Dr. Grace joined the Department of Symptom Research at MD Anderson in 2016. His research focuses on understanding the neuroimmune mechanisms of chronic pain and its control.
Dr. Grace's current work investigates the adaptive immune mechanisms that initiate and maintain neuropathic pain after traumatic nerve injury. His team is also delineating the analgesic mechanisms and therapeutic potential of the "master regulator" of the antioxidant response Nrf2. He has shown that the Nrf2 activator dimethyl fumarate relieves neuropathic pain, with ongoing work to advance this drug class for clinical treatment of chronic pain.
Dr. Gibbons is a psychologist, data scientist, and health service researcher. He seeks to improve cancer care by generating and communicating insights from patient data. He and his team develop and evaluate novel methods based on modern psychometrics and machine learning techniques to assess, analyze, and predict patient outcomes.
Dr. Gibbons leads MD Anderson's contributions to the INSPiRED (Innovative Solutions for Patient-Reported Data) Cancer Care Initiative, an international collaboration between academics and clinicians focused on making patient-centered data easier to use and more useful for clinical practice and research.
Clinical Research Faculty — Section of Patient-Centered Analytics
Xin Shelley Wang, M.D., M.P.H
Dr. Wang’s research focuses on the measurement of patient-reported symptom and functioning outcomes (PROs), the management of cancer-related and treatment-related symptoms (especially fatigue), the identification and management of clinically important PROs during and after curative cancer therapy, clinical trials for symptom management in patients and survivors, the impact of culture on symptom reporting, and clinical and translational research on inflammatory mechanism-driven interventions for cancer-related symptoms. She develops PRO assessment tools, including various language versions and modules of the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI), the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), and the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI), and designs methodologies for their use. Her efforts have laid the groundwork for integrating evidence-based PROs to improve patient care on an international scale.
Loretta A. Williams, Ph.D., APRN, OCN, AOCN
Dr. Williams is an oncology nurse and has worked in oncology nursing for more than 40 years. She is interested in symptom measurement, the use of qualitative research methods in the development of patient-reported outcomes measures, the biological mechanisms of symptom production, the effects of genetics on symptoms, and the effects of symptoms on family caregivers of cancer patients. She has developed validated symptom assessment questionnaires for malignant pleural mesothelioma, gastrointestinal .cancers, gastrointestinal obstructions, esophageal cancers, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and breast cancer and for patients experiencing treatment-related peripheral neuropathy and patients with SARS-CoV-19 infections.
Goldy C. George, Ph.D.
Dr. George brings more than five years of experience with clinical-trial related research within the MD Anderson Phase I program into her position within the Department of Symptom Research, where she has facilitated numerous collaborations between the two departments. She has published multiple scientific articles related to Phase I clinical trials and to symptoms and toxicities in the early-phase clinical trial arena, including several publications summarizing the results of early-phase clinical trials that examined toxicities and efficacy associated with certain molecularly targeted therapeutic agents. Other research interests include sleep quality and nutritional intake and dietary behavior in a variety of populations.
Tamara E. Lacourt, Ph.D.
Dr. Lacourt’s research focuses on the biobehavioral mechanisms of somatic symptom experience. Through a translational approach, and using current insights from animal experiments to formulate hypotheses tested in clinical studies, she aims to improve our understanding of the intricate interactions between psychological and biological vulnerabilities and current biopsychological processes resulting in the experience of somatic symptoms. Her most recent work focuses on persistent fatigue after treatment for cancer.
Mona Kamal Jomaa, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Jomaa’s clinical and academic research efforts focus on incorporating “big data” handling and artificial intelligence with patient-reported outcomes, imaging features, and biomarkers to develop toxicity prediction models for improving personalized cancer care. Her research projects aim at establishing validated assessment tools for radiation therapy-related toxic effects and developing image-guided precision treatment plans based on individual toxicity risk. Her overall goals are early identification of patients vulnerable to treatment-induced toxic effects, implementation of proactive personalized rehabilitation plans, minimization of long-term morbidities during survivorship, and reduction of the financial burden of treatment-related toxic effects.
Laboratory Research Faculty
Dr. Dantzer employs both basic science and clinical research to investigate the mechanisms of inflammation-induced sickness and depression, with the objectives of understanding how the immune message propagates from the periphery to the brain and how brain cytokines can ultimately affect behavior. He incorporates neuroanatomy, cellular and molecular biology, and behavioral pharmacology approaches in wild-type and transgenic mice.
Dr. Mahalingam is a skilled bioinformatics scientist specializing in the analysis of bulk and single-cell RNA and DNA sequencing data. He has been involved with projects covering human heart failure and both intestine and lung stem cells. At present, his efforts are focused on unraveling cellular mechanisms and transcriptomic changes associated with chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment and neuropathy.
Dr. Pan's research program lies at the intersection of neuroscience and cancer biology, with a focus on understanding the interactions between neurons, cancer cells, and chemotherapy. Her efforts aim to shed light on the pathogenesis of several types of nervous system cancers and to provide potential strategies for predicting, treating, and preventing these cancers and improving patient quality of life.
Dr. Shepherd conducts preclinical research investigating the mechanisms that link inflammation to the pain induced by various forms of injury, including joint damage and chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, with a particular emphasis on signaling related to the renin-angiotensin system. The ultimate goal of his research is to identify interventions that can mitigate or prevent the development of pain associated with these chronic disease states.
Dr. Shepherd co-chairs MD Anderson's Pain Research Consortium, a unique platform that brings together clinical and basic science pain experts for interdisciplinary discussion, innovative problem-solving, and shaping the future of pain management.