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GSBS faculty members lead UT-MD Anderson Moon Shots Program

September 27, 2012

Tracey Barnett

Eight University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston faculty members and one visiting lecturer all from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have been selected to contribute to groundbreaking research as part of the six teams in MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program.

The Moon Shots Program is an unprecedented effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.  It is built upon a “disruptive paradigm” that brings together the best attributes of both academia and industry by creating cross-functional professional teams working in a goal-oriented, milestone-driven manner to convert knowledge into tests, devices, drugs and policies that can benefit patients as quickly as possible.

The Program’s name is inspired by President John Kennedy’s famous 1962 Moon speech, made 50 years ago in September at Rice University, just a mile from the main MD Anderson campus.

The Program will initially target eight cancers: acute myeloid leukemia/ myelodysplastic syndrome; chronic lymphocytic leukemia; melanoma; lung cancer; prostate cancer; triple-negative breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Listed below are GSBS faculty members participating in the Moon Shot Program:

Breast and ovarian cancer

dr. m-c hung

Mien-Chie Hung, Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncology
Dr. Hung’s lab studies the role of oncogenes (cancer-inducing) and antioncogenes (tumor suppressor) in cancer creation from the aspects of molecular and cellular biology. 

dr. g mills

Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair and Professor, Systems Biology
Dr. Mills’ lab has made significant contributions to the understanding of how ovarian cancer begins, including the identification and development of lysophosphatidic acid (a phospholipid derivative based on a class of lipids that are a major component of all cell membranes that can act as a signaling molecule) as a possible marker for early-stage ovarian cancer and as a potential target for therapy. 

dr. a sood

Anil Sood, M.D.
Professor, Gynecologic Oncology & Reproductive Medicine
Dr. Sood has worked extensively as a cancer biologist with expertise in both cell biology and molecular biology. His research is focused on identifying key mechanisms involved in ovarian cancer growth and progression including angiogenesis (the physiological process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels) and invasion.

Acute myeloid leukemia/ Myelodysplastic syndromes

dr. g mg

Guillermo Garcia-Manero, M.D.
Professor, Leukemia
Dr. Garcia-Manero’s research focuses on improving outcomes of patients with leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) by studying the molecular basis of these diseases and developing new therapeutic alternatives.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

dr. w plunkett

William Plunkett, Ph.D.
Professor, Experimental Therapeutics
Dr. Plunkett’s research interests include cellular and molecular responses to DNA damage by anticancer drugs; development and validation of strategies for dysregulation of cell cycle checkpoint pathways and for inhibition of DNA repair mechanisms; and investigations of the signaling pathways that lead to cell death as a consequence of these events.

Lung cancer

dr. heymach

John Heymach, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Thoracic/Head & Neck Medical Oncology
Dr. Heymach’s research focuses on the development of biomarkers for selecting patients most likely to benefit from targeted agents; investigating mechanisms of therapeutic resistance; and understanding the regulation of angiogenesis in lung cancer. He is also the director of the Thoracic Blood Biomarker Laboratory.


dr. ger

Jeffrey Gershenwald, M.D.
Professor, Surgical Oncology
Dr. Gershenwald’s lab focuses on the identification and characterization of molecular events associated with melanoma progression in order to identify new prognostic factors and targets for anti-tumor and anti-metastasis therapy.

dr. davies

Michael Davies, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Melanoma Medical Oncology
Dr. Davies is a graduate of GSBS and has more than 10 years of experience in the analysis of kinase signaling pathways, a cellular process involving an enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of a proenzyme to an active enzyme, in melanoma.


Christopher Logothetis, M.D.*
Chair and Professor, Genitourinary Medical Oncology
*Dr. Logothetis is a visiting lecturer at the Graduate School. He was awarded the CaP CURE Award (1993-2003) from The Association for the Cure of Cancer of the Prostate which provides funding to scientists searching for cures and controls for advanced prostate cancer.