News

People and Programs on the Move at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson

Friday, October 30, 2020

TUCSON, Ariz. – Among recent promotions, honors and awards at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson are the following news items:

Two Faculty Members Inducted into National Academy of Inventors

Two College of Medicine – Tucson faculty members are among four from UArizona inducted into the National Academy of Inventors as NAI Senior Members – Minying Cai, PhD, and Luca Caucci, PhD

Dr. Cai is a research professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a member of the UArizona BIO5 Institute and the Therapeutic Development Program at the UArizona Cancer Center. Her research focuses on identifying and developing molecular modulators of melanocortin receptors for treatment of medical disorders associated with the skin, including melanoma. She is part of a UArizona startup, MCR Therapeutics Inc., that licensed these melanin-producing compounds developed for a systemic approach to preventing skin damage and cancer. 

Dr. Caucci is an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Imaging. His work involves task-based assessments and computations of image quality optimization on parallel architectures for photon-processing in imaging methods known as PET (positron emission tomography) and SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography). This allows physicians to analyze functions of some internal organs via vividly colorized and 3D imaging. He has been granted six U.S. patents, one of them currently being licensed. 

Drs. Cai and Caucci are among 38 new NAI Senior Members named this year and join seven others from UArizona who now hold that distinction. Learn more here.

UArizona ‘Gut Group’ Wins $250,000 for Projects Aimed at GI Cancers

Several UArizona Health Sciences researchers with diverse expertise in gastrointestinal (GI) cancers known as the “Gut Group” won $250,000 toward developing therapies and identifying biomarkers to prevent and treat GI cancers such as colorectal, gastric and pancreatic cancer as part of a UArizona Cancer Center “Sparking Bench-to-Bedside Team Science Project” award.

The multidisciplinary team is led by Yana Zavros, PhD, a professor and associate research head in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, director of the center’s Tissue Acquisition Cellular and Molecular Analysis Shared Resource and a member in the center’s Cancer Biology Program.

The Cancer Center award unites three projects under the same funding umbrella in Dr. Zavros grant application. The first project concentrates on biomarker development in Hispanic populations to improve early detection and prevention of colorectal cancer. The second explores therapies for pancreatic and gastric cancer, and why they are among malignancies that are highly resistant to immune therapies successful in other cancers. The third investigates cells within the tumor microenvironment to understand how colorectal cancer spreads and to identify drug responsiveness for discovery of targeted therapies. 

Lead investigators for the projects and research cores include: Nathan Ellis, PhD; Peter Lance, MD; Juanita Merchant, MD, PhD; Ghassan Mouneimne, PhD; Rachna Shroff, MD; Hina Arif Tiwari, MD; Curtis Thorne, PhD; Darren Cusanovich, PhD; Megha Padi, PhD; Aaron Scott, MD, and Jennifer Hatcher, PhD, MPH. Learn more here.

New Physician Serves as Only Pediatric Hepatologist in Region

The College of Medicine Tucson’s Department of Pediatrics, Steele Children’s Research Center, and Banner – University Medical Center Tucson welcome Keith Hazleton, MD, PhD. Dr. Hazleton is a new assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Earning his medical and doctoral degrees from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, he will provide pediatric services for children as the only pediatric hepatologist in Southern Arizona. He completed his residency and fellowship training at the Children’s Hospital Colorado/University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado. His research includes studying effects of diet on the gut microbiome – specifically, how a Western-style diet affects C. difficile, or C. diff, infection and nutritional status in cystic fibrosis. C. diff is a bacteria that cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. Dr. Hazleton has published 11 peer-reviewed articles. Learn more here.

‘Rising Star’ to Chair Cancer Scientific Review Committee

Distinguished for her research in translational breast oncology, Pavani Chalasani, MD, MPH, will serve as chair of the UArizona Cancer Center’s Scientific Review Committee (SRC) as part of a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award she recently received. Dr. Chalasani, associate professor in the college’s Division of Hematology and Oncology, Department of Medicine, previously served as a committee member. She currently leads the center’s Breast Cancer Disease-Oriented Team, overseeing breast cancer clinical research. The NCI award provides partial salary support for two years for SRC-related activities, including serving as SRC chair. Among current research projects, she is medical oncology study chair for an NCI study on women with inflammatory breast cancer and lead investigator for a randomized phase II trial in women with metastatic HER2+ breast cancer. She has received research funding from the National Institutes of Health, American Cancer Society, the Cancer Center’s Better Than Ever program and the center’s pilot funding mechanism. Learn more here.

Division of Infectious Disease Welcomes Three New Specialists

Three new physicians have joined the faculty of the college’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine. All are assistant professors practicing at Banner – University Medicine facilities in Tucson.

  • D. Alex Perry, MD, MPH, earned his master’s in public health and medical degrees from UArizona in Tucson, did his residency training in internal medicine at Oregon Health and Science University and completed his infectious diseases fellowship with research on adult C. difficile modeling, hospital epidemiology and antimicrobial stewardship at the University of Michigan. 
  • Matthew D. Adams, DO, earned his medical degree from Midwestern University’s Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine in Phoenix and completed his residency and fellowship training at the College of Medicine – Tucson. His interests include drug use disorder with infectious complications and management of Valley fever and HIV.
  • Danielle deMontingy Avila, MD, earned her medical degree from the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, Mexico, and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Colorado State University. She did residency training in internal medicine at Billings Clinic in Montana and an infectious diseases fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her interests center on drug use disorders and endocarditis, an infection in the lining of the heart, due to drug injections.

To make an appointment to see any of the above physicians, please call (520) 694-8888.

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NOTE: Photos available here – https://arizona.box.com/s/hjif01xdj065hizuoqvv1kuh76lzdxhs.

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine –Tucson
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is shaping the future of medicine through state-of-the-art medical education programs, groundbreaking research and advancements in patient care in Arizona and beyond. Founded in 1967, the college boasts more than 50 years of innovation, ranking among the top medical schools in the nation for research and primary care. Through the university's partnership with Banner Health, one of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the country, the college is leading the way in academic medicine. For more information, visit medicine.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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