Gabriel Lopez-Berestein, M.D. has been one of the prominent leaders in the field and working on on development nanotherapeutics more than 30 years, leading to “bench-to-bedside” translation of over 20 compounds with several FDA-approved drugs. He was the first laboratory that conducted pharmacokinetic and clinical trials of liposomal-based drugs in the U.S. Beginning in the early 1980s, his lab began exploring the use of liposomal carriers for therapeutic applications and was the first group in the U.S. to study the pharmacokinetics, distribution and safety of liposomal carriers in cancer patients. This study was fundamental for further development of this innovative technology. Since that time, his laboratory developed – from bench to clinic – several antifungals and antitumor therapeutics, such as lipid-based Nystatin and Amphotericin B for fungal infections, the latter now marketed as ABELCET, and Annamycin, Aroplatin and Lipo–ATRA (ATRAGEN), among others, as anticancer therapeutics. It is worth noting that single-agent ATRAGEN can cure some patients with untreated acute promyelocytic leukemia without the use of chemotherapy.
More recently, his lab has focused on the development of tumor specific nanodelivery systems for the delivery of variety of therapeutic payloads (i.e, siRNA, peptides, and potentially small molecules and chemotherapy). Over the last six years, his lab has also developed an understanding of several pathophysiologic mechanisms in ovarian cancer leading to the development of novel targets and, subsequently, the translational application of siRNA to animal models using nanoparticle carriers.
Bulent Ozpolat, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Experimental Therapeutics department
Bulent Ozpolat, M.D., Ph.D. is an associate professor at the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA. He earned his Ph.D. degree in Immunology from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) and after getting his M.D. from The University of Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir, Turkey. Ozpolat completed his graduate and post doc training in the Cancer Biology and Immunotherapy departments at MD Anderson. Ozpolat’s research focuses on 1) identification of novel survival pathways including EF2-Kinase ( eEF2K) and autophagy pathways as well as regulation of cell death mechanism such as autophagic and apoptotic cell death 2) development of molecularly targeted therapies using tumor-targeting nanotherapeutics (i.e liposomes, immunoliposomes, metal-magnetic nanoparticles) in aggressive type of solid tumors (ie, breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancers) and hematological cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma for the delivery of therapeutic cargo including siRNA, microRNA small molecule inhibitors, peptides, proteins, cytokines and anticancer agent. Ozpolat is a member of Center for Targeted Therapy (CTT) and Non-Coding RNA Center and received many research awards in recognition of research excellence. Ozpolat has published more than 50 papers, 9 book chapter sand 12 review articles in peer-reviewed high impact journals and contributed to textbooks.
Ozpolat is known for his work on immunoliposmes and cell- specific targeted delivery of therapeutic peptides, cytokines and vaccine adjuvants. With Ozpolat’s efforts, we recently developed a new nanoliposomal carriers designed for specific targeting folate receptor (FR) and integrin receptor (αVb3 and (αVb1) of tumor cells and tumor-associated vasculature using high-affinity ligands. We showed that nanoliposomes delivered siRNA into tumor tissues resulting in specific down-modulation of the specific target and antitumor activity in several experimental tumor models. We are in the process of bringing one of these targeted therapies to clinical applications.
Cristian Rodriguez-Aguayo, Ph.D.
Instructor, RFA, Experimental Therapeutics Department
Cristian Rodriguez-Aguayo, BS, MS, Ph.D. is an Instructor, RFA, Experimental Therapeutics Department at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA. He received his BS. degree in Biopharmacology. Universidad Autónoma de Nayarit, Tepic, Nayarit, México, and after he obtained M.S. in Morphology, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (UANL), Monterrey, Nuevo León, México. After getting his M.S., Rodriguez-Aguayo completed his Ph.D. in Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados (CINVESTAV) del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN), Mexico D.F., Mexico and post doc training in the Experimental Therapeutics Department at MD Anderson. Rodriguez’s research focuses on in three main areas: 1) Development of new strategies for systemic in vivo Non-Coding-RNA delivery using biocompatible nanoparticles; 2) Chemo-resistance mechanism on ovarian cancer growth and progression; and 3) Development of novel anti-RBP’s and Non-Coding-RNAs therapeutic approaches. His main goal is to continue a career in translational cancer research to identify effective therapeutic targets for development of more effective therapeutic strategies. His current research focuses on the understanding of the functional basis and biological mechanism by RBPs and non-coding RNAs promote cancer growth and tumor progression.
Pinar Kanlikilicer, Ph.D.
Kanlikilicer obtained her Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering from University of Houston where she studied nicotine induced dopamine signaling in the mesocorticolimbic pathway. Pinar joined Lopez-Berestein’s lab in 2013, as a postdoctoral fellow. Her main project focused on the biogenesis of exosomes, exosome trafficking and the role of small non-coding RNAs in exosomes in cell to cell communication. She is also working on aptamer based tumor targeting in ovarian cancer.
Merve Denizli, M.D.
Merve Denizli, M.D. received her Medical Doctor degree in Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey. She joined Lopez-Berestein's lab in January, 2015 as a Postdoctoral Fellow. She has been working on the effects of tumor microenvironment on ovarian cancer and the role of exosomes in cell-cell communication in tumor microenvironment.
Burcu Aslan, Ph.D.
Aslan received both her Bachelor of Science (Biology, 2007) and Master of Science (Nanotechnology and Nanomedicine, 2009) degrees in Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey. She joined Lopez-Berestein's laboratory in 2009 to gain a deeper understanding of cancer biology and to cultivate an integrative approach that combines nanotechnology and cancer biology. She obtained her Ph.D. in 2014, at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, in MD Anderson Cancer Center. During her doctoral training, she focused on the development and characterization of dual assembly nanoparticles for sustained gene silencing. She also identified the role of a novel transcription factor, ZNF304, in ovarian cancer.
Currently, Aslan works as a postdoctoral fellow under supervision of Lopez-Berestein. Her major research interests are nanocarriers for RNA delivery and identifying novel targets for targeted cancer therapy.
Nermin Kahraman, B.S.
Research Assistant II
Nermin obtained her B.S. degree from the Biology department at Ege University, Izmir-Turkey. She joined Ozpolat’s laboratory at The MD Anderson Cancer Center in April, 2012. She has been working on targeting and the role of EF2K in Ovarian Cancer.
Recep Bayraktar, M.S.
Recep Bayraktar received his master’s degree in Medical Biology from Gaziantep University, Turkey in 2011. He joined MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2014 in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics as a Graduate Student under the supervision of Dr. Bulent Ozpolat. His research is focused on the role of microRNAs in regulating EF2-Kinase pathway in Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
Emine Bayraktar, M.S.
Emine Bayraktar received her master’s degree in Medical Biology from Gaziantep University, Turkey in 2013. She joined MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2014 in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics as a Graduate Student under the supervision of Dr. Gabriel Lopez-Berestein. Her main project focused on the role of prostaglandin receptor in ovarian cancer resistance. She is also working interaction between RBPs and non-coding RNAs in ovarian cancer.
Nashwa Kabil, M.D., M.S.
Nashwa Kabil earned her M.D. degree from Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt and later obtained her M.S. degree in Physiology from Cairo University, Egypt. She joined the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (G.S.B.S.) in 2014 and Dr. Bulent Ozpolat’s laboratory in 2015 at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Her research is focused on 1) the role of elongation factor 2 kinase (EF-2K) in modulating the tumor microenvironment in triple negative breast cancer and 2) the role of EF-2K in exosomal biogenesis/trafficking.
Paola Amero, Ph.D.
Amero is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr Lopez-Berestein’s laboratory. She received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology Science from University of Naples, Italy. In July 2013, she started to work at Institute Experimental Endocrinology and Oncology, National Research Council of Naples, Italy, under supervisor of Vittorio de Franciscis, Ph.D., in Merit RBNE08YFN3 program. The main focus of her research was the development of microRNAs and aptamers as potential therapeutic tools in cancer. Amero joined Lopez-Berestein’s lab in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow. Her main project focused on the functional characterization of anti-Axl aptamers in ovarian cancer.