Simeone Lab Personnel

Lidong Wang, Ph.D.

Lidong Wang, PhD.
Senior Research Associate

After graduating from Peking Normal University with M.S and PhD degrees, Lidong Wang did a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Tadataka Yamada's laboratory in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan focusing on the regulatory mechanisms of brain-gut peptide signaling. Later, he joined the research laboratory of Dr. John Del Valle in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan. As a research scientist in the Del Valle lab, he conducted structure/function analysis of G protein coupled receptors in the GI tract. For the last 8 years, Dr. Wang has served as a senior research scientist studying the function of a novel oncogene, Ataxia-Telangectasia group D associated complementing gene (ATDC) discovered in the Simeone laboratory. ATDC is expressed in the vast majority of pancreatic cancers and has the dual function of promoting pancreatic cancer cell growth and early metastasis and regulating cellular responses to DNA damage. ATDC appears to be a primary mode of resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to chemotherapy and radiation. His work has important implications for better understanding the molecular mechanisms guiding pancreatic tumorigenesis, as well as for exploring the potential role of ATDC in growth regulatory mechanisms and DNA damage responses in both neoplastic and normal cells, a topic which has not been previously explored. Furthermore ATDC is an exciting therapeutic target, based on preclinical studies in genetically engineered mice and primary pancreatic cancer xenografts, and clinical trials targeting this oncogene are planned.

Huibin Yang, M.D.,
Research Lab Specialist Senior

Huibin Yang, M.D.
Dr. Yang received a medical degree in 1982 from the Suzhou Medical College in China. He subsequently received a master's degree in immunopathology and cell biology in 1988 from Suzhou Medical College. Dr. Yang then joined the faculty of Suzhou Medical College in the Department of Pathophysiology. In 1994, Dr. Yang sought additional postdoctoral training in Dr. Mellita Schachner's lab in the Department of Neurobiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. His postdoctoral project focused on neural adhesion molecule L1 signal transduction in the development of central nerve system. In 1998, Dr. Yang became a Research Associate in the Department of Pediatrics and Neurology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where he studied the roles of Ras exchange factor (GRF) in G protein signaling in CNS. In 2005, Dr. Yang joined the research faculty in the Department of Surgery at the University of Michigan Health System. Dr. Yang's research interest/focus is to genetic modeling of pancreatic tumorigenesis. He has focused on examining novel signaling crosstalk in TGF signaling in epithelial mesencyhmal transition (EMT) (J. Biol Chem, 2013) and the role of Ataxia-Telangectasia group D associated complementing gene (ATDC) in pancreatic cancer using by developing novel transgenic mouse models of altered ATDC expression to study the role of ATDC in normal organ function and diseases states. ATDC is elevated in the majority of pancreatic cancers and promotes pancreatic cancer cell growth and metastasis. In a separate project, Dr. Yang is interrogating mechanisms of ATDC upregulation in human malignancies, including pancreatic and bladder cancer.

Ethan Abel, PhD.
Research Fellow

Ethan Abel, Ph.D.
Dr. Abel is a postdoctoral fellow in training. He received his B.S. in Biology from the State University of New York at Albany in 2004, after which he worked as a research technician and later graduate student in the Department of Cell Biology and Cancer Research at Albany Medical College in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew Aplin. His research focused on the role of the transcription factor FOXD3 in the growth and survival of human melanoma. In 2008 he relocated with the Aplin lab to Thomas Jefferson University where he received his Ph.D. in Genetics in 2012. Dr. Abel joined the Simeone lab in August of 2012. Currently his research focuses on the examination of the molecular characteristics of pancreatic cancer stem cells as a means to uncover pathways that are critical for their maintenance, and therefore potential therapeutic targets. This research continues Dr. Abel's interest in integrating the fields of signal transduction with gene regulation to uncover the driving forces of cancer biology in order to advance treatment of the disease.

Meghna Waghray, PhD.
Research Fellow

Meg Waghray, Ph.D.
Dr. Waghray is a postdoctoral fellow in the Simeone laboratory. She received her B.Sc. in Microbiology from Osmania University and M.Sc. in Biotechnology from Bangalore University in India. She received her Master's in Molecular Biology from Eastern Michigan University where she worked with Dr. Daniel Clemans on understanding host-pathogen responses, in particular she studied how mutations in the CFTR gene in isogeneic cells led to different biological responses to the bacteria Burkohlodria cenocepacia. After completion of her Master's thesis she joined the laboratory of Dr. Victor Thannickal at University of Michigan as a research Assistant II where she worked on understanding the epithelial-mesenchymal interactions during impaired tissue repair, pulmonary fibrosis. Within a year published her first author paper on the role of myofibroblasts secreted hydrogen peroxide as a diffusible paracrine death signal for the overlying epithelium. Dr. Waghray then joined the laboratory of Dr. Juanita Merchant at University of Michigan to do her graduate work with Dr. Deb Gumucio as a co-mentor. Her graduate work was focused on understanding the role of inflammation in gastric cancer initiation, gastric atrophy in particular. Her studies identified IL-1beta, a pro-inflammatory cytokine as a key regulator of the developmental signaling molecule Sonic Hedgehog. She demonstrated that loss of the Sonic Hedgehog expression leads to loss of acid producing cell (gastric atrophy), the first irreversible step in gastric cancer. Dr. Waghray did a post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Denise Montell at Johns Hopkins University studying the mechanisms of disruption of endocytosis and cell polarity leading to tumor growth using Drosophilla ovary as a model system. Dr. Waghray joined Dr. Diane Simeone's laboratory in July, 2012 and her post-doctoral project is focused on understanding the role of tumor microenvironment in pancreatic cancer initiation, progression and metastasis. She is focusing on the contribution of the heterogeneous cell populations in the fibro-inflammatory tumor stroma, including mesenchymal stem cells. She is working on the identification and functional characterization of pancreatic cancer associated mesenchymal stem cells in an attempt to disrupt their interactions with tumor cells which might provide new therapeutic avenues in pancreatic cancer.

Phillip Palmbos, M.D., Ph.D.
Phillip Palmbos, M.D., PhD.
Oncology Fellow

Dr. Palmbos is a medical oncology fellow in the American Board of Internal Medicine Physician Scientist Training Program. He received his MD/PhD from the University of Michigan Medical Scientist Training Program in 2008 and this PhD thesis work was characterizing the nonhomologous endjoining pathway of DNA double-strand break repair. Since joining the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program, his clinical interest has been genitourinary oncology with a specific focus on bladder cancer. Dr. Palmbos is focusing his research program on studying the molecular mechanisms of bladder tumorigenesis, and has made the important finding that ATDC serves as a driver oncogene in invasive bladder cancer. ATDC is upregulated in the majority of human invasive bladder cancers, and is a key regulator of driving cellular invasion. Dr. Palmbos will use novel genetically engineered mouse models and human tumor material to studying the functional contribution of ATDC to bladder tumorigenesis, the signaling pathways involved, and how best to target this oncogene in bladder cancer.

Gina Ney, M.D., PhD.
Pediatrics Resident
Gina Ney, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Ney is currently completing her residency in pediatrics and will begin her fellowship in pediatric oncology in July 2014. She previously worked in the lab of Professor Gary Glick in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. She received her PhD in Chemistry in 2007, where her focus was on the design and synthesis of novel small molecules which induced ROS-dependent apoptosis through inhibition of metabolic processes. She is currently focusing on ROS-mediated oncogenesis in pancreatic cancer through ras signaling pathways and the implications of this on therapeutic resistance.

Michele Dziubinski
Xenograft Core Manager

Michele Dziubinski
Michele Dziubinski joined the Simeone lab in July 2012. She received her B.S. in Biology and a secondary education teaching certificate from the University of Michigan in 1986 and her M.S. in Biology from Eastern Michigan University in 1990. After teaching high school for 7 years, she joined the breast cancer laboratory of Dr. Stephen P. Ethier where she helped develop and characterize 10 human breast cancer cell lines. She also served as Dr. Ethier's lab manager. Currently, Ms. Dziubinski is the TOP Xenograft Core Manager. Her tasks include implanting human pancreatic tumor tissue into NOD SCID mice for tumor propagation and the development of pancreatic cancer cell lines. She is also involved with the characterization of cell lines and their utility as a model for tumor detection. Future goals include the identification of possible targets for drug development and testing of new inhibitors in animal models. Soon, the core will expand their focus to other types of cancer, including prostate, ovarian, and breast.

Stephanie Laurinec, B.S.
Lab Manager/Research Lab Specialist Intermediate

Stephanie Laurinec, B.S.
Stephanie Laurinec is the Lab Manager for Dr. Simeone. She received her B.S. in Biology from Purdue University in 1995. After graduation, she joined the research lab of Dr. James Walker in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at Purdue University where she studied the effects of alcohol on the developing brain. In 1999 she moved to Boston and joined the research lab of Dr. Sylvia Sanders (HHMI Investigator) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at M.I.T., her research focused on yeast cell polarity and bud-site selection. In 2001, she accepted a position with Dr. Ben Margolis at the University of Michigan (HHMI Investigator/ Department of Nephrology) continuing her focus of cell polarity, this time in the kidney. Ms. Laurinec left the Margolis lab to briefly work with Dr. James Bardwell (HHMI Investigator) at the University of Michigan, focusing on the study of disulfide bond formation and the three-dimensional structure of proteins. In 2006, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Diane Simeone at the University of Michigan. Currently, Stephanie's position encompasses managerial responsibilities for the Simeone lab, as well as assisting with research studies to investigate the mechanisms of pancreatic growth regulation, molecular events important in the development and progression of pancreatic adenocarcinoma, and the identification of biological markers for the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Ms. Laurinec current primary role is lab manager and she is responsible for all aspects of the lab including IRB and UCUCA approval.

Jacob Leflein
Jacob Leflein
Lab Assistant

Jacob Leflein is a senior at Ann Arbor Huron high school who worked in Dr. Simeone's lab since 2011. Jacob is focused on understanding the techniques and approaches used to explore the biology of pancreatic cancer. Jacob has developed expertise in genetically engineered mouse models systems, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence. He is conducting studies examining the role of a newly discovered oncogene, ATDC, in mediating resistance to chemotherapy and radiation in pancreatic cancer. He plans to continue his research in the Simeone laboratory during the upcoming years while he is attending the University of Michigan. Jacob plans a career in academic medicine.

Justin Hart
Undergraduate Lab assistant

Justin is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. He has worked in the Simeone lab for two years studying the molecular mechanisms guiding bladder cancer development and the role of ATDC. Justin plans a career in medicine.

Malica Yalamanchili
Undergraduate Lab Assistant

Malica is a Junior at the University of Michigan. She is studying Chemical Engineering and is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. She joined the lab in 2012 and is studying the role of the tumor microenvironment in pancreatic cancer development and progression.

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