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Laboratory Research


Education and Training Opportunities 

We provide research and training opportunities to the following categories of students: 
  • Residents who are interested in various short to mid-term (4-12 months) research projects.
  • Postdoctoral research fellows supported by federal or industry grants or fellowships.
  • Graduate students enrolled in various UCD graduate study programs.
  • Summer research opportunities for medical students and undergraduate students. 
 

Course offered: The Biological Basis of Radiotherapy, open to residents, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Please get in touch with Dr. Sana Karam for course information. 

 

Location: RC-1 south, 4th floor.

Sana Karam, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Radiation Oncology

Education: M.D., Ph.D. 

BS: American University of Beirut, Lebanon  

MS: University of Maryland, Baltimore  

PhD: University of Washington, Seattle  

MD: Georgetown University, Washington DC 

 

Dr. Karam joined the department of Radiation Oncology in November 2013. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Washington, Seattle, where her studies focused on understanding mechanisms of neurodevelopment. Dr. Karam developed an interest in oncology research during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University. She completed her residency training in radiation oncology at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC.  Dr. Karam is a recipient of the Paul Calabresi Clinical Oncology Scholars Award (K12), and the pre head and neck cancer SPORE Career Enhancement Program (CEP) award. 


 

Research 

 

Dr. K​aram’s laboratory is focused on basic and translational research related to head and neck and CNS cancer.  We use molecular, cellular, and preclinical animal models to understand mechanisms of tumor response to radiation treatment. Although radiation is a primary modality in the treatment of head and neck and CNS cancers, there’s considerable progress to be made with enhancing the efficacy of radiation therapy. One of the main research focuses in Dr. Karam’s lab is the development of novel therapeutics that can radio-sensitize tumors and render them more vulnerable to radiation damage. Our lab has extensively studied how targeting members of the Eph gene family, the largest family of receptor tyrosine kinases, can enhance tumor radiosensitization while limiting radiation toxicity to normal tissue. Another major focus of Dr. Karam’s lab is studying the effects of radiation on the immune system in pre-clinical tumor models. Specifically, radiation has been shown to play a role in modulating T cell populations. Our lab is interested in unraveling mechanisms of synergy between radiation therapy and immune therapy. We use both in-vivo and in-vitro models to understand functional and molecular mechanisms behind tumor response to radiation treatment. Understanding key concepts such as apoptosis, angiogenesis, invasion, proliferation, and immune modulation hold great promise for designing strategies to effectively target cancer. Our goal is to open IRB approved clinical trials to translate the research findings to patients with these aggressive malignancies.

Immunofluorescence staining in head and neck cancer cell line, MSK-921, showing colocalization of EphB4 (green) and the EGFR receptor (red). Nuclear staining with Dapi is shown in blue.
 
 
 

Lab Personnel




 

Shilpa Bhatia, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Fellow

 

Shilpa received her Master’s degree in Medical Biotechnology from Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (India). Thereafter, she joined the department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center where she received her Ph.D. degree with a major in cancer gene therapy. She is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Radiation Oncology. The focus of her research is to identify and validate novel molecular targets that can be used as radiosensitizers for human malignancies. In her free time, Shilpa likes to explore new places and capture some fun moments in her camera. 

 

Sanjana BukkapatnamUndergraduate Student

 

Sanjana is currently an undergraduate student working on her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Colorado at Denver. In the future, she aspires to attend medical school and pursue cancer research. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, spending time with her friends and family, and doing yoga.


 

Ayman Oweida, PhD - Postdoctoral Fellow 

 

Ayman grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and moved to London, Ontario to pursue his undergraduate education in Biophysics at the University of Western Ontario. He completed his MSc in Medical Biophysics investigating novel applications of MRI in animal models of multiple sclerosis. During his PhD in Experimental Medicine, Ayman worked on orthotopic models of lung cancer and investigated biological and molecular determinants of tumor response and resistance to stereotactic ablative radiotherapy. Ayman is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Radiation Oncology where he is investigating how radiation can modulate tumor immunogenicity in head and neck cancers. Recent advances in the field of immunotherapy are particularly interesting in radiation oncology as radiation can modulate tumor immunogenicity and render tumors increasingly susceptible to immunotherapy. Away from the bench, Ayman enjoys writing, working with youth through personal counseling, and outdoor activities with his wife and 3 kids.


 

Shelby Lennon, BSChm - PRA

Shelby received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Biochemistry Track from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, in 2016. As an undergraduate research assistant, she worked with nucleic acids and bacterial riboswitches. She then moved to Colorado to be a professional research assistant in the Radiation Oncology Department. She is working on a project that focuses on radiosensitization of pancreatic cancer. When not researching, Shelby loves reading and exploring her new home in Colorado.


 

Andy Phan, BS – Medical Student


 

Andy is a medical student at the University of Colorado. He received his degree in Biochemistry from the University of Arizona in 2014. During his undergraduate studies, he worked in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology on projects pertaining to Parkinson’s disease and MDMA neurotoxicity. Currently, Andy is characterizing ​the radiosensitivity profiles of multiple different thyroid cancer cell lines and aligning genetic biomarkers to these phenotypes. In his free time, Andy enjoys playing chess and taking care of his cat named Apollo. 


 

Nomin Uyanga - Undergraduate Student 

​ 

Nomin is currently a sophomore at Colorado School of Mines. She is majoring in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and minoring in biomedical engineering. Outside of classes she is a General Chemistry teaching assistant and commutes to AMC to provide assistance to everyone in the lab. Her main goal is to absorb and learn lab experiments and its associated techniques while learning to critically connect it to the grand concept. Currently, she is focusing on animal work and tumor analysis. After graduating in 2020, Nomin aspires to attend medical school and apply her newfound knowledge to create a better healthcare system in Mongolia. In her free time, Nomin likes to spend time playing basketball and volleyball with her friends and family.   

 

Mohammad Hararah - Otolaryngology Resident PGY-3
 
Mohammad is in his third year of residency of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Colorado. He is born and raised in San Francisco, CA. He pursued his undergraduate education at the University of California Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology. He completed an MPH at Johns Hopkins University and his MD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is interested in pursuing a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology and will be working in the Dr. Karam’s to help investigate how radiation can modulate tumor immunogenicity in head and neck cancers. When he manages to have free time outside of clinical duties or research, he enjoys hiking, skiing, and exploring the food scene in Colorado with his wife.

Ben Van Court, BS – PRA


Ben received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2017. As an undergraduate, he worked on image processing research in the Department of Applied Mathematics and tutored Digital Logic for Electrical Engineering students. In his free time, Ben likes to paint and record music.

 

Contact information:

Dr. Sana Karam​​                                       

Tel : (720)-848-0100

Email Dr. Karam

Dr. David Raben

Tel : (720)-848-0100

Email Dr. Raben