Scott Kopetz, M.D., Ph.D., FACP
Professor, Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology
As a board-certified medical oncologist and vice chair for translational research, Dr. Kopetz is well-versed in multidisciplinary care and translational research for GI cancer patients. His current roles at MD Anderson include leader of the CRC Moonshot program, which is a translational program to seed-fund ideas close to clinical application with the goal of improving patient outcomes in the near term. This mechanism provides expertise on funding and oversight of developmental grants. He is also the leader of the GI Program of the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), tasked with coordination of the GI research program in support of the CCSG. He is currently chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Colon Cancer Task Force and vice chair for Colon Cancer in the NSABP/RTG/GOG (NRG) Cooperative Group. He has conducted multiple Phase I, II, and III clinical trials, including studies in Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program (CTEP) and the adult cooperative group network.
His commitment to mentorship is exemplified by his role as Co-PI for the institutional K12 grant, program co-director of the Cancer Biology program, and mentorship recognition from both clinical and basic science trainees. His current research provides a unique opportunity to align cutting-edge technologies with unique clinical samples, preclinical models, and a multidisciplinary team to address critical clinically relevant questions. He has extensive expertise in the study of colorectal cancer that improves NCCN guidelines and FDA approved standards of care. His research passion is centered on bringing personalized therapy with drugs against specific genetic defects from the bedside to the bench and back to the clinic that substantially impact clinical outcomes. With the current infrastructure in place for colorectal research at MD Anderson, he facilitates the exploration and expansion of these findings in patient-derived xenografts, and rapidly transition into clinical application, with an emphasis on translational work on the molecular basis for response and resistance. Findings from his team's various research efforts are providing the first comprehensive understanding of the immunobiology of minimal residual disease, tumor evolution and therapy resistance as an integrated scientific challenge in colorectal cancer.
David G. Menter, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology - Research
Dr. Menter serves as scientific director of multiple National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded grants, including a GI Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE); The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center include leader of the CRC Moonshot program and the GI Program of the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) and The PDXNet U54 NCI Moon Shot that focuses on targeting KRAS-mutated colorectal cancer.
His research interests include determining the role of platelets as “first responders” in wound healing, cancer and metastasis. He is also interested in the role of prostaglandin metabolism and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in selective targeting of colorectal cancer. He also has an interest in understanding the role of consensus molecular subtypes in the heterogeneous molecular and cellular biology of colorectal cancer. Previously, he received funding from the NIH to study the role of neurotrophins in brain cancer metastasis and from the American Cancer Society to implement the first use of CreERT conditionally targeted mice to examine the role of selenium and selenoproteins in prostate cancer. More recently, he served as director of Dr. Raymond DuBois’ lab, where he gained extensive experience with colorectal cancer biology, the development of nanoparticle delivery vehicles for the treatment of GI cancers, and the development of next-generation animal models of GI cancers. He is an expert in the study of prostaglandins, cancer progression, signal transduction, inflammation and carcinogenesis. He has mentored numerous fellows and junior faculty. His current research efforts are focused on understanding and finding key targets that have clinical impact on the immunobiology of minimal residual disease by uncovering the mechanisms driving cancer as a wound that does not heal.
Alexey Sorokin, Ph.D.
Research Group Leader, GI Med Oncology - Research
Dr. Sorokin is leading in vivo experimental therapeutics efforts of the group in mCRC. He is interested in new combinational strategies to improve current “standard of care” treatments and overcome drug resistance. His research interests include KRas and BRaf, targeted therapy, PDX models and humanized mouse PDX models, and pre- and co-clinical trials.
Preeti Kanikarla Marie, Ph.D.
Sr Research Scientist, GI Med Oncology - Research
Dr. Marie's research interests include autologous humanized mouse models to investigate immunotherapy agents in CRC, generation of CRC patient derived xenografts, and designing and execution of pre-clinical/co-clinical PDX trials. She also manages and supervises of daily operations of the lab.
Graduate Research Asst (GSBS), GI Med Oncology - Research
Olu completed his dual B.S./M.S. degree in bioinformatics from Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Cancer Biology Program. His doctoral dissertation focuses on understanding the biology of oncogenic KRAS-G12C dependency in colorectal cancer. Utilizing clinically relevant models and the first KRAS-G12C inhibitor in the clinic, sotorasib, Olu hopes to address the pre-clinical challenges that are often encountered when working with cell lines and mouse models. The long-term goal of his project is to comprehensively understand the adaptive and acquired feedback mechanisms to KRAS-G12C inhibition in patients with colorectal cancer.
There are many things that Olu enjoys about working in the lab; however, the one thing that stands out the most is working with his mentor, Dr. Kopetz, in brainstorming and discussing a variety of ideas and experiments designed to tackle challenging contemporary scientific issues. Outside of the lab, Olu enjoys reading and learning about finance and is active in his church community.
Hey Min Lee
Graduate Research Asst (GSBS), GI Med Oncology - Research
Hey Min received her B.S. degree in biological science from Sung Kyun Kwan University in South Korea and the University of Texas at Dallas in 2017. After graduation, she started her Ph.D. program and officially joined Kopetz lab in 2018 as a Ph.D. student. Hey Min is currently working on defining the epigenetic modifications in BRAF-mutated colorectal cancer with the ultimate goal to discover a novel combination of epigenetic therapy and standard care that can improve therapeutic opportunities of this specific subtype of patients.
Jumanah Yousef Alshenaifi
Graduate Research Asst (GSBS), GI Med Oncology – Research
Jumanah’s work is focused on integrating the omics of early-onset colorectal cancer to elucidate potential mutational processes and translational applications.
Oscar Eduardo Villarreal
M.D./Ph.D. Student-GSBS, GI Med Oncology – Research
Oscar’s research focuses on understanding the limited durability of targeted therapy responses in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. His work utilizes translational models and molecular tools to explore the interactions between tumor-propagating cells and MAPK-targeting therapy.
Postdoctoral Fellow, GI Med Oncology – Research
Amanda’s primary research focus is centered on the immunobiology of colorectal cancer. She aims to elucidate the immunopathologic mechanisms whereby tumor cells evade immune detection in primary and metastatic sites through spatial mapping of immune cells utilizing highplex and multiplex immunofluoroescence techniques paired with quantitative digital image analysis tools.
Research Investigator, GI Med Oncology – Research
Fengqin works on the execution of multiple research projects with new combinational strategies using CRC PDX models. She focuses on drug PK, PD, and toxicological evaluation. She also helps with the daily operations of the Kopetz lab.
Sr. Research Assistant, GI Med Oncology – Research
Zhensheng is involved in testing the efficacy of various compounds on tumor growth inhibition in pre-clinical models of CRC. He also focuses on the generation of treatment-resistant PDX models.
Dionne M Prescod
Research Assistant II, GI Med Oncology – Research
Dionne is part of Kopetz lab’s in vivo experimental therapeutics team. Dionne is also involved in mouse colony maintenance, PDX sample documentation, inventory, coordination and helps with the daily operations of the Kopetz lab.
Chi Wut Wong, Ph.D.
CW Collaborator, GI Med Oncology – Research
Dr. Wong earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Duke University in 2022. His research focuses on using bioinformatic tools and organoid co-culture systems to dissect the cancer microenvironment and evolution.
Giulia Maddalena, M.D.
Graduate Student (non-UTHSCH), GI Med Oncology – Research
As a clinical oncologist with a focus on gastrointestinal cancers, mainly colorectal, Dr. Maddalena is involved in translational research with the purpose to increase biomarker knowledge and improve patient outcomes. She is interested in the preclinical and computational field to better understand cancer biology and cancer research development.
Success Beyond the Lab
Many of our lab members have moved on to faculty, clinical investigator or pharma appointments.