Oncology Initiative by fostering transdisciplinary research collaborations and promoting resources for data and biospecimen standards.
Dr. Zahir's passion for advancing the integration of physical sciences and oncology stems from 10 years of transdisciplinary research at the intersection of these fields. Prior to joining the NCI, she received a Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley where she gained experience at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as a research assistant in plasma physics (Laboratory of Ka-Ngo Leung, Ph.D) and radiation biology (Laboratories of Stephen Lockett, Ph.D. and Mary Helen Barcellos-Hoff, Ph.D.). Dr. Zahir received a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania where she conducted research in the Institute for Medicine and Engineering (Thesis: Spatial-Mechanical Regulation of Mammary Morphogenesis and Therapeutic Resistance; Laboratory of Valerie M. Weaver, Ph.D.). She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Arthritis, and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (Laboratory of Rocky S. Tuan, Ph.D.) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she gained research experience in the fields of stem cell biology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and during that time she also served as Senior Editor of the NIH Fellows Editorial Board. Following her postdoctoral fellowship, Dr. Zahir joined the NIH extramural program as a Health Scientist Administrator at the NCI Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives in the former Office of Physical Sciences - Oncology (2009-2013). During her career, Dr. Zahir has co-authored several research publications in both the biological and the physical sciences. In addition, she has taught undergraduate level courses in cancer biology and graduate level courses in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

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