Welcome to City of Hope

December 18, 2015 | by City of Hope

Russell C. Rockne, Ph.D.


Russell C. Rockne, Ph.D., joins City of Hope as an assistant professor within the Department of Research Information Sciences. He also will serve as director of a newly created Division of Mathematical Oncology, with the goal of translating mathematics, physics and evolution-based research to clinical care. Rockne received his doctorate in mathematical biology from the University of Washington in 2013, and then conducted postdoctoral research in mathematical oncology at Northwestern University. In 2014, Rockne received the “Future of Mathematical Biology” award from the Society for Mathematical Biology.

Rockne's research focuses on patient-specific mathematical models of cancer growth and response to therapy. His research lies at the interface of mathematics, imaging, histopathology and genomics, combining information to mathematically model treatment of individual cancer patients, and how their tumors evolve when confronted with specific treatment regimens. His personal research goal is to explore the novel hypothesis that mathematical models can quantify and predict individual patient disease dynamics and recurrence resulting from therapy in vivo


Ben Shih, Ph.D.


Ben Hung Ping Shih, Ph.D., joined City of Hope in July as assistant professor in the Department of
Translational Research and Cellular Therapeutics. Prior to joining City of Hope, he was a postdoctoral fellow and a research scientist at University of California, San Diego. Shih received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at Oregon State University in 2007 and his M.S. in biochemistry from National Taiwan University in 1999. 

His current research focuses on mechanisms of pancreas morphogenesis and the link between morphogenesis and differentiation. The question of whether epithelial architecture instructs pancreatic progenitor cell differentiation is a poorly studied “hot topic” with significant relevance for pancreatic disease, such as diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He is also attempting to establish an in vitro organ-like culture system – the pancreas organoid – to model human pancreas development and disease.


John Kaddis, Ph.D.

In recognition of his research contributions to the Department of Research Information Sciences, John Kaddis, Ph.D., has been appointed assistant professor. Kaddis joined City of Hope in 2002, working as consortium manager and later project administrator for the National Islet Cell Resource Center Program. In 2007, he was promoted to the position of staff scientist within Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope. Kaddis received his Ph.D. in systems biology and disease from the University of Southern California in 2011.

Kaddis has been very productive in the area of diabetes and stem cell research. In addition to his long and ongoing involvement in the Integrated Islet Distribution Program, he has been a Co-Investigator in the Intestinal Stem Cell Consortium Coordinating Center, an National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases-funded project now in its sixth year. Kaddis has also been involved in collaborative projects with the JDRF for many years. He has been the Principal Investigator for one of these projects involving the JDRF Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes which involves multiple investigators around the world and collaboration with the University of Florida.

Kaddis has already achieved a strong publication record, with 21 publications in highly regarded journals, including a key diabetes article in a special edition of the Journal of American Medical Association. This work was selected for presentation at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Kaddis also has a strong funding record to date. He currently is Principal Investigator for one grant and two subcontracts, and has been principal investigator of three awards in the past. Most recently, he was awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish a Bioinformatics Center for the Human Islet Research Network (HIRN). HIRN is focused on the research and treatment of type 1 diabetes through the investigation of pancreatic beta cell loss, preservation, and replacement. The group is organized into four consortia across the country composed of approximately 100 investigators. This work will lead to new informatics approaches and tools, collaborative opportunities and potential research directions for Kaddis.


Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D.

Debbie C. Thurmond, Ph.D., has joined the City of Hope to serve as professor and founding chair of the new Department of Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology in the Diabetes & Metabolic Research Institute at City of Hope. Thurmond comes to City of Hope after 14 years at Indiana University, rising through the ranks from assistant professor to full professor. While at Indiana, she was awarded the prestigious Indiana University Trailblazer Award in 2011. At Indiana, she also served as associate director of the Basic Diabetes Group, facilitating that program through garnering an National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Diabetes and Bioengineering Training Program and serving as islet core principal investigator/director for the recently awarded NIH P30 Center grant in Diabetes. She currently serves as associate editor for the journal Diabetologia, on multiple other editorial boards, and on national/international grant review panels. She also enjoys lecturing in graduate school courses (biochemistry and molecular biology, cell biology, endocrinology) and mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Thurmond received her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and her M.S. and B.S. degrees from the University of California, Davis.

Thurmond’s research is supported by four research awards from the NIH, JDRF and the American Heart Association. Her research focus encompasses investigations into SNARE-mediated vesicle trafficking events and cytoskeletal signaling as they pertain to the causes of diabetes. Her group has discovered that diabetic individuals have defects and deficiencies in specific vesicle trafficking proteins, and is actively engaged in devising strategies to remediate these defects.


Xiaochun Yu, M.D., Ph.D.

Xiaochun Yu, M.D., Ph.D., has joined the Department of Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics as a newly appointed professor. Yu comes to City of Hope after 10 years at the University of Michigan Medical School, rising through the ranks from assistant professor to associate professor with tenure. He received his M.D. in clinical medicine from Peking University Medical School in China and Ph.D. in cell biology from Kurume University in Japan.

Yu has developed a world-class research program on understanding the molecular mechanisms of DNA damage response and cell cycle checkpoint control following radiation or chemotherapy agent exposure. His laboratory is determining the mechanisms by which tumors with BRCA mutations are sensitive to PARP inhibitors. The primary goal of this effort is to exploit this conditional sensitivity for clinical benefit through the creative use of in vitro and in vivo models. Yu’s laboratory is also studying chromatin remodeling processes as part of DNA damage-induced signaling and tumorigenesis. Finally, Yu’s group is studying epigenetic modifications of DNA for transcriptional regulation and tumor suppression at the fundamental level, but also in the context of leukemogenesis. His research program is currently supported by six grants, four of which are from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while the other two are from the Department of Defense (DOD) and Lymphoma & Leukemia Society. Yu has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Idea Award, Breast Cancer Research Program, DOD, AACR-Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Career Developmental Award, American Cancer Society Research Scholar, Era of Hope Scholar and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Research Scholar. He also serves on a number of peer review panels, including the Breast Cancer Research Program with the DOD, NIH and various international research councils. In addition, Yu serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


Victoria Seewaldt, M.D.  

Victoria L. Seewaldt, M.D., is the Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences and associate cancer center director at City of Hope. Seewaldt was born in New York City to an immigrant family. She received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Cornell University and attended medical school at University of California at Davis. Much of her family resides in the Sacramento area, and she is ecstatic to return to California. For the 15 years, Seewaldt has been a professor at Duke University and led a multidisciplinary bench to community research effort investigating the origins of triple-negative breast cancer. At City of Hope, she will lead a program to promote wellness, prevention and early detection. Biomarkers identified in her laboratory are tested as predictors of short-term breast cancer risk in the high-risk women who participate in Seewaldt’s clinical trials. Seewaldt has had continuous National Cancer Institute R01 funding for the past 14 years and was recently awarded a U01 grant to test whether combined imagining and biomarkers can provide early detection of aggressive breast cancers. Seewaldt developed a minority outreach and education program in Durham. At City of Hope, she will direct efforts to provide breast cancer education, free breast cancer screening and treatment, mentorship of young minority scholars and a forum for community partnered trials. Clinically, Seewaldt aims to empower women who are at risk for breast cancer to be full partners in developing wellness strategies that promote personal health.


Ling Li, Ph.D.

Ling Li, Ph.D., has been appointed as an assistant professor in Division of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research and the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research within the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. Li joined City of Hope in 2008 as a postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Hematopoietic Stem Cell and Leukemia Research under Ravi Bhatia, M.D. In 2013, he was promoted to the position of staff scientist within Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, and successfully pursued a National Institutes of Health K99 Career Development Award. Prior to joining City of Hope, Li received his Ph.D. in medicine oncology from the Cancer Institute of Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China.

Li is very active in the area of leukemia research. His research focuses on studying the aberrantly regulated epigenetics that initiate or maintain leukemia, specifically acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Li was the first to report aberrant activity of SIRT1 leads to deacetylation and therefore suppression of p53-signaling contributing to survival of leukemia stem cells (LSC). His laboratory is currently determining the epigenetic-related resistance mechanisms of LSC to the treatment of tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The primary goal of this effort is to develop novel therapeutics to specifically target LSC and advance these strategies for clinical trials in AML. To achieve this goal, Li will use genetically engineered mouse model, human AML cells and patient samples derived xenografts for preclinical studies.


Edwin R. Manuel, Ph.D.

Edwin R. Manuel, Ph.D., has joined the Department of Experimental Therapeutics as a newly appointed assistant professor. Manuel graduated Phi Beta Kappa in microbiology from San Diego State University, and then went on to receive his Ph.D. in virology from Harvard University in the laboratory of world renowned AIDS researcher, Norman Letvin, M.D. He continued his postgraduate training at City of Hope in the laboratory of Don J. Diamond, Ph.D., focusing on the development of cancer vaccines for solid and hematologic malignancies.

Manuel’s current research focuses on approaches to overcome mechanisms of tumor escape, which is an important hallmark of cancer that can significantly compromise the efficacy of current immunotherapeutic strategies. One major contributor to tumor escape is the overexpression of tumor-derived proteins that cause significant immune suppression. Manuel has developed a bacterial-based approach that effectively targets a variety of immunosuppressive proteins to rescue anti-tumor responses in preclinical models of melanoma and pancreatic cancer. Using this platform, he is also exploring additional cancer-specific targets, such as oncogenes required for tumor survival (oncogene addiction), as another approach to induce growth arrest in primary tumor cells and cancer stem cells in pancreatic cancer.

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