Dr. Yuan Pan's research program lies at the intersection of neuroscience and cancer biology. The Pan Lab, established in the Department of Symptom Research in 2022, focuses on understanding the interactions between neurons, cancer cells, and chemotherapy. These 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. Pan trained with Drs. David Gutmann and Michelle Monje in cancer neuroscience, neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), and glial biology. Her recent work has revealed that neuronal activity synchronizes with germline Nf1 (a tumor suppressor) mutation to drive the initiation and maintenance of optic pathway glioma (Pan et al., Nature, 2021).
Current Lab Members
Anand Singh, Ph.D.
Senior Research Scientist
Anand joined the Pan Lab in October 2022. He is a neuroscientist with more than 15 years of experience in preclinical drug testing and regulatory affairs. He completed his Ph.D. at CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, where he and his colleagues established a new pesticide-induced mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. During his postdoctoral fellowship at Linkoping University, he worked on the neurocircuitry of the affective dimension of inflammatory pain. Currently, Anand is handling multiple projects on chemotherapy drug treatment, the assessment of neurotoxic side effects, and reverse translation of a small molecule inhibitor targeting oxidative phosphorylation as an anticancer strategy.
Benjamin Emoefe Aghoghovwia, Ph.D.
Benjamin obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 2018, and completed his postdoctoral training at both Otago and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). His Ph.D. thesis and postdoctoral research mainly explored the therapeutic efficacy of stem cells in neurological disorders of the basal ganglia, such as neonatal stroke and cerebral palsy. His interest in expanding knowledge in neuroscience led him to the Pan Lab. His career vision is to understand the mechanisms of neuron-glia interaction in neurogenetic disorders such as neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), which will contribute to the development of novel therapeutics, extend the frontiers of knowledge, and promote patient care.
Kechen Ban, Ph.D.
Kechen has been a member of the Pan Lab since March 2023. He received his doctoral degree in molecular biology from the University of Putra, Malaysia. He has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research. Currently, his main interest is to understand the neuronal regulation of nervous system cancer and glia-mediated neurological deficits.
Khushboo Irshad, Ph.D.
Khushboo has been a member of the Pan Lab since September 2022. She completed her Ph.D. in biochemistry at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, India, in 2013. Her Ph.D. thesis and postdoctoral research involved the study of signaling pathways implicated in brain tumors and patient-derived primary cultures. Her current interest includes the study of the intricacies between cancer cells and cells of the nervous system. Khushboo's long-term academic goal is to learn the advanced modalities that can help to better investigate the molecular mechanisms that pose challenges in the therapy of cancer patients.
Renae Bertrand, Ph.D.
Renae obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Baylor College of Medicine in 2021. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on elucidating the mechanism of disease in splicing factor-associated inherited retinal degeneration. After completing her Ph.D., she joined the Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine at UT Health, where she worked on a cystic fibrosis clinical trial using patient-derived iPSCs to evaluate patient-specific responses to CFTR modulators. Renae has a passion for mentoring and hopes to encourage young scientists to pursue careers in science through her position in the Pan Lab by working with students at the bench.
Outside of the lab, Renae enjoys crocheting, sewing, camping, and hiking with her dog.
Khalil Ali Ahmad Kasm, Ph.D.
Khalil joined the Pan Lab in July 2022. He obtained his Ph.D. in pharmacology from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2021. His research focuses on the field of cancer neuroscience and neuropharmacology. He has eight years of research experience in chronic pain, neuronal-glial interaction, and oxidative stress, and he has published several peer-reviewed manuscripts. His career goals are to discover the mechanisms of action of novel therapies and disease-related pathogenesis by using preclinical and translational research that can substantially benefit clinical research and improve patient quality of life.
In his free time, Khalil enjoys swimming, football, hiking, and cooking.
Sama Alnassiry, B.S.
Research Assistant I
Sama joined the Pan Lab in May 2022, shortly after earning her B.S. in biomedical sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology . Her research there focused primarily on understanding the bacteria Streptococcus Mutans K.
Sama is originally from Baghdad, Iraq. After living most of her life in upstate New York, she moved to Texas to join the Pan Lab. Outside of the lab, she enjoys learning programming languages, spending time with her cat, and a crisp New York fall day.
Madeline is a sophomore psychology and studio art major at Rice University. She hopes to attend medical school and to specialize in surgery.
Outside of the lab, Madeline's hobbies include painting, drawing, and weightlifting.
Nathan is sophomore at Rice University who is pursuing a degree in neuroscience and biosciences. He has conducted research on the hypothalamic regulation of appetite and satiety in ob/ob transgenic mouse lines and on the determination of potential biomarkers for IDH1 and IDH2 mutations in glioblastoma.
In his free time, Nathan enjoys weightlifting, listening to music, and watching cooking shows.
Aishani is a senior at Rice University, majoring in biosciences (concentrating on cell biology and genetics) and minoring in medical humanities. She has conducted research in metabolism and mitochondrial dynamics. She aspires to pursue a career as a physician-scientist, providing patient-centered care and conducting cancer research.
Outside of the lab, Aishani enjoys playing tennis and dancing Indian classical dance and Bhangra.
Samer is a senior kinesiology student at the University of Houston. He plans to go to medical school after graduation. He is very interested in plastic and reconstructive surgery for cancer patients.
Samer is originally from Syria but was raised in Kuwait. He is a big soccer fan and likes to play it in his free time.
Hana joined the Pan Lab as an Undergraduate Research Volunteer in March 2023. She is pursuing a biomedical engineering degree the University of Houston. Her research interests have included genetic engineering for neurological and retinal degenerative diseases.
Tasneen joined the Pan Lab as an undergraduate research volunteer in September 2022. She is now pursuing her M.D. at Western University of Health Sciences - Oregon Campus.