Current research interests include innovative stem cell transplant preparative regimens, coagulation assays, novel therapeutic interventions and chemotherapy disposition. In addition, the division is developing a robust program on cancer survivorship and outcomes research, with multiple collaborators both inside and outside the department and institution.
Please see below to learn more about our investigators and their research efforts.
Scott C. Borinstein, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Borinstein is the director of the pediatric sarcoma and Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) oncology programs. His research interests are designed to improve the treatment and outcomes of children, teenagers, and young adults with cancer, translating discoveries from the bench to the clinic. Dr. Borinstein’s laboratory investigates how epigenetic changes contribute to the pathology of Ewing Sarcoma, a malignant bone and soft tissue tumor. His research goal is to understand how DNA methylation contributes to Ewing Sarcoma tumor formation and spread and to determine if methylation of certain genes could play a role in diagnosis, treatment, or the development of novel treatments for this disease. Furthermore, Dr. Borinstein is involved in the development and implementation of clinical trials for sarcoma and AYA cancer patients, with a goal of integrating new drugs and protocols into our current cancer therapies that will improve the care of our patients. Dr. Borinstein also is actively involved in developing novel methods of improving the psychosocial well-being of AYA patients during and after being treated with cancer through the use of novel social media resources and interventions.
Michael R. DeBaun, M.D., MPH
Dr. DeBaun is a leading expert in the care of children with sickle cell disease. His research has focused on understanding cerebrovascular injury, or stroke, in children with sickle cell disease, and improving management of their care. DeBaun's work is also focused on better defining the impact and biological reasons asthma increases sickle cell disease morbidity and mortality. He is principal investigator for a second NIH study and is currently collaborating nationally and internationally to develop the first longitudinal cohort of children with sickle cell anemia who have been evaluated with repeated pulmonary function tests and sleep studies. DeBaun is also an expert in genetic cancer predisposition syndromes. His work defined the natural history and biological basis of malformation and cancer in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) as an epigenetic syndrome, related to the expression of DNA through cell division, or phenotype, rather than the structure of DNA itself.
Adam Esbenshade, M.D. M.S.C.I.
Dr. Esbenshade's ressearch focuses on cancer control, CNS malignancy, and survivorship. Areas of active investigation include prevention and treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome in survivors, infectious disease complications during therapy, as well as clinical trials that focau on targeted therapy for CNS tumors. Dr. Esbenshade is a member of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) Survivorship committee Long-term Guidelins XXX Taskforce and the CAncer Control committee.
Debra Friedman, M.D.
Dr. Friedman's research interests lie in the outcomes for pediatric and adult cancer survivors, as well as in the design of novel therapeutic protocols for childhood cancer, designed to decrease adverse long-term effects of therapy. She has leadership roles in the Children's Oncology Group (COG) in Hodgkin Lymphoma, Retinoblastoma, Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology and Cancer Control and Survivorship. She is a principal or co-investigator on grants funded by the National Cancer Institute and several foundations and is an internationally recognized expert in cancer survivorship, participating in projects evaluating best practices and models of care. She is investigating a diverse group of physiologic and psychosocial outcomes among patients and long-term survivors of pediatric cancer, hematopoietic stem cell transplant and medical oncology.
Patrick Grohar, M.D., Ph.D.
The focus of Dr. grohar's research is on drug development for pediatric sarcomas and in particular Ewing sarcoma (ES). The major emphasis is on the identification, characterization and clinical translation of small molecule inhibitors of the EWS-FLI1
transcription factor for the treatment of Ewing sarcoma. As part of this work, Dr. Grohar and collaborators at the NCI have completed a screen of more than 50,000 compounds to identify the compound mithramycin as an inhibitor of EWS-FLI1. This work has led to a phase I/II clinical trial of this compound. In addition, Dr. Grohar has shown that the compound trabectedin interferes with the activity of EWS-FLI1. Future work is focused on optimizing these compounds for Ewing sarcoma by studying a series of analogs of mithramycin and trabectedin as well as developing novel targeted combination therapies. In addition, the lab focused on optimizing methods to target oncogenic transcription factors for sarcoma in work that spans the disciplines of chemistry, biology, molecular pharmacology, genomics and functional genomics. Dr. Grohar has a secondary appointment in cancer biology, is a member of the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology and the Genome Maintenance Research Porgram of the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center.
Richard Ho, M.D.
Dr. Ho’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which drug transporters contribute to overall chemotherapy disposition and interindividual response to drug therapy in pediatric oncology. Drug transport proteins have important roles in regulating the absorption, distribution, and excretion of many medications as well as endogenous substances. To this extent, a major focus in his lab centers on the contribution of uptake transporters, in particular the organic anion transporting polypeptide (OATP) family and bile acid uptake transporters, to the disposition of chemotherapeutic agents used in clinical oncology. Another area of major focus is cancer pharmacogenetics, the study of the role of inheritance in the individual variation in chemotherapy response. Projects are primarily laboratory based with translational promise and rely on background knowledge in the fields of molecular biology and clinical pharmacology. Dr. Ho's research is funded by a R01 award from the National Institutes of Health.
Howard Katzenstein, M.D.
Dr. Katzenstein's areas of interest include liver tumors, neuroblastoma, and innovative therapies for recurrent and resistant solid tumors. In particular, he is interested in developing clinical trials for these disorders. He currently serves as study chair for the COG trial for children with hepatoblastoma.
Emmanuel Volanakis, M.D.
Dr. Volanakis is interested in the genetic and epigenetic events that contribute to the pathogenesis and progression of acute leukemia. The lab uses experimental models of disease to investigate how pathways that contribute to normal lymphopoiesis are hijacked during leukemogenesis, and invoke the protective response of tumor suppressors.