See also our related blog for the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PPTI receives its first contribution for Drug Testing in Rhabdomyosarcoma

We thank our anonymous donor for a kind $500 contribution towards the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative, with the specific goal of advancing new treatments for alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.

For more information about the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative and our grass-roots effort to advance research in childhood cancers, email Charles at kellerc2@uthscsa.edu .

[right: this graphic design and implemented by Charles Keller and David Rodriguez.]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcoming Anu!

We are excited to welcome Anuradha "Anu" Soundararajan to our research team. Anu obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Madras in 2000, where she was recognized with the award for Best Outgoing Student for her college. After earning a Masters degree in medical physics from Anna University then professional experience as a Medical Physicist at the Cancer Institute in India, Anu pursued and recently completed a PhD in Medical Diagnostic Physics from the Department of Radiology at UTHSCSA. William “Bill” Phillips and Beth Goins were mentors to Anu, whose doctoral thesis project related to Chemo-Radionuclide Therapy with 186-Re labeled Liposomal Doxorubicin in combination with Radiofrequency Ablation for Effective Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer. Anu brings specific new strength to our research program in the area of Molecular Imaging. Her long term career goals include applied academic research for cancer using genetically engineered mouse models, imaging, and image-guided therapies. Welcome, Anu!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our Sincerest Thanks to Mei

We sincerely thank consultant Mei Zhang for our tutorial on advanced mouse ultrasound imaging this past week. Mei is a clinical and preclinical ultrasonographer with a special gift as a teacher. Her thoughtful on site training makes it possible for us to better determine the response of childhood rhabdomyosarcomas to novel targeted therapies. We are so grateful to you, Mei. Charles, Aoife and the Keller Lab Team.

Monday, December 8, 2008

CIBC Workshop

Charles and Suresh attended a workshop for the Center for Integrative Biomedical Computing at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute of the University of Utah this past week. Our lab is a Tier 1 collaborator for the NIH/NCRR grant that supports the CIBC (P41RR012553). We are excited about the tools made available by CIBC that enhance our study of childhood cancers, particularly Seg3D and Jens Kr├╝ger's new ImageVis3D. Staying an extra day, Suresh also mastered snowboarding... a great trip altogether!




Saturday, November 15, 2008

Suresh's Paper accepted to 'Molecular Imaging'


Congratulations to Suresh who muscle injury paper was accepted just yesterday to Molecular Imaging. This paper on near-infrared imaging of tissue damage and repair was also co-authored by Carlo Martinez of the Shireman lab. Stay tuned for potential cover art!

[shown above right: cobra of the genus from which the cardiotoxin venom is derived that is used experimentally to create very small amounts of injury in muscle. Dataset from digimorph.org, and rendering by Suresh Prajapati]


[ UPDATE: (3/5/2008) Suresh's paper is now published! ]

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tohru's work with the Nishihara lab is accepted to 'Differentiation'

Congratulations to Tohru, whose work on the muscle microenvironment was accepted today to the journal, Differentiation. Drs. Ishiguro, Yamanouchi, and Nishihara co-author this exciting work. We are excited to have Tohru as part of our team, especially as we delve deeper into muscle stem cell (satellite cell) biology which underlies the formation of certain types of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Stay tuned for another announcement once Tohru's paper is published!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Brain Tumor Society funds Medulloblastoma Study

We are the fortunate recipients of a two year grant from The National Brain Tumor Society for our study, "Proteasome Inhibitor-Mediated Reversal of Shh-Driven Tumorigenesis". We are both excited and grateful to join the NBTS mission - to find a cure for brain tumors. The annual meeting today was a terrific way for NBTS to share their projects and collaborative ideas.

[note: the graphic to the right was taken from
www.braintumor.org/, which announces that the Brain Tumor Society and the National Brain Tumor Foundation have merged. ]

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Two Presentations at the South Padre Symposium

Hunter and Jinu gave terrific presentations at the South Padre Symposium on Cell Signaling. Mandy was a co-first author of the talk presented by Hunter. A lot of good feedback and new ideas were discussed. Special kudos to Jinu for what was deemed a very good demonstration of bedside to benchtop and back for his experimental therapeutics work.

[ pictured above: the participants of the Symposium. Keller lab members are highlighted by yellow arrows. ]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eri graduates to a new position in Boston

Eri has been a key member of our team for 2 years, and now with her Oncogene publication just out and another in review, Eri is moving to the next step in her career. Eri will be performing her second postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Andrew S. Brack at the Center of Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard. We can't be happier for Eri, and can't wait to see what she'll accomplish in such a rich research environment with one of muscle biology's young rising star faculty. Congratulations, Eri!

[ pictured above right: Eri's dog, Chris, a native Texan, who is anticipated to adapt well to the Northeast. ]
[ update: Chris appears to enjoy her first snow experience in Boston. Very collegiate sweater! ]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Welcoming Dr. Sachiko Ohshima

We are excited that Sachiko Ohshima, MD, has recently joined our laboratory. Sachiko is a board-certified neurologist, having done her clinical training at Kyushu University Hospital and National Fukuoka-Higashi Medical Center, Japan. Sachiko then pursued a PhD under the guidance of Dr. Shin'ichi Takeda at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo and will defend her thesis project early next year at Kyushu University. Sachiko's exciting first-author work on gene therapy for the treatment of muscular dystrophy in dogs will be soon published in Molecular Therapy. In our laboratory, Sachiko will a project leader for brain tumor research. Welcome, Sachiko!

[ pictured above right: Sachiko in her garden in Japan. She must be a very good gardener! ]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Congratulations, Lisa!

We couldn't be more proud than to announce that our graduate student, Lisa Nevell, has been accepted for a position as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of 2007 Nobel laureate Mario R. Capecchi at the University of Utah. (Mario was Charles' mentor, too, but many more years ago.) Lisa was a joint graduate student of George Washington University and UTHSCSA. Her project in our lab was to understand the function of the gene Pax7, which controls neuromuscular development and embryonic patterning. Congratulations, Lisa, and Best Wishes!
[ pictured above right: Lisa Nevell (left), her GWU mentor Bernard Wood (center), and science enthusiast Don Mopsick of NPR Riverwalk Jazz fame;
pictured to the left: going away lunch for Lisa yesterday. quote having just arrived from DC and her defense: "I was so happy to be back home in Texas!" next stop, of course, is Salt Lake City. ]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mandy and Hunter present at the RISE/MARC Symposium

Mandy and Hunter gave a terrific presentation today at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) Annual RISE/MARC Symposium. While the details of their study will be described in an upcoming manuscript, we are very proud of the teamwork and initiative shown by Mandy and Hunter on this complex series of experiments studying bone marrow stem cells in genetically-engineered mice!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Welcoming Rotation Student, Lilly Paredes

Lilliana "Lilly" Paredes graduated from the University of Texas El Paso with a major in Biology this past Spring. As an undergraduate, Lilly participated in a molecular parasitology research laboratory at UTEP. This exciting and productive experience inspired her to pursue a research career. As a first year graduate student in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UTHSCSA, Lilly's current interests include Microbiology, Genetics and Pharmacology. During her Fall rotation in our laboratory, Lilly will be co-mentored by Koichi and Charles.

[pictured above: Lilly on a recent trip to NYC.]

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Day

National Childhood Cancer Awareness Day draws attention to more than 12,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States with many fold more children diagnosed across the Americas and worldwide. While outcome for the most common form of childhood leukemia has improved from a 5% cure rate forty-five years ago to more than 90% now, many other childhood cancers have cure rates are less desirable and unimproved for decades. New research and new targeted therapies are thus needed.

The bi-partisan Allard-Clinton "National Childhood Cancer Awareness Day" Resolution was sponsored by Senators Wayne Allard (CO) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY). See also the Curesearch story.

[ pictured above: The Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute (GCCRI), created by means of a $200M endowment by the Texas legislature. The GCCRI is the most substantial public investment in childhood cancer research since the founding of the St Jude Children's Research Hospital in 1962 (more than 4 decades ago). Click here to contribute to childhood cancer research. ]

Monday, September 1, 2008

In Memoriam: Stephen J. Qualman, M.D.

We are very sad to learn of the passing of Dr. Stephen Qualman, a pioneer in pediatric sarcoma research and a advocate of multi-disciplinary collaborations. Steve's own 13 month battle with pancreatic cancer is said to have ended Saturday.

For more than 24 years Steve has been a leader in pediatric oncology pathology. He founded the Biopathology Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, which is known to be a prototype for national biorepositories. He also had a very active and productive rhabdomyosarcoma research program. We felt privileged to work with him on collaborations past and present. He was everyone's friend, and truely believed that childhood cancer could be cured. His selfless efforts over so many years attest to this. Appropriately, Steve was awarded the American Cancer Society Hero of Hope Medal of Honor just days ago. His example will be remembered by many.

Steve will be greatly missed by his colleagues, and our hearts go out to his family.

[picture source: http://www.osuccc.osu.edu/9187.cfm?person_id=114 ]

Monday, August 18, 2008

Scott Carter's Heroes Golf Classic

This weekend was the Fifteenth Anniversary Scott Carter's Heroes Big Show and Golf Classic to benefit Children's Cancer Research. These events in Tulsa, sponsored by the Scott Carter Foundation, benefit CureSearch research fellowships as well as a research fellowship in our laboratory. Koichi Nishijo, MD, PhD, was introduced as the 2008 Scott Carter Fellow at GCCRI. Koichi and I had a lot of fun meeting the organizers and participants of this event. Scott's parents, Mike and Paula, brother Cason and sister Liz, and grandparents Paul and Crys (and numerous family friends and advocates) are nothing short of tireless in their dedication to this cause. Their support of me as a Scott Carter Fellow in 1999 - 2000 made it possible for me to begin my research career in the laboratory of 2007 Nobel laureate Mario Capecchi, and the project that the Scott Carter Foundation sponsored is featured in Mario's Nobel prize lecture. I am deeply grateful to the Foundation's ongoing support to train new scientists in the pursuit of better treatments for childhood cancer.

[ pictured from left to right: Koichi, Dr. Paul Ol'Dad Compton (Scott's grandfather), and Charles ]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Welcoming Imran !

We're excited to welcome medical student Imran Aslam to our laboratory. Imran graduated from the University of Houston in May 2008 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He has been interested in medicine from a young age, having had the unique opportunity to shadow Dr. Jonathan C. Trent at his MD Anderson clinic during high school and college. Imran joined Dr. Trent's sarcoma research laboratory as a college junior. He is grateful to his mentor who allowed him the privilege to work in such a dynamic, focused lab environment. During this time Imran's project was to evaluate the role of the cytokine receptor CXCR4 in small cell sarcoma. Imran is currently a first year medical student at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and will continue his research training through the MD with Distinction in Research program as a member of our laboratory.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rhabdomyosarcoma Therapeutics Study published today in Oncogene

Congratulations to Eri and her co-authors Koichi and Mandy on the publication today of their study, "PDGFR-A is a Therapeutic Target in Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma". Our paper was published in the advanced online edition of the journal Oncogene. This study reveals a very promising new category of non-chemotherapy drugs to try in this disease, as we have done in our mouse model. Moving our results to the clinic will require close attention and some further study of how tumors become resistant to this drug class in about 1/3 of cases. These follow-up studies are currently being undertaken by Corrine and Eri. Further description of our study is given on Newswise.

[ UPDATE (Nov 2008) The formal version of Eri's article is now available. ]

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Collaborator Spotlight: Dr. Brian Rubin

Brian P. Rubin, MD, PhD is our pathologist collaborator and scientific colleague. Dr. Rubin is Associate Professor of Anatomic Pathology and Director of Soft Tissue Pathology at the
Cleveland Clinic and the Lerner Research Institute and Taussig Cancer Center. He studies mouse models of sarcoma himself, having generated an exciting genetically-engineered model of gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). The original description of the model was reported in Cancer Research. GIST shares many features in common with rhabdomyosarcoma, including the activation of growth factor receptors. We're grateful to collaborate with Brian.

[in the picture we see both Brian in a relaxed setting (vacation at a chateau) as well as in his scientific mode, inset.]

Friday, August 1, 2008

Medulloblastoma grant awarded from the St Baldrick's Foundation


The St. Baldrick's Foundation has awarded our research team a one year grant for the study, "Reversal of Shh-Driven Medulloblastoma by Proteasome Inhibitors". This is an exciting award for this therapeutics project that follows the initial mouse brain tumor model developed in as an award from the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. This new project is being led by postdoctoral fellow, Eri Taniguchi, PhD.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conquer Childhood Cancer Act signed by the President

H.R.1553, the Caroline Pryce Walker Conquer Childhood Cancer Act, has been signed by President Bush, authorizing $30 million each year for five years for childhood cancer clinical trials, education and a population-based national database. This is a huge step forward in the effort to make all childhood cancers curable. For more information, view the CureSearch story.

(photo sent by CureSearch)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Texas Public Radio - Witte Museum Event

Yesterday was a lot of fun presenting our patent-pending animal imaging technology at the Hands On Invention event accompanying the "Genius of Leonardo" exhibit at the Witte Museum. This event was sponsored by Texas Public Radio. The best part was to see how interesting the young kids were... and to show that geometry and algebra could really help out down the road for them if they liked this sort of science & technology.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Team Sarcoma San Antonio Event 2008


This morning at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio we had over 30 participants in the Team Sarcoma run/walk. It was a cooler than average morning for South Texas, fortunately! In attendence were sarcoma survivors, researchers and clinical care providers. This event is one of dozens internationally that raise awareness for Sarcoma. Preliminary reports indicate that there were over 8,000 people worldwide involved in the 2008 Team Sarcoma Initiative’s International Sarcoma Awareness Week! These events are coordinated by the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative. All proceeds benefit sarcoma research. Kudos to organizers Jinu Abraham and Mandy McCleish from our lab but especially colleagues Denice Jimenez and Kim Warshauer at the UTHSCSA Development Office who made this event possible. The event just in San Antonio raised $440 for sarcoma research. We hope we can get even more people involved for the event next year to raise awareness about Sarcoma.

Press Release from the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative (Liddy's Dad):
8,000 People Join the Team Sarcoma Initiative to Fight a Rare Cancer
"From its humble beginnings in 2003, when seven people who called themselves "Team Sarcoma" biked 200 miles in Louisiana, the Team Sarcoma Initiative has become an international movement. More than 8,000 people worldwide participated in this year's Initiative, surpassing the 3,400 who participated last year. Events in 14 countries were hosted by individuals, advocacy groups and medical centers seeking to raise awareness of sarcoma, a cancer that affects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Recognizing Irma Gonzalez


Our laboratory would like to acknowledge the tireless efforts of GCCRI staff member Irma Gonzalez. She supports our laboratory's research in so many ways, always meeting any challenge with a solution and a smile. thank you, Irma!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Koichi named 2008 Scott Carter Fellow at GCCRI

We are grateful to the Scott Carter Foundation for sponsoring Dr. Koichi Nishijo, MD, PhD, as the 2008 Scott Carter Fellow at GCCRI. Scott Carter combined his love of sports and sports memorabilia collecting with a passion for accelerating childhood cancer research. Sadly, Scott lost his battle against osteosarcoma in 1993 at the age of 13. The Scott Carter Foundation continues his mission of promoting childhood cancer research through fundraisers and the sharing of Scott's collection, which is currently on display at Disney's Wide World of Sports. We feel privileged to contribute to Scott's goal of finding new treatments for childhood cancers, particularly pediatric sarcomas.

about Koichi Nishijo, MD, PhD
Dr. Koichi Nishijo began his postdoctoral research fellowship in Dr. Keller's laboratory in April 2006. Dr. Nishijo completed his M.D. and Ph.D. from Kyoto University, Japan. During his PhD course, he studied the biology of osteosarcoma under instruction of Dr. Junya Toguchida at Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences, Kyoto University. Dr. Nishijo is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with 7 years clinical experience in Japan. Dr. Nishijo's work primary research interests are the in vivo mechanisms of sarcoma development and progression. As a member of the Keller laboratory, he will study the process of rhabdomyosarcoma metastasis. Dr. Nishijo's future goal is to become an independent physician scientist in the field of musculoskeletal oncology.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Laura Hampton joins our team!


Please join us in welcoming Laura Hampton. Laura will be joining our laboratory as a research assistant with primary responsibilities in mouse husbandry and preclinical therapeutics. She comes to us with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from West Texas A&M University. She has undergraduate research experience in microbial genetics and wheat genetics, clinical work experience in EMG and EEG, and medical diagnostic experience in veterinary genetics. Her future goals may include graduate school at UTHSCSA and a project in our lab.

We are so excited to have her on the team. Welcome, Laura!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New techniques making advances in cancer research

New imaging techniques combined with genetics research is providing scientists with an entirely new way to tackle cancer and birth defects. This cover article art was created by Lisa's husband, Derek Mayhew.

Click here to read more.


Wendy Rigby. "New techniques making advances in cancer research", KENS Channel 5 News (CBS Affiliate, San Antonio plus CBS National Newsfeed), May 23, 2008. [interview, video]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Eggs, Ingenuity enlisted in batter on cancer in kids

An article about Beverly, Aislynn, Corrine, and Charles' use of ordinary chicken eggs as a platform for screening drugs already on the market (or experimental laboratory compounds) to see if they are active against children’s muscle cancers and brain tumors. This work is being funded by a 2 year Innovation Award from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. Click here to read more.

Cindy Tumiel. "Eggs, ingenuity enlisted in batter on cancer in kids", San Antonio Express News, Metro Section first page, May 12, 2008.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

MicroCT of skeleton can ID even the subtlest birth defects

Will Sansom, "MicroCT of skeleton can ID even the subtlest birth defects", HSC News (UTHSCSA), May 8 2008 [interview]

Monday, May 5, 2008

Welcoming Michelle Brady!

We would like to Welcome Michelle Brady to the GCCRI as the new Technical Director of the GCCRI Mouse Histology Facility. This resource facility, managed jointly by Michelle and Charles, provides specialized pathology resources for preclinical mouse models of childhood cancers. Michelle brings to this enterprise over 23 years professional experience in Histology and Immunohistochemistry. We are so lucky to have Michelle on our team!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi, Ph.D., visits HSC

Charles' mentor visits our university.

Staff writer, "Nobel Laureate Mario Capecchi, Ph.D., visits HSC", HSC News (UTHSCSA), April 23, 2008 [interview]

Friday, February 15, 2008

Special Report: Open Laboratories

The Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute is an example of a new movement in architecture and scientific culture.

San Antonio Business Journal, Special Report: Open Laboratories (interview). February 15, 2008, 21(54):28,33