Feb 15, 2018 12:00 AM


Jingtao Guo, Aria Vaishnavi, Andreana Holowatyj, Andy Hahn, Swapna Gudipaty, Gurkan Mollaoglu
From left to right: Jingtao Guo, Aria Vaishnavi, Andreana Holowatyj, Andy Hahn, Swapna Gudipaty, Gurkan Mollaoglu (click to enlarge)

Over the years, there have been many landmark discoveries in the effort to eradicate cancer. Progress can only continue with well-trained and passionate researchers and physicians. Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) faculty work with students of all ages to cultivate the next generation of scientists who will carry on this life-saving work.

More students than ever before are choosing Utah as the place to advance their knowledge. Featured below are just a few of the many HCI trainees and their amazing accomplishments and research at HCI.

Fiorella Iglesias Cardenas, MD

Fiorella Iglesias Cardenas, MD, is a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow. She most recently was the recipient of a 2017 St. Baldrick’s Foundation Fellowship grant, which will support her research in neuroblastoma, the second most common pediatric solid tumor.

“The patients are the source of our passion and greatest achievements. Working in a place that has ample translational research opportunities is giving me the opportunity to explore the research field and to grow as a future pediatric hematologist-oncologist,” said Cardenas.

UPDATE 2019: Cardenas is currently a fourth year pediatric oncology fellow following a research track, while also pursuing a masters in science and clinical investigation. 

Anna M. Eiring, PhD

Anna Eiring, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow working in the Deininger/O’Hare Lab at HCI. Her research focuses on mechanisms of stem cell survival and drug resistance in chronic and acute myeloid leukemia.

Eiring has received multiple awards with her research, including the K22 Transition Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will help to set up her independent research lab.

“The highlight of my experience here in Utah has been the opportunity to train the next generation of scientists. We’ve had many undergraduate students, lab technicians, and medical fellows come through the lab, and it’s always a pleasure to watch them learn and grow. This experience has solidified my desire to remain in academia,” said Eiring.

UPDATE 2019: In 2018, Eiring completed her postdoctoral fellowship at HCI and accepted a faculty position as an assistant professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Swapna A. Gudipaty, PhD

Swapna Gudipaty, PhD, is a research associate in the Rosenblatt Lab. She began her career at HCI as a postdoctoral fellow studying a process called extrusion.

“This process squeezes excess cells out of the epithelia, without disrupting the barrier that is essential to epithelia. Crowding forces trigger extrusion in order to maintain constant cell numbers and prevent too many cells from accumulating. In fact, we are now finding that aberrant epithelial extrusion is a central problem in asthma and aggressive, invasive cancers,” said Gudipaty.

UPDATE 2019: Gudipaty was recently chosen as a Susan Cooper Jones Fellow in Cancer Research. She is currently researching a unique and complex process called extrusion, finding that misregulated extrusion is the first step in the develement of invasive cancers such as pancreatic and colon cancer. 

Jingtao Guo, PhD

Jingtao Guo is currently a senior graduate student working in the Cairns Lab at HCI. His research is focused on understanding how male germline stem cells, or sperm stem cells, can keep proliferating and replenishing themselves to allow life-time sperm production, as well as how misregulation of them may lead to germ cell tumors.

In the summer of 2017, Guo received the John H. Weis Memorial Graduate Student Award, which led him to speak at a national meeting showcasing his research.

UPDATE 2019: Guo is currently a postdoctural fellow working in the Cairns Lab, persuing an independent academic position. 

Andy Hahn, MD

Andy Hahn, MD, is in his third year of internal medicine residency at the University of Utah and recently received an award for his work in genitourinary cancers from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Merit Award recognizes young researchers who have made a significant impact to their field of study and promotes clinical cancer research by giving recipients the chance to present their findings at conferences.

“My current research focus is identifying genes and laboratory tests that can help predict the response to treatment in metastatic prostate, kidney, and bladder cancer,” said Hahn. Hahn's primary mentor at HCI is Neeraj Agarwal, MD.

UPDATE 2019: Hahn is finishing his cheif medical resident year at the University of Utah and will be starting a hematology/oncology fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in July 2019. 

Andreana N. Holowatyj, PhD

Andreana Holowatyj, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at HCI researching young-onset colorectal cancer. She was most recently a recipient of the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO Merit Award, which recognizes young researchers who have made a significant impact to their field of study and promotes clinical cancer research by giving recipients the chance to present their findings at conferences. Holowatyj is part of the Ulrich Group at HCI. 

“This award is particularly special, given that rates of colorectal cancer among young individuals continue to rise at alarming rates with causes unknown,” said Holowatyj.

Holowatyj also recently began a three-year term on the Associate Member Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). In this position, Holowatyj will serve in an advisory capacity to AACR leadership and help develop programs and services to address the needs of early-career investigators in cancer research.

UPDATE 2019: Holowatyj was selected for the 2019 American Association for Cancer Research NextGen Star Award. This award is extended to only eight early-career trainees/investigators globally. She is also continuing her postdoctoral fellowship at HCI and has begun exploring academic faculty position to becoming an independent investigator. 

Gurkan Mollaoglu, MSc

Gurkan Mollaoglu, MSc, is a PhD candidate working in the in the Oliver Lab at HCI. His research aims to understand why some cancerous tumors are sensitive to certain treatments while others are resistant, and to study and discover novel therapeutic targets for cancer treatment.

Mollaoglu received an F99 NCI Predoctoral to Postdoctoral Fellow Transition Award. This prestigious grant recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who have demonstrated potential and interest in pursuing careers as independent cancer researchers.

UPDATE 2019: Mollaoglu is now a postdoctoral fellow upon graduating with his PhD in 2019. 

Aria Vaishnavi, PhD

Aria Vaishnavi, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow researching lung cancer in the McMahon LabAria was recently honored as the 2018 recipient of the Susan Cooper Jones Endowed Fellowship in Cancer Research.

“My research is currently focused towards characterizing the mechanisms of how certain genes help accelerate different molecular subtypes of lung cancer progression,” Vaishnavi said.  “Having the opportunity to study both genetically engineered mouse models and 3D culture models of lung cancer has been a highlight of my research and training at HCI.”

UPDATE 2019: Vaishnavi was awarded a F32 fellowship from the National Cancer Institute to help her enhance her research in the MCMahon Lab. 

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