National Cancer Institute

nirali shah, md - site lead

Dr. Shah is a physician scientist who serves as the Head of the Hematologic Malignancies Section of the Pediatric Oncology Branch. Her primary research interests focus on translation of immunotherapeutic approaches to treat high-risk hematologic malignancies in children, adolescents and young adults. She has a particular interest in prevention and treatment of relapsed disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Her clinical trials focus on exploring and optimizing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell based strategies and other antibody based therapies to target surface proteins found on leukemia cells to improve outcomes for chemotherapy refractory disease. Additional areas of expertise include pediatric hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in both malignant and non-malignant diseases, development of early phase clinical trials in pediatric oncology, and ethical considerations for inclusion of minors in research. Dr. Shah also serves as the NCI Fellowship Program director for the joint Johns Hopkins Hospital-National Cancer Institute Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program.

rosie kaplan, md - co-site lead

Dr. Rosandra Kaplan is a physician scientist and leads the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Section in the Pediatric Oncology Branch in the NCI. She discovered the concept of the pre-metastatic niche which is a specialized environment that can regulate solid tumor metastasis. Dr. Kaplan’s team studies how different cancers impact the systemic immune system and stromal healing system in different ways, leading to alterations in the types and behavioral states of immune and non-immune cells across the body. She studies how myeloid cell changes, in particular, may impact the efficacy of immunotherapy including CAR T cell therapy and has developed a new myeloid based cell therapy approach that may hold promise in limiting cancer progression. Dr. Kaplan has recently received the NCI Director’s Outstanding Translational Research Award and leads the pediatric solid tumor cell therapy team within the Center for Cancer Research. Dr. Kaplan also leads clinical trials focused on immunotherapies and therapies modulating the tumor microenvironment to treat and prevent pediatric solid tumors.

naomi taylor, md phd - investigator

Naomi Taylor pursued her MD/ PhD studies at Yale University School of Medicine followed by Pediatrics training at Yale New Haven Hospital and the Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles Bone Marrow Transplantation Program. She is presently Senior Investigator and Director of Basic-to-Translational Research in the Pediatric Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute. She also maintains an adjunct Professor position at the University of Montpellier, Institut de Génétique Moléculaire, in France where she began her research group in 1997. Her group’s expertise in T cell-based gene/cell therapies, metabolic regulation of normal and malignant hematopoiesis and thymus differentiation have been internationally recognized, and their data has promoted the development of optimized T-cell based immunotherapy protocols for cancer patients. Furthermore, the group’s recent studies on the interplay between metabolite transporters and fuel choice have resulted in the identification of new metabolic programs regulating erythropoiesis, physiological and pathological hematopoietic lineage commitment and modulation of T cell effector function in the context of anti-tumor immunotherapies.

sabina kaczanowska, phd - young investigator

Dr. Sabina Kaczanowska is a postdoctoral fellow in the Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis Section of the Pediatric Oncology Branch at the NCI. Her research under the mentorship of Dr. Rosandra Kaplan is focused on the role of the immune system in the metastasis of pediatric sarcomas and the pre-clinical development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of solid tumors. Throughout her career, Dr. Kaczanowska has received numerous awards in support and recognition of her research and has published several peer-reviewed manuscripts and review articles in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Her scientific aspirations are to expand on our understanding of immune-mediated mechanisms of tumor progression and metastasis and to contribute to the development of new therapies for the treatment of patients with cancer.

haneen shalabi, do - young investigator

Dr. Shalabi's primary research interests are novel immunotherapy targets for chemo-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her clinical focus is the treatment of relapsed/refractory pediatric patients with hematologic malignancies utilizing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies. Additional areas of interest include neurocognitive effects of immunotherapy in pediatric patients and bone marrow transplantation for patients with malignant and non-malignant diseases.

taisuke kondo, Md

Dr. Taisuke Kondo is a postdoctoral fellow in NCI. During his PhD. training, Dr. Kondo established a method to make stem cell memory-like CAR-T cells by metabolic reprogramming (Kondo et al. Nat. Commun, 2017, Kondo et al. Cancer Research, 2020). Now he is studying on CAR-T cell function during cytokine release syndrome after CAR-T infusion. His expertise is to improve the in vivo persistence of CAR-T cells by harnessing CAR signaling and metabolic reprogram.

kristin wessel

Kristin Wessel is a fourth-year clinical fellow in the Johns Hopkins/NCI Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Program. She developed a clinical interest in pediatric solid tumors and joined the Kaplan Lab in the NCI’s Pediatric Oncology Branch in 2018 . Dr. Wessel is currently studying changes in the stromal and immune compartments of the osteosarcoma microenvironment during tumor progression and metastasis.

marie pouzolles

I moved from France to the US where I have done my PhD on genetic immunodeficiencies working on the development of therapeutic strategies directly targeting the thymus. I am currently doing my Post-doctoral studies with Naomi Taylor at NIH. I am focusing on the role of nutrient transporters on the variability of response to CAR T cell.

haiying qin

As a senior Biologist at the NCI Pediatric Oncology Branch (POB), my research focuses on development of novel immunotherapy tools and support of the translational clinical trials in the treatment of children, adolescents and young adults with high-risk hematologic malignancies, relapsed/refractory leukemia, and solid tumors.

chris chien

Christopher Chien received his PhD in Tumor Biology from Georgetown University. He did fellowship in the Pediatric Oncology Branch (POB) at the National Cancer Institute where he studied CRLF2 leukemia cell biology and developed a novel chimeric antigen receptor for the treatment of both lymphocytic and myeloid leukemia under the guidance of Dr. Terry Fry. Dr. Chien is currently a senior Biologist under Dr. Naomi Taylor in the POB continuing work to further develop chimeric antigen receptor therapies. He is also supporting efforts to analyze samples from ongoing chimeric antigen receptor trials in the Pediatric Oncology Branch overseen by Dr. Nirali Shah to help refine these therapies moving forward.