James Welsh, M.D.
Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology
I have had a singular focus in my life to help humanity, and during my college years I became intrigued by the power of the immune system and astonished that cancer cells could adapt by evading immune detection. This interest led to my first job at Genentech, where I witnessed the development of some of the first targeted therapies, including trastuzumab (Herceptin). During this time, I first learned of antibody-dependent cellular immunity and how a drug like trastuzumab could be used to influence an immunologic response. During my residency in Radiation Oncology, I began to realize that radiation has the ability to stimulate immune responses by killing cancer cells within the patient and that that process can produce an immunologic T-cell response. Also during my residency, I was lucky enough to run a lab that led to a patent on a novel c-Met kinase inhibitor, which we licensed to industry. Although it was rewarding to see a drug I developed enter into clinical use, I came to realize that blocking a single part of a signaling pathway was too simplistic an approach in cancer and could in fact facilitate treatment resistance. Thinking there must be a better way, I began to consider combining radiation therapy with immunotherapy as a potential opportunity to permanently control cancer. In my current position as a tenured associate professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center, I am fortunate to be able to realize my mission on a daily basis. Seeing first-hand the devastation that cancer causes only serves to galvanize my determination. As an independent investigator, I am now focused on enhancing the effects of immunotherapy through its rational combination with radiation. This work includes running many of the first trials of anti-CLTA-4 and anti-PD1 with radiation, as well as testing preclinical models of immunotherapy with radiation. Running a lab in addition to treating patients provides me with unique clinical insights that come from seeing firsthand how best to combine immunotherapies with radiation, with the ultimate goal of developing truly personalized therapeutic approaches.
Maria Angelica Cortez, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Experimental Radiation Oncology
Maria Angelica received her masters and Ph.D degree from University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2009. She completed part of her thesis in the lab of George Calin, M.D., Ph.D., at MD Anderson, where she devoted her thesis to understanding the roles of noncoding RNAs, including microRNAs, in the molecular mechanisms underlying tumor progression. She joined Welsh’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2011 and was appointed as an instructor in the Radiation Oncology department in 2015. Cortez’s long-term career goal is to discovery novel therapeutic strategies to target immunotherapy resistant lung and breast cancer cells. Her current projects include 1.) Understanding the mechanisms by which tumors evade the immune system and 2.) Exploring the interaction between radiation and immunotherapies in lung cancer treatment.
Meidi Gu received her Ph.D. degree in Immunology from Zhejiang University, China, in 2015; she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Immunology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, in which she worked on metabolic programmes and signaling networks that regulate the T cell response in anti-tumor immunity. She joined the laboratory of Dr. Welsh as a research scientist in 2019; her current research interests are combining metabolic coordination with immunotherapy and discovering new tumor antigens for the design of novel CAR T cells.
Liang Peng Yang, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Radiation Oncology-Research
Liang received his master’s in biochemistry from the Shanghai Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology before he went on to receive his Ph.D. in Immunology from the University of Montreal in Canada. He went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the NCI in Experimental Immunology where he continued on as research faculty for several years. He eventually found his way to the Welsh lab where he works on Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines and new drug discovery research by applying his extensive, intensive research experience and expertise in immunology and molecular biology.
Senior Research Assistant
Mina received her B.S in biology in Iran before attending Queen’s
University of Charlotte for her graduate work. She is currently the
lab manager for the Welsh lab and also assists on experiments as well
as in vitro work. She is incredibly excited to be embarking
on new research projects this year and cannot wait to discover more
about the intricacies of immunotherapy and radiation.
Ahmed Younes, M.D.
Research Assistant II
Ahmed received his medical degree from Cairo University in 2014. He
joined the Welsh lab in March 2016 to help assist on clinical and
translational research projects. His current research interests
involve studying the impact of providing direct treatment to multiple
oligometastatic targets to enhance responses provided by
immunotherapy. His future passion is to complete his residency and
continue conducting research to bring new advances from the bench to
Mark Wasley, B.S.
Research Assistant I
Mark received his bachelors in Biochemistry from the University of Houston. He joined Dr. Welsh’s lab in March 2019. Mark assists with In Vivo research projects and is excited to have the opportunity to work in cutting edge translational research.
Hampartsoum Barsoumian, Ph.D.
Hampartsoum received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Louisville (2016), where his research was focused on the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines and immune adjuvants bridging innate and adaptive immunity together to eliminate tumors. He joined Welsh’s research group as a postdoc in September 2016. His current research interests are combining different radiation strategies with immunotherapy to promote systemic/abscopal anti-tumor effects, as well as fine-tuning radiation to modulate the tumor microenvironment to overcome resistance to therapy over time. Hampartsoum is also involved in grant writing and collaborating with pharmaceutical companies.
Yun Hu, Ph.D.
Yun Hu received his Ph.D. in Biological Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech, where his research was focused on developing nanoparticle-based vaccines against smoking. He joined Welsh's lab as a postdoctoral fellow in 2018. His current research interest is combining nanotechnology, immunotherapy, and radiation for cancer treatment.
Dawei Chen, M.D., Ph.D.
Visiting Research Fellow
Dawei Chen is in his second year of Ph.D. in Radiation Oncology in Shandong University, China. He received M.D. degree in 2017. Currently, he is a graduate student in the Welsh lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dawei’s research focuses on the role of selective metabolic inhibitors with radiation and immunotherapy to develop durable response.
Medical Student Researcher
Hari is a medical student from the University of Arizona COM – Phoenix, who is taking a gap year with the Welsh lab. His research interests are concerned with the mechanisms surrounding radiation’s effects on the immune system. He also assists with clinical trial analyses with a focus on immunoradiation trials. After he completes his year in the lab, Hari plans to pursue a career in academic Radiation Oncology with the hopes of developing his own clinical trials and translational projects in the near future.
Medical Student Researcher
Roshal is a medical student at Albany Medical College with a keen interest in radiation and immune oncology. His research at MD Anderson Cancer Center focuses on both clinical and preclinical projects utilizing immuno-radiotherapy as well as ventures related to biology-guided radiation delivery and autonomous radiation planning software development. Roshal plans to pursue a career in academic radiation oncology.
Rishab Ramapriyan is an undergraduate student from Rice University and has been conducting research with the Welsh Lab since January 2017. Rishab is currently completing a B.S. degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology and plans on attending medical school after Rice. Rishab has been involved with both preclinical and clinical studies relating to the combination of immunotherapy and radiotherapy. He hopes to eventually pursue a career as a physician-scientist in the field of oncology.
Former Lab Members
Our former students, interns and fellows go off to do some amazing things. Here’s a look at where they are now after working at the Welsh lab.
Arya Amini, M.D.
Resident Physician, Radiaiton Oncology
After working in the Welsh lab, Arya completed his residency at the University of Colorado in the Radiation Oncology department. He is now an attending at City of Hope.
Ailin Li, M.D., Ph.D.
Research Scientist, China Medical University
After finishing her research years at the Welsh lab, Ailin has returned to China to continue her work as a radiation oncologist. She is finishing her research on investigating the effects and mechanisms of combining radiotherapy and IDO1 inhibitor in animal models.
Steven Seyedin, M.D.
Resident Physician, Radiation Oncology
Iowa City, IA
Steven worked in the Welsh lab as a clinical research intern and then went on to start his residency as a radiation oncologist at the Chicago Medical Center at the University of Illinois. He is now completing his residency at the University of Iowa in the Radiation Oncology department.
Mauricio Da Silva Caetano, Ph.D.
Clinical Studies Coordinator
Mauricio worked in the Welsh lab as a postdoctoral fellow for two years. He recently shifted to clinical studies as a Clinical Studies Coordinator at the Investigational Cancer Therapeutics department at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Jonathan worked in the Welsh lab for two years, primarily focusing on regulatory T-cell immunotherapy and radiation combinations. He is currently a second-year medical student at UT Southwestern in Dallas, TX with his future plans still to be determined.
Alex was a research intern working in the Welsh Lab. She conducted her research on the effects of inhibiting glycosylation in combination with immunotherapy for the treatment of thoracic malignancies. She's currently studying to take the LSAT and will apply to law school this fall, so she can pursue her dream of becoming a patent lawyer with an emphasis on cancer therapeutics.
Taylor Cushman, M.D.
Resident Physician, Radiation Oncology
Phoenix, AZ/Columbus, OH
Taylor recently finished medical school at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. He conducted a year of research between his third and fourth years of medical school here in the Welsh Lab. He is about to embark on a Radiation Oncology residency with a preliminary year in Phoenix, AZ, followed by his formal residency at Ohio State University.