Left to right: Dr. Mitch Diccianni, Jenna Mielke, Dr. Alice Yu, Olga Cohen and Ricky Wiliams (not shown Dr. Ayse Batova)
P.I. Alice Yu, MD., PhD, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology:
Dr. Yu's has more than 40 years of experience in developing cures and understanding the biology of childhood cancer research, has pioneered anti-GD2 therapy, and has either led or significantly contributed in numerous clinical trials to bring novel cancer therapeutics to market. She obtained her Medical Degree in 1968 from National Taiwan University & Hospital, and then continued her studies in the United States, earning a Master's degree in 1969 in Immunology and Microbiology from Yale University and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1973, also in Immunology and Microbiology. Dr. Yu joined the faculty of UCSD in 1977 and has been here ever since. She is board certified in Pediatrics with a subspecialty in Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Yu is a member of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Children's Oncology Group, the American Association of Cancer Research, American Society of Hematology, International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) and the Society for Glycobiology. She is currently the PI on a highly successful Phase III clinical trial for the immunotherapy of neuroblastoma, which involves more than 200 Children's Oncology Group (COG) institutions, and serves to guide neuroblastoma research and therapeutics as part of the COG Neuroblastoma Steering Committee. The success on anti-GD2 immunotherapy for high risk neuroblastoma is the first successful immunotherapy targeting a non-protein antigen. The significance of this clinical trial is reflected by its inclusion as one of the 15 major advances, and top 5 personalized medicine /targeted therapy in clinical cancer care for 2009. Her research is also focused on understanding the molecular characterization of tumor suppressor genes in the childhood cancers neuroblastoma and leukemia, and exploiting these discoveries in clinical trials. Her major research emphasis is to identify genotypes that correlate with outcome, response and toxicity of anti-GD2 immunotherapy in neuroblastoma she has developed, and taking them forward into clinical trials for neuroblastoma. Her recent research interests have expanded beyond childhood cancer to include breast cancer, stem cell, DNA vaccines and glycobiology, among other interests. Outside of the lab and clinic, Dr. Yu enjoys fine dining and playing with her grandchildren.
Mitchell Diccianni, PhD, (Project Scientist, BS/MS, BIO199 and BIO196 mentor), Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Dr. Diccianni obtained his Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry in 1982 from Stony Brook University in New York. He obtained a Ph.D. Pharmacology In 1989 in cardiovascular pharmacology at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. He was a visiting scientist at Tokyo University from 1990 – 1992 in cancer molecular biology. Since 1992, he has been at UCSD in the Department of Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology. He has authored >40 publications in top research journals with collaborations that include scientists at UCSD and throughout the USA, and internationally with scientists from Europe and Asia. Dr. Diccianni is a member of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Children's Oncology Group, the American Association of Cancer Research and American Society of Hematology. His focus is on basic research as well as translational biology, where he has been exploiting the unique molecular profiles of cancer cells for tumor cell-selective therapeutic interventions. He has seminal discoveries in leukemia and neuroblastoma involving long non-coding RNAs, microRNAs, phosphatases, tumor suppressor genes and novel fusion proteins, to name some of the more recent research discoveries. In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded the "Eminent Scientist of the Year" award in 2006. Outside of the lab, Dr. Diccianni enjoys hiking and coaching his daughter's futbol team.
Ayse Batova, PhD, Project Scientist in Pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Dr. Batova received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of South Carolina and obtained post-doctoral training at Telios Pharmaceuticals and at UCSD. Dr. Batova has been researching the molecular basis of cancer and investigating novel chemotherapeutic agents for more than 20 years. She has validated numerous targets for cancer therapeutics including but not limited to MTAP and GD2
. She has investigated novel target-selective therapeutic agents, both small molecules as well as biologics. Among these agents, AN-9, ch14.18, mAb1A7 entered clinical trials. Dr. Batova has also participated in phase II and III clinical trials for the immunotherapy of neuroblastoma, "COG ANBL0032/COG ANBL0931: Phase III Study of Chimeric anti-GD2 in High Risk Neuroblastoma Following Myeloablative Therapy and Autologous Stem Cell Rescue. Recently, Dr. Batova co-founded Visionary Pharmaceuticals Inc
. which expanded her research efforts to include targets involved in inflammation and auto-immune disorders. In recognition of her work, Dr. Batova has received the Padre's Biotech All Star award. She is a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the Center of Drug Discovery Innovation at UCSD. Dr. Batova believes in training future generations of scientists with an emphasis on the training of female students and medical professionals. She also has a parallel interested in therapeutics for animals with an emphasis on cats.
(SRAs: Richard Williams, Olga Cohen and Jenna Mielke)