Areas of Research
- Cancer Neuroscience
- Cancer Predisposition Syndrome
- Neuron-glial Interactions
Welcome to the Pan Laboratory, in MD Anderson's Department of Symptom Research. Our group studies neuron-cancer and neuron-glia crosstalk and how these interactions are influenced by modifiers such as genetic mutations and therapies. Our goal is to provide insights into the prediction, prevention, and treatment of nervous system cancer and neurological disorders. We leverage primary cell culture, genetically engineered mouse models, patient-derived xenograft models, neuromodulatory approaches, and cell and molecular biology approaches. Our research is supported by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the Department of Defense Neurofibromatosis Research Program, The University of Texas System, the Gilbert Family Foundation, and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Neuron-Cancer Crosstalk in Nervous System Tumors
- Recent findings have shown the critical role of neurons in cancer initiation and progression and thus have contributed to the emerging field of cancer neuroscience.
- Neurofibromatosis 1 (NF1), a cancer predisposition syndrome, is a valuable platform for understanding the interaction between neurons and neoplastic cells.
- Children with NF1 are born with mutations in the Nf1 tumor suppressor gene and are predisposed to nervous system neoplasms (e.g., optic pathway gliomas [OPGs] and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors [MPNSTs]).
- Using a genetically engineered mouse model of NF1-OPG, we discovered that neuronal activity synergizes with the germline Nf1 mutation to drive the initiation of NF1-OPG (Pan et al., Nature, 2021).
- Using various genetically engineered mouse models of NF1, we aim to determine the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the neuronal activity-mediated nervous system neoplasms associated with NF1.
Image: Neuronal activity synergizes with the Nf1 mutation to drive the initiation and maintenance of Nf1-OPG.
Neuron-Glia Interactions and Cognitive Function
- In NF1, the germline Nf1 mutation affects every cell type, including neurons and glial cells. Our ongoing studies suggest that Nf1 mutations lead to dysregulated neuron-glia interactions and cognitive deficits, which could be exacerbated by chemotherapy.
- Using neuroscience approaches and genetically engineered mouse models of NF1, we aim to determine how Nf1 mutations lead to deficits in neuron-glia interactions and neurological function and whether chemotherapy exacerbates the deficits.
Image: Nf1 mutations and chemotherapy in neuron-glia interactions and neurological function.
News and Accolades
Khalil Kasm, Ph.D., presented our cancer neuroscience work at the Socienty for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting in Washington DC.
Madeline, Nathan, Aishani, Sara, Samer, Eric, Jade, and Shungu join our group as Undergraduate Research Volunteers.
We are now supported by two US Department of Defense NFRP grants to study cancer neuroscience in neurofibromatosis (NF)1-associated brain tumors and to study the effects of diet on cognitive function in NF1.
Renae joins the lab as a Research Investigator.
Kechen joins our group as a Research Scientist.
Ben joins us as a Research Scientist.
Anand joins our group as a Sr. Research Scientist.
We are now supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation to investigate optic nerve oligodendroglial dynamics and myelination in NF1.
Tasneem joins our group as an Undergraduate Research Volunteer.
Khushboo joins the lab as a Research Scientist.
New review article online: Pan Y, Monje M. Neuron-Glial Interactions in Health and Brain Cancer. Adv Biol (Weinh).2022:e2200122. doi: 10.1002/adbi.202200122. PMID: 35957525.
Khalil joins our group as a Postdoctoral Researcher.
Sama joins the lab as a Research Assistant.
Hana joins our group as an Undergraduate Research Volunteer.
Join Our Lab
We highly value hard work, curiosity, innovation, teamwork and professional development in combination with a healthy work/life balance. We seek strong postdoctoral fellows to add to our team.
Search MD Anderson's Careers website to view open positions.
Have questions? Contact Dr. Pan to learn more about joining our team.
Department of Symptom Research
1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Unit 1055
Houston, TX 77030
MD Anderson Cancer Center Zayed Building
6565 MD Anderson Boulevard, Suite Z8.5000
Houston, Texas 77030
Administrative support (operations, grants, protocols) for the Pan Lab is provided by the Department of Symptom Research.
(713) 745-3470 voice
(713) 745-3475 fax
Life in the Pan Lab
Pan Lab Members
Pan Lab Group Dinner
Pan Lab Group Lunch
November 2023: Khalil Kasm presented the Pan Lab's cancer neuroscience work at the Socienty for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Washington DC
November 2023: Khushboo Irshad presented her cancer neuroscience work at the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) Annual Meeting, Vancouver, Canada
November 2023: Farewell gathering for Renae Bertrand