Current Cancer-Focused Trainee Teams

The first cohort of pre- and postdoctoral trainees joined the TICaRT Program in August 2021. They will spend two years in the program, working as teams on joint projects.

Team Project: Identification of miRNA-Associated Therapeutic Targets in Colorectal Cancer Through Cutting-Edge Biochemical and Bioinformatics Methods

Nicholas Hiers, Predoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Mingyi Xie, Ph.D., Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Dissertation Project: Determination of the target RNA-directed miRNA degradation interactome in colorectal cancer tissue

Daniel Stribling, Predoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Rolf Renne, Ph.D., Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
Dissertation Project: Elucidating the Role of Oncogenic Viral miRNAs in Kaposi’s Sarcoma via Development of Novel Computational Methods

Team Project: Discovery and Development of Novel Cancer Therapies

Peter Dib, Predoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Maria Zajac-Kaye, Ph.D., Anatomy & Cell Biology
Dissertation Project: Thymidylate in Cancer Development and Therapeutics

Derek Leas, Postdoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Z. Robert Huigens, Ph.D., Medicinal Chemistry
Research Project: Cleavage of Indole Alkaloids to Discover New Anticancer Agents

Team Project: The Role of the Human Gut Microbiome in Combinatorial Cancer Therapy Response in Pansolid Tumors

Rachel Newsome, Predoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Christian Jobin, Ph.D., Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition
Dissertation Project: The role of the human gut microbiome in cancer immunotherapy response

Bayli DiVita-Dean, Postdoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Catherine Flores, Ph.D., Neurosurgery
Research Project: The impact of solid tumors on hematopoietic stem cells

Team Project: Tailoring Virtual Human Voice and Character Customization as a Part of a Telehealth Intervention to Promote Colorectal Cancer Screening Among Black Adults

Andrew Maxim, Predoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Benjamin Lok, Ph.D., Computer Science
Dissertation Project: Modeling Dynamic Virtual Human Interventions – Leveraging Computer – Generated Voices.

Eric Cooks, Postdoctoral Fellow
Mentor: Janice Krieger, Ph.D., Advertising
Research Project: Choices for character customization as part of a telehealth intervention to increase colorectal cancer screening among racial minorities.


  • Cooks EJ, Duke KA, Neil JM, Vilaro MJ, Wilson-Howard D, Modave F, George TJ, Odedina FT, Lok BC, Carek P, Laber EB, Davidian M, Krieger JL. Telehealth and racial disparities in colorectal cancer screening: A pilot study of how virtual clinician characteristics influence screening intentions. J Clin Transl Sci. 2022 Apr 8;6(1):e48. doi: 10.1017/cts.2022.386. PMID: 35619640; PMCID: PMC9108377.
  • Sebastian M, Dean BD, Flores CT. Immunotherapy against Gliomas. In (Ed.), Brain Tumors. IntechOpen. Link, 2021.
  • Newsome RC, Yang Y, Jobin C. The microbiome, gastrointestinal cancer, and immunotherapy. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022 Feb;37(2):263-272. doi: 10.1111/jgh.15742. Epub 2021 Dec 3. PMID: 34820895.
  • Newsome RC, Gharaibeh RZ, Pierce CM, da Silva WV, Paul S, Hogue SR, Yu Q, Antonia S, Conejo-Garcia JR, Robinson LA, Jobin C. Interaction of bacterial genera associated with therapeutic response to immune checkpoint PD-1 blockade in a United States cohort. Genome Med. 2022 Mar 29;14(1):35. doi: 10.1186/s13073-022-01037-7. PMID: 35346337; PMCID: PMC8961902.
  • Newsome R, Jobin C. Finding clues in unexpected places: detection of pancreatic cancer through the faecal microbiome. Gut. 2022 Jul;71(7):1247-1248. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-326710. Epub 2022 Mar 8. PMID: 35260443; PMCID: PMC9177648.
  • Li L, Sheng P, Li T, Fields CJ, Hiers NM, Wang Y, Li J, Guardia CM, Licht JD, Xie M. Widespread microRNA degradation elements in target mRNAs can assist the encoded proteins. Genes Dev. 2021 Dec 1;35(23-24):1595-1609. doi: 10.1101/gad.348874.121. Epub 2021 Nov 24. PMID: 34819352; PMCID: PMC8653786.
  • Fields CJ, Li L, Hiers NM, Li T, Sheng P, Huda T, Shan J, Gay L, Gu T, Bian J, Kilberg MS, Renne R, Xie M. Sequencing of Argonaute-bound microRNA/mRNA hybrids reveals regulation of the unfolded protein response by microRNA-320a. PLoS Genet. 2021 Dec 16;17(12):e1009934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009934. PMID: 34914716; PMCID: PMC8675727.