Division of Cancer Research and Training

Division of Cancer Research and Training

About the Team

DIRECTOR AND PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Name: Jay Vadgama, Ph.D
Phone: 323-563-4853
E-mail: jayvadgama@cdrewu.edu  

Dr. Vadgama has extensive experience in conducting research that integrates clinical, basic and community-based research.  The outcome of these efforts has resulted in the development of translational research focused in cancer health disparities research at CDU.  At present, his research program focuses in the following areas: 1) Identification of novel biomarkers associated with risk for bone metastasis from breast cancer in African American and Hispanic patient population; 2) Role of the IGF-I axis in breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers; 3) HER2/neu mediated pathogenesis of breast cancer; 4) IGF1, IGFBP3, and Vitamin D receptor gene polymorphisms and their association with breast and colorectal cancers in minority populations; 5) Elucidating epigenetic mechanisms in breast, colorectal and prostate cancers; 6) Identification of cellular and molecular markers for early detection, prevention and management of breast, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancers; 7) Role of Signal Transduction Pathways in Cancer; and 8) Role of Mismatch Repair Proteins and Microsatellite Instability in colorectal cancer. At an institutional level, Dr. Vadgama serves as the acting Executive Vice President for Research and Health Affairs at CDU. These roles allow Dr. Vadgama to integrate health disparities research as a key focus in the research enterprise at CDU and provide access to institution-wide assets to investigators and trainees. In addition, Dr. Vadgama has almost 30 years of experience in mentoring young students and faculty toward highly successful academic careers. To date, he has trained over 32 postdoctoral fellows, 13 clinical fellows and residents, 7 medical students (mostly underrepresented), >80 undergraduate students across the nation, and many high school students. In addition, he continues to serve as a mentor for several funded junior faculty at CDU and the UCLA School of Medicine. For Dr. Vadgama’s bio including grant funding, publications, and other information, please visit: http://www.cdrewu.edu/res/RA/AboutUs/vp
Research Interests: cancer health disparities, health equity among underserved populations, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, triple negative breast cancers, HER2+ breast cancers, cancer stem cells, IGF1, vitamin D and vitamin D receptor in cancer, obesity, comorbidities, biomarker discovery, education and training, community
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

CDU FACULTY PARTNERS

DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAM AND ICTBD

Name: Yanyuan Wu, M.D., MSCR
Title: Associate Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone:  323-563-9389
Email:  yanyuanwu@cdrewu.edu  

Dr. Wu has played a critical role in clinical translational research in Division of Cancer Research and Training and has built a strong bridge between the clinical and molecular aspects of breast cancer research at CDU. Dr. Wu’s research interest is to understand the molecular pathology of breast cancer in underserved populations, and be engaged in target therapy. Her current research has been focused on studying the oncogenic role of Akt and the transcription factors, Snail and Slug in HER2/neu over-expressing breast tumors.
Research Interest:  Translational research in the field of breast cancer, contributing to better understanding of the molecular pathology of breast cancer in underserved populations
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Yahya John Elshimali, M.D., FCAP
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone:  323-357-3410
Email:  yahyaelshimali@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Elshimali has played an important role in biomarker research in the Division. He received his Medical Degree in Damascus, Syria, and to relocated to the United States to further his medical training. After finishing a Clinical Internship at Flushing Hospital Medical Center in New York, he then transferred to the west coast to complete his residency in Pathology at the UCLA Medical Center and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. This training was followed by an Anatomic and Clinical Pathology Fellowship at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, a Surgical Pathology Fellowship at Olive View / UCLA Medical Center, and post-doctoral training in Molecular Pathology at UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Elshimali is Board Certified in Anatomical and Clinical Pathology. Dr. Elshimali’s research focuses on DNA MicroArray and Tissue MicroArray (TMA) development for multiplex histological analysis and translational research for genetic biomarkers for breast, prostate and ovarian cancers. He also serves as Team Leader and Inspector for the College of American Pathologists (CAP), and is a member of many professional societies including CAP, American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), American Society for Cancer Research (AACR), Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP), and American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG).
Research Interest: Tissue microarrays, pathology, biomarker discovery, health disparities
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

FACULTY RECRUITMENT

Name: S. Steve Chung, Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone:  323-563-4999
Email:  seyungchung@cdrewu.edu  

Dr. Chung completed his Bachelor’s (B.S) and Master’s degrees (M.Sc.) in Genetic Engineering from Korea University, Seoul, Korea and he obtained his PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Kentucky.  He received postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University and National Institute of Health (NIH). His early research has been focused on genetics and molecular microbiology and resulted in peer-reviewed publications. Later he had the opportunity to engage in stem cell biology research and expand his teaching experience.  Dr. Chung joined the Division of Cancer Research and Training at CDU as a senior Post-Doctoral Fellow to continue his research in stem cells and cancer biology, working with the HER2 positive breast cancer subtype. Recently, Dr. Chung was appointed Assistant Professor in the Division of Cancer Research and Training, Department of Internal Medicine at CDU. He has dedicated himself to investigating the mechanistic role of stem-like cell characteristics in HER2 positive cells, particularly involving the STAT3 pathway.
Research Interest: Breast cancer, HER2 positive subtype, STAT3 pathway, EMT.
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: James L. Smith, M.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone: 563-563-5948
Email:  jamessmith@cdrewu.edu  

Dr. Smith has made significant contribution to the progress of the Community Outreach Program as part of the U54 Cancer Center Partnership. The main goal of the program is to promote cancer prevention and control among underrepresented and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations with a focus on the South Los Angeles area. Dr. Smith has organized and participated in community conferences on various health topics, guided community faculty members in facilitating various research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. He has developed several study protocols in an effort to use evidence based survey instruments to receive real time feedback in terms of cancer knowledge and awareness.
Research Interest:  Community outreach initiatives. Development of effective strategies to engage Hispanic and other underrepresented populations to realize better cancer health outcomes. Designing  and development of initiatives integrating  community-based participatory and translational research with an overarching goal of  building sustainable evidence based community health programs providing access to quality cancer health care in vulnerable populations.
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Piwen Wang, Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training,
Phone: 323-563-4999
Email: piwenwang@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Piwen Wang earned his M.D. and M.P.H. from Shandong University in China, and his Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from Texas Tech University. After the completion of his PhD Dr. Wang joined UCLA as a Post-Doctoral Fellow where he participated in an important NIH-funded clinical trial to study the effect of different types of tea in men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Results from the study were the first to identify that green tea polyphenols existed and were largely methylated to less active metabolites in prostate tissues after green tea consumption. In 2012 he joined the Division of Cancer Research and Training as a Post-Doctoral Fellow and continued his studies in using natural compounds, particularly green tea, in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Recently Dr. Wang was appointed Assistant Professor. His current research focus on the effects of combinations of certain natural products to increase anti-carcinogenic activity. In addition, he studies combinations of natural compounds with chemotherapy or hormone therapy to test effects on therapeutic benefits, side effects, and chemo-resistance.
Research Interest:  His recent research is focused on the use of natural compounds, particularly green tea, with chemo- or hormone therapy to enhance the therapeutic effect, reduce side effects and chemo resistance.
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Eva McGhee, Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone: 323-563-9382
Email: evamchgee@cdrewu.edu
Dr. Eva McGhee is experienced genetics researcher. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology/Chemistry and Master’s Degree in Science in Physiology/Genetics from Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN. She obtained her PhD in Cellular Immunogenetics from University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas and went on to complete her Post-Doctoral Training at the University of California, at San Francisco (UCSF) in Molecular Cancer Genetics. Her research focus has been on genomic/genetic instability of complex diseases and molecular therapeutics with an identified focus on cancer and HPV. Currently she is working on investigating the relation between HPV and breast cancer as it relates to genomic instability.
Research Interest: genomic/genetic instability of complex diseases and molecular therapeutics with an identified focus on cancer and HPV
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Yong Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone:  323-563-4885
Email:  yongwu@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Wu has a broad background in pharmacology, molecular and cellular biology of diabetes and cancer, and has experiences in discovering new drug targets. Dr. Wu’s ability to be self-directed in developing and designing experiments, as well as preparing data reports, presentations, and manuscripts is evidenced by his impressive body of work with over 20 peer-reviewed publications in competitive scientific journals. Currently, He is engaged in investigating the links between metabolism and cancer, specifically focusing on the fundamental mechanisms by which elevated blood glucose increases breast cancer risk and progression. This is a key area of interest in the Division of Cancer Research and Training. His current research has also been focused on elucidating a safe and effective therapeutic strategy to preferentially kill the malignant cells that are dependent on glycolytic pathway for ATP generation with a minor effect on normal cells.
Research Interest: Breast Cancer, Diabetes
Publications:   www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

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COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Name: Loretta Jones, MA
Title: Founder and CEO of Healthy African-American Families (HAAF) and Community Faculty at CDU
Phone: 323-292-2002
Email: LorettaJones@HAAFII.org   

As a “Community Gatekeeper,” Ms. Jones has dedicated her entire life towards the hope and healing of community and society-at-large. Her career as a civil rights activist, health policy advocate, and social architect has spanned more than 30 years. In an effort to level the playing field for all people, Ms. Jones continues her unyielding commitment as a change agent against disparities in human health, development, and opportunity. She is a co-investigator of the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health (NIH)/University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)/RAND Center for Research on Quality in Managed Care; the National Institute on Aging, NIH/UCLA Center for Health Improvement in Minority Elderly (CHIME); and the NIH Drew/UCLA Project EXPORT, as well as a recipient of numerous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grants and contracts. She is a key community partner within the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities funded by the NIH/NCI. Ms. Jones is a member of the UCLA Institutional Review Board for protection of human subjects. She was also recently honored by the CDC as its first recipient of the “National Contribution to Minority Health Programs, Research and Surveillance” Award from its Department of Reproductive Health, an award for public leadership in overcoming health disparities.
Research Interest: health disparities, community partnered participatory research
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Anna “Aziza” Lucas-Wright, M.Ed
Title: Community Engagement Specialist and Community Faculty
Phone: 323-292-2002
Email: wrightaziza@aol.com

Ms. Wright is the Academic/Community Liaison for the UCLA Clinical and Translational  Science Institute (CTSI) at both RAND and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science (CDU).  At CDU, Ms. Wright provides leadership, oversight and coordination through quarterly bi-directional symposia focusing on health disparities.  Ms. Wright is one of the first members of the Community Faculty cohort appointed to the CDU faculty.  She was additionally one of the first of the cohort to apply for and receive a grant from the U54 funded CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities to conduct a pilot study in the faith community.  She sits on the CME committee that is charged with developing and implementing the continuing education units for  physicians  at CDU.  She additionally sits on the Community Academic Council for Cancer Prevention and Control under the Division of Cancer Research and Training-Center to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities as the Community Co-Chair.  She functions as a thesis advisor to junior researchers at CDU in the Clinical Research Education  and Career Development (CRECD), (Scholarship Oversight Committee). Ms. Wright is the Project Manager for the National Library of Medicine’s Resource Project, a collaborative partnership between CDU, LA BioMed Harbor/UCLA, UCLA, Healthy African American Families, and Queens Care Faith Partnership.  She has provided training and staff development to agencies in Los Angeles for over 30 years including NIH-funded projects. Ms. Wright holds a Masters of Education in Child Development from Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, California. She is married to Rev. Ronald L. Wright, Senior Pastor of New Vision Church of Jesus Christ.  She has two amazing children, RaSudan Daaood and Romonia Wright, and one brilliant grandchild, Oni Daaood. Aziza’s (s)hero is Marian Wright Edelman.  Ms. Wright can be known to intone Dr. Edelman’s phrase “Service is the rent you pay for being alive”. 
Research Interest: health disparities, community partnered participatory research
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 

Name: Ms. Martha Navarro
Title: Community Liaison and Community Faculty
Phone: 323-563-5947
Email: MarthaNavarro@cdrewu.edu
Ms. Navarro’s dedication and hard work as a promotora/health navigator and researcher has been integrally responsible for the success of several community-based participatory research projects engaging the Latino community of South Los Angeles. Her previous work has included participation on the Diabetes Health Literacy Augmentation in Multi-cultural Populations (Diabetes Health LAMP) funded by AHRQ and the South Los Angeles Breast Health Promotion Project funded by CMS/DHS.  Both studies resulted in the development of innovative health communications venues to promote health literacy.  Both involved partnerships with the South Central Family Health Center and has allowed Ms. Navarro to develop a strong working relationship with the largest non-profit clinic in South Central, LA.  In large part this is due to her affability, kindness and respectfulness for which she has earned the admiration and respect of her supervisors and peers. Most recently, Ms. Navarro joined the NCI funded CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership and facilitated the engagement of a Spanish speaking Latino Community Academic Council with her faculty partner, Dr. James Smith, and community partner, Dr. Rev. Joe Waller under the direction of Dr. Jay Vadgama. Ms. Navarro brings her insights as a community leader in South LA as well as her experiences as a breast cancer survivor to the Cancer Center Partnership and to CDU.
Research Interest: health disparities, Hispanic, community outreach, education, and research
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Reverend Dr. Joe Waller
Title: Community Liaison and Community Faculty
Phone: 323-563-5947
Email: JoeWaller1@cdrewu.edu
Reverend Dr. Joe Waller has a Masters and Doctoral Degree (PhD) from Bible Believer Christian College and Seminary. Currently, he is the Reverend for the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in South Los Angeles. Through his role as a Reverend, Dr. Waller brings an enormous diverse network of community and organizations in South, Central, and East Los Angeles to the Center and Partnership. Dr. Waller serves on the Watts Healthcare Corporation, and is engaged with a network of other pastors/reverends within the California Missionary Baptist State Convention, Pacific District Missionary Baptist Association and the Ministers Conference of Southern California. His experience with engaging members of the community is diverse and impressive, it includes: working with the elderly through the research CMS project, families of all ages through COP (Community Outreach Program), Project COPE, engaging members of the faith community to CDU’s Cancer Journal Club seminar series, engaging Latino/Hispanic congregants into the Latino Community Academic Council as part of the Center’s Community Outreach activity, and work involving prisons and vulnerable populations to name a few. In addition, his outspoken passion for working towards alleviating cancer health disparities in our SPA6 community is extremely commendable. He has described his experience both in family and among his congregants battling cancer, and demonstrated a highly enlightened and knowledgeable approach towards addressing cancer.
Research Interest: health disparities, community outreach, education, and research
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

Name: Mohsen Bazargan, ( Ph.D)
Title: Professor, President, Academic Senate
Phone: 323-357-3655
Email: mohsenbazargan@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Bazargan is Professor and Director of Research at the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research of the Public Health program at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science. Dr. Bazargan is a Sociologist/Gerontologist with extensive training in the field of Research Methodology and Statistics. He earned his Ph.D. from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo and also holds a Masters and Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Demography from SUNY at Buffalo and University of Tehran, respectively. Dr. Bazargan's research activities have been concentrated on health related issues among underserved populations. He has published extensively on the health issues of elderly African American persons. Dr. Bazargan has conducted several large population-based surveys of health care utilization and health related issues among underserved persons. In a comprehensive study of health care and medication use among minority elderly, he conducted a large population based study that surveyed over 2,500 elderly African American persons. Dr. Bazargan is an active academic faculty in the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership and has worked with Ms. Loretta Jones, Ms. Aziza Lucas-Wright, Dr. James Smith and colleagues to conduct the “Present Your Body” pilot study. He continues to participate and provide support to the Partnership and its community partners through his expertise in Methodology and Statistics. Currently, Dr. Bazargan is the PI of the Clinical Research Education and Career Development (CRECD), Phase II grant # CRECD 5MD007610 funded through NIH-NIMHD.
Research Interest: health disparities, underrepresented populations
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 

Name: Shirley Evers-Manly, PhD, MSN, RN
Title: Interim Dean, School of Nursing
Phone: 323-568-332
Email: shirleyeversmanly@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Evers Manly has more than 29 years of experience developing and implementing community based health promotion and prevention programs. She has taught in the Community Health Systems Department at the University of California at San Francisco, School of Nursing and served several Boards. To improve communications systems in Oakland California after the 1989 earthquake, she served on the Board of Directors for the California and National Alliances of Information and Referral Services. These organizations are dedicated exclusively to serving the needs of professionals involved in the public access to human services and they enhance the effectiveness of information and referral services through leadership, education, and support. She has also worked with the American Red Cross providing community wide earthquake and fire preparedness classes and was responsible for establishing shelters and information systems during the Loma Prieta Earthquake and Oakland Fire Storm. Moreover, to help frail elderly people live more independent, Dr. Evers Manly developed the Summit Alta Bates Community Life line program.  The Life Line program provided telephone assistance to individuals living alone who were prone to falls and living with heart-related problems.  For her work in the community and clinical practice skills, Dr. Evers Manly has won numerous prestigious awards for her accomplishment and contributions to the community and to nursing. Recently, Dr. Evers Manly joined the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership’s Outreach Program to provide additional leadership in this area at CDU.
Research Interest: health disparities, underrepresented populations
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Roberto Vargas, M.D, M.P.H
Title: Associate Professor, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, RAND Corporation, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
Phone: 310-794-3703
Email: RBVargas@mednet.ucla.edu

Roberto Vargas, M.D., M.P.H. is an Associate Professor of Medicine, in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, he is also an Associate Natural Scientist at the RAND Corporation and an Associate Professor at Charles Drew University. Dr. Vargas’ professional interests combine health services research, clinical care, and community collaborative partnerships towards the design, implementation, and testing of interventions to promote equal access to quality health care and to reduce health disparities. This currently includes co-leading efforts to implement a patient navigation program and wellness center to reduce disparities in cancer care in South Los Angeles and a National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities funded partnership with safety-net providers to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes in underserved communities. He serves as the co-chair for the Community Engagement Program Area for the National Cancer Institute funded CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership to Eliminate Cancer Health Disparities. He is also the Director of the Partnerships and Innovations core of the AXIS (Accelerating Excellence in Translational Science) Center at CDU. In addition to these efforts he is collaborating in community-partnered projects to raise awareness about healthy behaviors and the impact of social determinants on health in South Los Angeles through in-home health assessments with Healthy African-American Families and the Los Angeles Urban League through the Healthy Communities Neighborhood Initiative. He is also partnering with Community Health Councils in a Centers for Disease Control effort to improve health through transforming the built environment. Dr. Vargas completed a fellowship in General Internal Medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University School of Medicine and a Master’s degree in Public Health at the Harvard School Public Health. He did his residency and chief-residency in the Yale Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Program, received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College, and his undergraduate degree in the History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Research Interests: health disparities, community collaborative partnerships, patient navigation
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/   

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Clinical Faculty/Partners at CDU

Name: Ram Chillar, M.D
Title: Hematologist/Oncologist, Former Chief Hematology/Oncology, Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC), Los Angeles, CA
Clinical Faculty, Division of Cancer Research and Training.
Email: ramchillar@yahoo.com

Dr. Chillar has been an academic physician since his fellowship at Boston City Hospital in 1972. He has always endeared to “medicine for the underserved” since his appointment as Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at MLK-MACC (formerly, King-Drew Medical Center) in 1979.  His two passions are medicine and teaching. He particularly enjoys teaching undergraduate students, medical students, as well as nursing colleagues and fellows in clinical medicine among underserved populations. While Dr. Chillar served as Chief of Hematology/Oncology, he conducted CME accredited Tumor Board. He has been invited to deliver several local and national presentations on cancer, with emphasis on early screening and prevention activities. In addition, Dr. Chillar has been an active proponent for identifying cutting edge therapies with clinical trials. Dr. Chillar has collaborated with Dr. Jay Vadgama and the Division of Cancer Research and Training at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science since 1995 on studies focused on breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. To date, Dr. Chillar has over 22 peer reviewed publications, chapters, and letters to the editor with over 20 abstracts at national and international meetings. Currently, he maintains his Faculty appointment in the Division of Cancer Research at CDU and provides teaching to residents and fellows at several other institutions including University of California, Irvine.
Research Interests: health disparities, clinical trials, clinical research, hematology and oncology
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/   

Name: Sheilah Clayton, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Title: Breast Surgeon, Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC), Los Angeles, CA.
Email: sclayton@dhs.lacounty.gov

Dr. Sheilah Clayton, M.D., F.A.C.S. is a general surgeon and specializes in breast cancer surgery at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-specialty Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC) where she has been the Director of the Breast Clinic since 1992. She is actively involved in providing care for the underrepresented population in South Los Angeles and guiding women through the breast cancer screening process. She is also involved in educating women about breast cancer screening and providing guidance through the diagnosis and treatment process. She has longstanding translational research collaboration with Dr. Jay Vadgama and the Division of Cancer Research and Training Program at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. Dr. Clayton completed her M.D. at Case Western Reserve University School Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio. She completed her surgery internship at UCLA Hospitals and Clinics, Los Angeles, CA and her residency at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-specialty Ambulatory Care Center. After her training, she joined the Huntington Memorial Hospital and Martin Luther King Jr. Multi-specialty Ambulatory Care Center to develop interdisciplinary teams of clinicians, and researchers to bring the best care to patients and find the best platform to integrate translational research and improve the delivery of breast cancer care. Dr. Clayton has several publications in peer-reviewed journals covering areas such as understanding breast cancer experiences of women, molecular biology of breast cancer, and nurse navigation. She also speaks as invited speaker at public and private forums within the U.S.  Overall, Dr. Clayton’s research is focused on reducing cancer health disparities among underserved populations and providing the community better access to accurate information so that they can become partners in their health care.
Research Interests: health disparities, clinical trials, clinical research, breast cancer
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Dana N. Scott, M.D, M.S
Title: Urologic Surgeon, Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center (MLK-MACC), Los Angeles, CA.
Email: dscott @dhs.lacounty.gov

Dr. Dana N. Scott is a UCLA trained urologic surgeon currently practicing in Los Angeles. She is a native to Los Angeles where she received her early education.  She subsequently attended Howard University where she earned her BS in chemistry and MS in biochemical genetics. Given her aptitude for science and research, she then worked as a researcher for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Health, USC Norris Cancer Center, and in private industry.  Dr. Scott then returned to school earning a Medical Degree from Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program. There she excelled academically, earning multiple scholarships and letters of distinction while participating in leadership while participating in leadership roles. Dr. Scott has served the communities of Los Angeles over the past 6 years by giving various talks regarding prostate cancer and participating in free prostate cancer screenings. She continues to extend herself to the community to bring exceptional urologic care to those in need. Dr. Scott’s clinical interests include: diseases involving the kidney, bladder, and male reproductive system. She is especially interested in prostate cancer, incontinence (men/women), male erective dysfunction, and stone disease. Dr. Scott’s surgical skill-set includes traditional open surgery as well as endoscopic, laparoscopic, and robotic surgery. Dr. Scott was a former trainee of the Division of Cancer Research and Training and Dr. Jay Vadgama at CDU. She has become reengaged with the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership in order to conduct disparities research and provide education/outreach to the South LA community focusing on prostate cancer.
Research Interests: health disparities, clinical trials, clinical research, prostate cancer
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Dr. Halline Overby
Title: Oncologist, Martin Luther King, Jr. Multi-Service Ambulatory Care Center.
Clinical Assistant Professor, Division of Cancer Research and Training
Phone: 323-563-4853
Email: HallineOverby@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Overby is a board certified oncologist providing cancer treatment and services in South LA as part of MLK-MACC. Dr. Overby joined the Division of Cancer Research and Training as Clinical Faculty in order to optimize cancer research, treatment, education, and outreach activities in South LA.
Research Interest:  health disparities, clinical trials
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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UCLA Faculty Partners

UCLA Co-Director and Principal Investigator at UCLA
Name: Robin Farias-Eisner, M.D., Ph.D
Phone: 310) 206-4619
Email: rfeisner@mednet.ucla.edu  

Dr. Farias-Eisner is currently the Chief of Gynecology and Gynecologic Oncology in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA, a Principle Investigator for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) - Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) and the Director of the Center for Biomarker Discovery and Research at UCLA that is dedicated to the prevention and early detection of women's cancers. A graduate of UCLA where he earned a B.S. in Biochemistry, he received an M.D. at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. After graduation, he was recruited to the University Of Chicago University Of Illinois where he obtained training in Emergency Medicine and Critical Care. He was then recruited to UCLA in 1986 to train in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Gynecologic Oncology, and then was recruited to become a faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, division of Gynecologic Oncology in 1992. Dr. Farias-Eisner was the first to complete the STAR (Specialty Training in Advanced Research) in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCLA, earning a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology in 1999. Dr. Farias-Eisner has received numerous research awards and has earned UCLA's Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1993, 1996, 2004, and 2005, and the STAR Program Faculty Award in 1999 and 2000. In 2004, he was presented with the International Spirit of Life Foundation Scientist of the Year Award, and in 2005, the coveted National Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO) Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award. Recently, his peer reviewed publications include nearly 40 original articles in journals such as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the journal of Cellular Biochemistry, the journal of Gynecologic Oncology, the Journal of Neuroscience, the Journal of Neuroscience Research, and the International Journal of Gynecologic Oncology, to mention a few. Moreover, he has been selected to review articles for these very same prestigious journals. Dr. Farias-Eisner has written numerous book chapters and has been invited for more than 50 presentations, nationally and internationally.
Research Interests: gynecology and oncology, cervical cancer, HPV, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, health disparities, clinical trials, biomarker discovery, health access
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAM

Name: Richard Pietras, MD, PhD
Title: Professor of Medicine, UCLA Dept of Medicine – Division of Hematology and Oncology, at the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA; Director, Stiles Program in Integrative Oncology at the UCLA-JCCC
Phone: 310-825-9769
Email: rpietras@ucla.edu

Dr. Richard Pietras's research focuses on the discovery and design of novel therapies for human solid tumors, such as breast, ovarian and lung cancer. Specifically, Pietras' laboratory effort is directed toward understanding molecular alterations that are important in converting a normal cell into a cancerous one, with exploitation of biologic differences between normal and tumor cells for therapeutic benefit. Pietras has targeted growth factors and hormones, such as estrogens and their specific receptors, which are crucial in regulating cancer growth. For example, erb B/HER oncogenes encode receptors for epidermal growth factor (EGF), HER-2, HER-3 and HER-4 growth factors. One or more of these oncogenes is overexpressed in two-thirds of breast cancers. Overexpression of these gene products associates with poor outcome in the clinic and predicts responses to chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Antibodies and other chemical inhibitors of erb B/HER receptors have significant antitumor activity that is now being utilized in the clinic. Pietras plans to develop further biologic treatments based on new understanding of molecular pathways driving malignant growth and tumor-associated angiogenesis. In this process, screening of hundreds of natural products for antitumor activity will be an important research emphasis. These efforts seek out more efficacious treatments with an improved quality of life for afflicted patients. The CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership funded a project by Dr. Pietras in collaboration with Dr. Jay Vadgama to identify role of ER-beta in Triple Negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Research Interests: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, biomarker discovery, therapeutics, disparities
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

Name: Lee Goodglick, PhD, MBA
Title: Professor, Dept of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Co-Director, UCLA Early Detection Research Network
Phone: (310) 825-9134
Email: lgoodglick@mednet.ucla.edu

Dr. Lee Goodglick's group is involved in characterizing the molecular mechanism of tumor progression on a global, systems level. Specifically, they are working on 3 aspects of this: 1) Tumor biomarker characterization. They are one of the leading groups identifying and characterizing markers in solid tumors. They are doing this utilizing state-of the art technology of tissue microarrays and mass spectometry; 2) Function of tumor suppressor gene. They are studying a class of putative tumor suppressors in lung and breast cancer which appear to shuttle proteins to lipid raft microdomains. Currently they are defining the normal biology and the role of this family in tumor progression; 3) Nano-scale electronic detection. They are using nanotechnology to produce carbon nanotube-based electronic detectors for protein identification, molecular interactions, and measurement of cellular processes. Dr. Goodglick and his partners, Dr. Madhuri Wadehra from UCLA, and Dr. Yahya Elshimali and Dr. Jay Vadgama at CDU are investigating the role of an epithelial transmembrane protein in aggressive breast cancers.
Research Interests: Biological Chemistry, Bioengineering, Disparities, Nanotechnology, Cell/Developmental Biology - Cell Biology, Medicine Oncology
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

Name: Madhuri  Wadehra, PhD
Title: Assistant Professor, Dept of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Phone: 310-825-6653
Email: mwadehra@mednet.ucla.edu

Dr. Madhuri Wadehra’s research and discovery efforts are focused on two related themes in tumor biology: understanding the function of a tetraspan protein epithelial membrane protein-2 (EMP2) in tumor progression, and developing therapeutic and diagnostic agents that target tumors that overexpress EMP2. Wadehra’s team is currently investigating a promising marker in a number of cancers, the tetraspan protein EMP2. They have shown that EMP2 functions as an oncogene in many of these human cancers and that it is dysregulated in a number of tumors including those of the female reproductive system as well as primary CNS tumors. Wadehra’s lab is focused on: 1. Defining the biochemical function of EMP2;  2.Characterizing the role of EMP2 and other family members (i.e., PMP22) in cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions; 3. Defining the role of EMP2 in malignant progression; 4. Determining, using Tissue Microarray technology, whether EMP2 is a diagnostic and/or prognostic indicator for tumor development and progression. In addition, Wadehra is interested in translating the effects of EMP2 to the clinic and developing it as a therapeutic and/or diagnostic target. They have developed recombinant antibodies (diabody, minibody, native IgG1) specific for EMP2 with the purpose of using these agents for image guided therapy. Within the Cancer Center Partnership, Dr. Wadehra is collaborating with Dr. Goodglick and others at UCLA as well as Dr. Elshimali and Vadgama at CDU to investigate the relevance of this protein among underrepresented participants.
Research Interests: EMP2, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, tissue microarray, health disparities
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

Name: Isla Garraway, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Dept of Urology; Physician, Dept of Urology
Phone: 310-206-4890
Email: igarraway@mednet.ucla.edu

Dr. Isla Garraway is a urologist at UCLA and the Greater Los Angeles-VA Medical Center and a research scientist at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC). She has ties to the Columbus community. Her father was a professor of botany at Ohio State University prior to his death from prostate cancer in 1999. She and her brother (who is also a PCF-funded researcher) are committed to finding better treatment options and a cure for prostate cancer patients. In 1994, her father Michael was diagnosed with prostatic cancer. The news came unexpectedly and left his daughter scrambling for answers. Still working on her PhD at that time, Dr Garraway quickly refocused her career goals on finding the best treatments for her father. Today, Dr Garraway's focus at JCCC is developing ways to isolate specific stem cells from patients with prostate cancer. These cells constitute a certain fraction of all cells in the prostate, and have a unique ability to regenerate themselves. Understanding what role stem cells play in cancer tumor growth could prove to be monumental in developing future targeted therapies for prostate cancer patients. In addition to her research in prostate cancer, Dr Garraway is also eager to bring awareness to this disease whenever possible.
Research Interests: health disparities, prostate cancer, stem cell like cells, therapeutics
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

Name: Sanaz Memarzadeh, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: Assistant Professor, Dept of OBGYN; Physician, Dept of OBGYN
Phone: 310-206-1075
Email: smemarzadeh@mednet.ucla.edu

The Gynecologic Oncology (G.O.) Discovery Lab, directed by Dr. Sanaz Memarzadeh, focuses on two poorly understood and under studied epithelial gynecologic malignancies: endometrial and ovarian carcinoma. Even though both cancer subtypes pose a serious health risk to women little is known about what cells give rise to each tumor subtype, how these tumors initiate or strategies for targeted therapy. The goal of the laboratory is to identify ovarian and endometrial cancer initiating cells and targeting genetic pathways essential for their survival as part of the treatment for these gynecologic cancers. The G.O. Discovery team hypothesizes that the normal stem cells in the endometrium or ovary/fallopian tube could be the target cell for formation of endometrial or ovarian papillary serous carcinoma, respectively. The normal epithelial stem of these gynecologic organs may also be precursors for ovarian and endometrial cancer stem cells. The lab aims to pinpoint the genetic changes that prompt normal gynecologic epithelial stem cells to convert into cancer cells and identify the chemical and biologic molecules that can be used to stop their growth. Such new therapies could be better tolerated with fewer side effects and better chances of eradicating these women’s cancers.
Research Interests: ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, stem cell like cells, therapeutics, health disparities
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

Name: Melinda Maggard Gibbons, M.D., M.S.H.S.
Title: Assistant Professor in Residence, Dept of Surgery, General Surgery UCLA
Phone: (310) 825-0739
Email: mmaggard@mednet.ucla.edu

Dr. Gibbons is a general surgeon with formal health services training (Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Fellowship Program). She obtained a Master of Science in Health Services and was a Robert Wood Johnson Physician Faculty Scholar. Her main project studied the factors associated with weight loss failure following bariatric surgery. Much of her research has addressed improving the quality of care for breast cancer patients and survivorship care in the underserved population. Her diverse general surgery practice is based at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, and approximately 50% of her clinical work is treating breast. Dr. Gibbons helped found the Center for Surgical Outcomes and Quality at UCLA and serve as the current Deputy Director. Her research experience is well-aligned with the goals of the Partnership’s proposal - to develop and implement an intervention to improve survivorship care in underserved and minority breast cancer patients in our public healthcare system. She has expertise conducting a large educational intervention study, a randomized trial, to educate Latinas on how to reduce their risk for breast cancer. She has studied the impact of using a community health worker to communicate health information, and incorporated cultural and literacy factors into educational messages. Dr. Gibbons group has experience in assessing needs of cancer survivors. Her current U54 pilot project, in collaboration with Sheilah Clayton at Charles R. Drew University (CDU), focuses on improving primary care providers’ knowledge and confidence of survivorship care for breast cancer, at our two public hospitals. The current proposal builds on the groundwork from the pilot project by aiming to study effective health communication for our cancer survivor patients.
Research Interests: patient survivorship, health disparities, barriers to care
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

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COMMUNITY OUTREACH

Name: Annette Maxwell, DrPH
Title: Professor, Department of Health Services
Phone: 310-794-9282
Email: amaxwell@ucla.edu

Dr. Maxwell is a Professor in the Department of Health Services at UCLA and has been en-gaged in a research programs focused on cancer health disparities in diverse populations. Dr. Maxwell is also one of the faculty investigators in the U54 CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership’s Community Engagement and Outreach Program. Her research in cancer prevention and control has ranged from cancer screening to follow-up of breast abnormalities, dissemination of evidence-based interventions, and smoking. She has partnered with many community based organizations and churches to develop and test intervention programs to increase breast and cervical cancer screening, repeat mammography screening, colorectal cancer screening and hepatitis B testing in various ethnic groups. These programs were developed based on a theoretical framework and with extensive community input to ensure that they are culturally appropriate and acceptable to the intended audience. While some of these programs are being pilot tested in small samples, others are evaluated in randomized controlled trials. In conducting this research, Dr. Maxwell and colleagues are using innovative recruitment strategies and research methods that are acceptable to these communities.
Research Interests: health disparities, community based participatory research, evidence-based intervention
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/  
Reference Website: www.cancer.ucla.edu/index.aspx?page=1

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STAFF:

Name: Marianna Sarkissyan
Title: Program Administrator, Research Scientist
Phone: 323-563-5937           
Email: mariannasarkissyan@cdrewu.edu

Ms. Sarkissyan first joined the Division of Cancer Research and Training in 2005 as an undergraduate student intern as part of Dr. Jay Vadgama’s NIH funded student training program. After completing her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UCI, Ms. Sarkissyan joined the Division at CDU to continue cancer health disparities research with the Vadgama team before pursuing her medical degree. As part of the Vadgama team, Ms. Sarkissyan has provided administrative leadership for several grants, including managing the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership at the CDU site under the lead of the CDU PI Dr. Vadgama. In addition, she has contributed to ongoing cancer disparities research in basic, clinical, and community health sciences resulting in 11 peer review publications, 1 book chapter, and over 20 national abstracts. She has received several awards for her administrative and research efforts including the Ruth and William Silen MD award for outstanding oral presentation in cancer research at Harvard Medical School’s New England Science Symposium and the 2013/2014 CDU Employee of the Year award. Inspired by the Vadgama team mission, her life’s passion is alleviating cancer health disparities and providing service to the underserved.
Research Interest: cancer health disparities, underserved populations, comorbidities, obesity, breast and colorectal cancer, IGF1, Vitamin D
Publications:www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

Name: Augustine Odume
Title: Finance Director
Phone: 323-563-5813
Email: Augustineodume@cdrewu.edu  

Mr. Odume became part of the CDU family in 1991 and has been part of the CDU/UCLA Cancer Center Partnership since 2009. He is committed to providing financial administrative support to the Partnership and CDU.

 

 

Name: Milena Pavlova, MPS
Title: Executive Assistant to Chief, VP for Research and Health Affairs
Phone: 323-563-4853
Email: milenapavlova@cdrewu.edu
Ms. Pavlova completed a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria, and another MA Degree in Public Administration from DePaul University, Chicago IL. She joined the Partnership in 2012 and has supported Dr. Vadgama as Executive Assistant. She is committed to mission of the Partnership and CDU to alleviate disparities among the underserved.

 

 

Name: Hemlata Sukhija, PhD
Title: Clinical Coordinator
Phone: 323-357-3659
Email: hemlatasukhija@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Sukhija completed her MS and Ph.D. in Pharmacology/Toxicology from St. John’s University, Queens, NY. She is a clinical coordinator for the Clinical Research and Trials Resource in the Partnership and provides support for investigator initiated IRB study applications, patient recruitment and consent, and tissue and data acquisition. Dr. Sukhija also provides support for developing and disseminating information regarding participation in clinical studies and trials to the Partnership’s community and clinical sites. 
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

 

Name: May Santiago Ong, PhD
Title: Coordinator
Phone: 323-563-5936
Email: mayong@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Ong completed her PhD in Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology from UCLA. She provides support as a program coordinator for the Education and Training Program.
Publications: www ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

 

 

 

Name: Ju Ri Kim
Title: Research Associate
Phone: 323-563-5947
Email: jurikim@cdrewu.edu

Ms. Kim completed her undergraduate degree in Biological Science from UCI. She joined the Partnership in 2010 and has provided lab support to Dr. Jay Vadgama and Dr. Yanyuan Wu to investigate the molecular signaling pathways of HER2 positive breast cancer.
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

 

Name: Kruttika Bhat, PhD
Title: Post-Doctoral Fellow
Phone: 323-563-5947
Email: kruttikahbhat@cdrewu.edu

Dr. Bhat completed her PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the Dept. of Pharmaceutical Sciences at North Dakota State University. She is completing her first post-doctoral fellowship in the Vadgama lab investigating the role of Gro-alpha in triple negative breast cancer and cancer metastasis.
Publications: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/