Telomeres & Cell Immortalization Program

Xuefeng Liu, MD
Associate Professor of Pathology

Dr. Liu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology, serves as Director of Telomeres and Cell Immortalization Program, and Scientific Director of Conditional Reprogramming Laboratory (CRL) within the CCR. Dr. Liu’s research interests focus on the roles of papillomavirus oncoproteins and telomerase in cell immortalization which is a very early stage of human cancer. Together with Dr. Schlegel, Dr. Liu recently co-invented a new cell technology, CRC technology, which was described in the Journal of Clinical Investigation (2010), American Journal of Pathology (2012, 2013), New England Journal of Medicine (2012), PNAS (2012), PLoS One (2014) and Oncotarget (2014). This technology allows us to rapidly propagate patient-derived normal and tumor (diseased) cells infinitely. Importantly, he utilized this technology to identify Infection of HPV 11 and an effective therapy for a patient with metastatic pulmonary tumors arising from laryngeal papillomatosis. These results represent the first successful example of individualized therapy (NEJM). Dr. Liu has trained more than 50 researchers from NIH/universities--Harvard, Yale, Duke, Stanford, Arizona, Wake Forest, UNC, Thomas Jefferson, CUHK, Mayo, MD Anderson to name a few--as well as scientists at Georgetown University to use CRC technique in their research. This training also resulted in a broad spectrum of intramural and extramural collaborations. Currently, Dr. Liu is leading the program of Cell Immortalization and direct (Scientific) Conditional Reprogramming Laboratory (CRL) together with Dr. Ewa Krawczyk. He currently serves as an Academic Editor of PLoS ONE and as a board member of Virus Genes, and as a reviewer for PNAS, Cancer Research, Nucleic Acid Research, Journal of Virology, International Journal of Cancer, International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Carcinogenesis, PLoS One, Molecular Cancer Research and Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Liu obtained his medical and biochemistry training in China and postdoctoral training with Dr. Raymond Schinazi at Emory University and Dr. Thomas Zheng at National Cancer Institute (NCI), respectively.

Head & Neck Tumors Program

Priscilla Furth, MD
Professor of Oncology & Medicine, Associate Dean for Faculty Development

Dr. Priscilla A Furth is a Principal Investigator at Georgetown University who has received funding from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health to pursue investigation of conditional cell reprogramming as a tool for investigation of cancer genetics, pathophysiology and therapy. Dr. Furth will serve as the Director of the Head & Neck Tumors Program within the CCR. One focus of her research work is on primary salivary gland cancers including salivary mucoepidermoid and malignant pleomorphic adenoma as well as squamous cell cancers metastatic to salivary gland as well as benign salivary pleomorphic adenomas. The second focus of her research work is on genetic changes in preneoplastic breast tissue that may predispose to breast cancer development and the potential impact of these changes on specific preventive interventions. These studies build on Dr. Furth’s previous work in cancer genetics and pathophysiology funded by NIH, DOD, VA and the Komen Foundation for more than two decades and presented in over 110 peer-reviewed publications. She is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT and Brown University, Providence, RI, where she earned her MD and ScB, respectively. She completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City, an Infectious Disease Fellowship at Harvard University, Boston, MA, a post-doctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Tumor Virus Biology, NCI, NIH, and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship focusing on developmental biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biological Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany.

Breast Biology Program

Michael D. Johnson, PhD 
Associate Professor of Oncology

Dr. Johnson is responsible for Breast Biology Program within the CCR. Dr. Johnson was educated in the UK and received a PhD in Biochemistry from Newcastle University and is currently Associate Professor of Oncology at Georgetown University. For the past 25 years, he has worked in various areas of breast cancer research including studies of the mechanisms involved in resistance to endocrine therapy, the role of proteases in mammary gland biology, carcinogenesis and tumor progression, and the pharmacogenetics of cancer therapy. He is using CRC technology in these studies and is particularly interested in developing new model systems to examine the regulation of mammary epithelial differentiation leveraging the power of the technology.



Urogenital Program

Christopher Albanese, PhD 
Professsor in the Departments of Oncology and Pathology

Dr. Albanese is a Professor in the Departments of Oncology and Pathology and serves as the Director of the Urogenital Program. Dr. Albanese is an expert in tumor biology with over 140 peer-reviewed publications. His main focus is the development of more accurate and effective in vitro and in vivo cancer models to better define the roles of oncogenes, tumor suppressors and cell cycle regulatory proteins in the initiation and progression of genitourinary and other cancers. Dr. Albanese is the cofounder of the Center and has been directly involved in applying CRCs to both tissue development and tumor cell biology. As the originator and director of the Georgetown Preclinical Research Imaging Laboratory, Dr. Albanese is developing a comprehensive preclinical imaging program based on MRI, MR-Spectroscopy (MRS) and dynamic contrast enhanced imaging as well as luminescence/IVIS imaging to integrate the CRCs into more effective animal models of cancer progression and treatment. His main goals are to enable the development of bedside to bench to bedside translational programs in cancer biology, imaging and precision therapy and to make Georgetown the center of excellence for this transformational approach.

Gastrointestinal Biology Program

Anton Wellstein, MD, PhD
Professor of Oncology, Pharmacology & Medicine

Dr. Wellstein is a senior investigator at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) and serves as the Director for Gastrointestinal Biology Program within the CCR. He has trained as an MD/PhD in Germany. He received training in Pharmacology (venia legendi) and held a junior faculty position (Privatdozent) at the University in Frankfurt/Main until 1987 where he worked on cardiovascular pharmacology. He joined NIH for a sabbatical to study growth factor signaling in breast cancer in the Medicine Branch of the NCI under the mentorship of Marc E. Lippman. Thereafter, he was recruited to the faculty of Georgetown University in the Departments of Pharmacology and Oncology, where he is a tenured Professor. He discovered that the receptor for pleiotrophin was ALK and also identified and defined the role of secreted binding proteins for FGF and their function in cancer and development. During the past decade, Dr. Wellstein’s work focused on tumor/stromal interaction with a particular emphasis on the function and regulation of the activity of FGFs and the pleiotrophin/ALK signaling pathways. His major interest is in mechanisms of cancer progression to invasive and metastatic disease and how that relates to therapy sensitivity and resistance. His laboratory is focused on cellular, molecular and biochemical signal transduction mechanisms utilized by cancer cells in malignant progression in vitro as well as in xenograft tumors, transgenic and in knockout animal models. He collaborates extensively with clinical colleagues in different fields that span Oncology, Nephrology and Immunology as well as basic science. He has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers, is named as an inventor on 10 patents and has been continuously funded by the NIH since his initial faculty appointment at Georgetown University. He is a co-leader in the Experimental Therapeutics Program of the LCCC and has been teaching Cancer Pharmacology in the Medical School since 1990.

HPV Biology Program

Hang Yuan, PhD
Associate Professor

Dr. Yuan serves as the Director of the HPV Biology Program within the CCR. He received his PhD from Wake Forest School of Medicine. He started his postdoctoral training at Georgetown University Medical Center in 1998. Currently, he is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology. Dr. Yuan moved to Georgetown after the first-generation HPV vaccine was developed in Dr. Schlegel’s lab and became the group leader on vaccine development. His work, in collaboration with Bob Garcea at the University of Colorado, led to the second-generation cervical cancer vaccine, which can potentially cut production cost by 90%. This method led to a patent and it is hopeful that this second generation vaccine will be utilized in developing countries, where deaths from cervical cancer are most prevalent. Dr. Yuan successfully utilized conditionally reprogrammed cells to identify viral mutations in a rare case of HPV-induced lung tumors and used this to identify an effective therapy. The advance was seen as an exciting demonstration of the use of conditional reprogramming in personalized cancer medicine. His seminar presentation was awarded Geo von Krogh Prize by the Papillomavirus Society in the 27th International Papillomavirus Conference and Clinical Workshop (2011). The results were published on The New England Journal of Medicine in 2012, where Dr. Yuan was the first author.