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.
Instructor, 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.
Research Assistant, Experimental Radiation Oncology
Sharareh is currently a research assistant in the Experimental Radiation Oncology department at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She obtained her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from Tehran Azad University in Iran and completed her Master of Science (MSc.) degree in Biotechnology with concentration in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Houston Clear Lake, TX, USA. She is adept in tissue culture and molecular biotechnology techniques. Her research goals both in vivo and in vitro are to illuminate the molecular mechanisms involving cancers cell lines and identifying possible signaling pathways and molecules in mediating tumor progression that could serve as biomarkers for early detection or potential therapeutic targets.
Senior Research Assistant
B.S. Biology, Iran
Graduate School: Queen’s University of Charlotte
Mina is currently the lab manager for the Welsh lab and also assists on experiments as well as in vitro work in the lab. 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.
Mauricio Da Silva Caetano, Ph.D.
B.S. Microbiology and Immunology, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
M.S. Biophysics, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
Ph.D. Brazilian National Institute of Cancer
Mauricio received his Ph.D. in Oncology under the mentorship of Carlos Gil Ferreira M.D., Ph.D. from Brazilian National Institute of Cancer. Currently, he is a postdoctoral fellow in the Welsh lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Mauricio’s research focuses on the role of radiation combined with immunotherapy in reprograming dysfunctional tumor microenvironments and mechanistic regulation of controlling systemic tumor growth (abscopal effect).
Visiting Scientist, China Medical University
Ailin is a visiting scientist in our lab and she is a Radiation Oncologist in China. She's investigating the effects and mechanisms combining radiotherapy and Indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase (IDO1) inhibitor in animal models. IDO1 plays an important role in the induction of immune tolerance and has been associated with poor outcomes of cancer patients. In addition, IDO1 inhibitor has been verified to reactivate the suppressed immune responses and control tumor growth. Radiotherapy may also activate the immune system and the combination of radiotherapy and immune therapy may improve both local and abscopal control of tumors. Her research aims to evaluate the combinated effects and potential mechanisms between IDO1 inhibitor and radiation in lung cancer models, which will bring advantageous evidence to further clinical research.
Ahmed Younes, M.D.
Visiting Scientist, Cairo University
Ahmed received his medical degree from Cairo University in 2012 and completed his internship program in 2014. He joined Welsh’s research group on March 2016. His current research interests involve studying the impact of radiotherapy on tumor developmentand immune cells through preclinical and clinical studies. His future passion is to complete his residency and continue conducting research to bring new advances from the bench to the bedside.
Hampartsoum Barsoumian, Ph.D.
Ph.D. from University of Louisville, Kentucky
M.S. from American University of Beirut, Lebanon
B.S. from American University of Beirut, Lebanon
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 immunotherapy strategies with radiation to promote systemic/abscopal anti-tumor effects, as well as modulating the tumor microenvironment to overcome resistance to therapy over time. Hampartsoum is also involved in grant writing and collaborating with pharmaceutical companies.
B.S. Molecular Biosciences & Biotechnology
M.S. Exercise & Wellness
Taylor is a medical student at University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix conducting research between his third and fourth years of medical school. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Taylor graduated from Arizona State University in 2009 with a B.S. in Molecular Biosciences & Biotechnology. Upon graduating, he worked in the neonatology and developmental biology lab of Robert Roghair, M.D. at the University of Iowa from 2009-2011. To further pursue his interests, Taylor enrolled in an M.S. program in Exercise & Wellness at Arizona State University in 2012. This is where his interest in clinical science and medicine began, and ultimately led him to apply to medical school. He is pursuing a career in radiation oncology. Taylor’s personal interests include food, family, all animals (he has had everything from a sugar glider to ducks, turtles, tortoises, snakes, ferrets and much more), racquetball, hockey, health and wellness.
B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University 2017
Alex is a research intern working in the Welsh Lab. She is a Michael Manzella Fellow and conducted her thesis research on N-linked glycosylation and its effects on receptor tyrosine kinases in STT3A- and STT3B- cell lines. Her previous undergraduate research experience was at the Therapeutic Radiology Department at Yale School of Medicine under the mentorship of Joseph N. Contessa, M.D., Ph.D. A recipient of the Yale University Gordon Grand Fellowship and Cohen Fellowship for Public Service, she is currently conducting research for the year on the effects of inhibiting glycosylation in combination with immunotherapy for the treatment of thoracic malignancies. In addition to doing research, Alex also assists the Welsh lab with IP projects and trademark. 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.
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 having worked at the Welsh lab.
Arya Amini, M.D.
Resident Physician, Radiaiton Oncology
After working in the Welsh lab, Arya is now currently finishing residency at the University of Colorado Department of Radiation Oncology.
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 first at the Chicago Medical Center at the University of Illinois and is now completing his residency at the University of Iowa in the Radiation Oncology department.
B.S. Microbiology from Brigham Young University
Jonathan has been working in the Welsh lab for the past two years and we are excited to see him embark on his next adventure: medical school at UT Dallas Southwestern this Fall!