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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Current Fellows in the Clinical Genetics Branch

Meet the current fellows in the Clinical Genetics Branch and learn about current research training opportunities.

Rotana Alsaggaf, Ph.D., M.S. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Rotana Alsaggaf, Ph.D., M.S., became a postdoctoral fellow at the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in June 2018. Dr. Alsaggaf earned a B.S. in biological science with an interdisciplinary certificate in biomedical engineering from Colorado State University in 2009, an M.S. in epidemiology and preventive medicine with a concentration in human genetics in 2015 and a Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2018—both from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. As a predoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Shahinaz Gadalla, M.D, Ph.D., she conducted her doctoral research utilizing the United Kingdom Clinical Practice Research Datalink to evaluate the risk of benign and malignant tumors in patients with myotonic dystrophy type I and explore factors associated with their development. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Alsaggaf continues to work with Dr. Gadalla on epidemiological and molecular analyses to inform cancer predisposition in myotonic dystrophy, and to study the role of telomere biology in cancer susceptibility.

 Scientific Publications – Rotana Alsaggaf

Kelvin C. de Andrade, Ph.D., M.Sc. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Kelvin César de Andrade became a postdoctoral fellow in the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) after successfully defending his doctoral dissertation in May 2018. He first joined the branch in March 2015, while a student at the A.C. Camargo Cancer Center, São Paulo, Brazil, to complete the research component of his master's degree. As a postdoctoral fellow under the mentorship of Sharon Savage, M.D., Chief of CGB, Dr. de Andrade continues to study genetic and behavioral factors that could be associated with cancer risk, progression, and phenotypic variability in Li-Fraumeni Syndrome patients.

Scientific Publications – Kelvin César de Andrade

Jessica Bayer B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Jessica Bayer B.S. joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) of NCI as a postbaccalaureate fellow in December 2016.  She earned a B.S. in microbiology and molecular genetics from Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.  She was previously the laboratory manager at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research at Arizona State University, assaying salivary biomarkers for measures of psychosocial stress, development, and evaluation of social networks.  In CGB, she works with Jennifer T Loud, R.N., C.R.N.P., D.N.P., Assistant Branch Chief, doing psychosocial research on Li-Fraumeni Syndrome families.

Sonia Bhala, B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Sonia Bhala, B.S., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in June 2017 after receiving her B.S. in neuroscience from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania. Her undergraduate work included time in the Lafayette mathematics department working with Dr. Robert Root to study the role of numerical formatting in healthcare decision-making. During her undergraduate career, Ms. Bhala also worked in the behavioral/computational neuroscience lab with Dr. Luis Schettino studying the effects of behavioral modification on white matter near the region of the corpus callosum. As a summer intern in the Biostatistics Branch (BB), DCEG, Ms. Bhala worked with Philip Rosenberg, Ph.D., and William Anderson, M.D., M.P.H., on a study of meningioma incidence in the United States—work that she is continuing as a postbaccalaureate fellow in CGB. In CGB, she is working under the mentorship of Sharon Savage, M.D. on clinical and epidemiologic studies of dyskeratosis congenita, a telomere biology disorder. Ms. Bhala is working on a study describing the neuropsychological disorders and brain MRI abnormalities found in dyskeratosis congenita patients. Her primary research interests include interdisciplinary clinical and epidemiologicstudies that incorporate biostatistics, public health, and neuroscience.

Megan Clarke, Ph.D., M.H.S – Postdoctoral Fellow

Megan Clarke, Ph.D., M.H.S., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2016. Dr. Clarke earned an M.H.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2010 and a Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2016, both from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Prior to completing her Ph.D., Dr. Clarke was a postbaccalaureate fellow in CGB working with Mark Schiffman, M.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, on human papillomavirus (HPV) molecular epidemiology and natural history studies. For her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Clarke analyzed electronic medical records to explore patient and provider factors related to HPV vaccine initiation and completion. She also pursued her interests in obesity and molecular epidemiology by investigating the influence of maternal body mass index and weight gain on cord blood DNA methylation patterns in genes related to cancer and obesity. Under the mentorship of Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, CGB, Dr. Clarke works on molecular epidemiologic studies of gynecological cancers, with a particular focus on etiologic biomarkers that have a high potential for improving early detection and risk stratification.

Scientific Publications – Megan Clarke

Maria Demarco, Ph.D., M.P.H. - Postdoctoral Fellow

Maria Demarco, Ph.D., M.P.H., started her postdoctoral fellowship at the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in May 2017. She joined the branch as a predoctoral fellow in September 2015, while working on her Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of Maryland. Her main research interest is translational epidemiology, particularly focused on cancer screening and prevention. As a predoctoral fellow, Maria Demarco worked under the mentorship of  Mark Schiffman, M.D., M.P.H, senior investigator, CGB, and Sam Mbulaiteye, M.D., senior investigator, Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch, to study: (1) the high prevalence of HPV in sub-Saharan (Nigerian) older women, and (2) viral and behavioral co-factors of HPV progression to precancer with clinical implications in risk stratification. As a postdoctoral fellow Dr. Demarco continues to work with Dr. Schiffman on risk estimates and analyses to inform US cervical cancer screening guidelines.

Scientific Publications – Maria Demarco

Moises Fiesco-Roa, M.D. – Predoctoral fellow

Moises Fiesco-Roa, M.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a predoctoral fellow in March 2017. Dr. Fiesco-Roa received his M.D. in 2011 and a degree in medical genetics in 2014, both from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Working with Sara Frias, Ph.D., and Alfredo Rodriguez, Ph.D., he studied Fanconi anemia at the National Institute of Pediatrics. In 2014, he became Board certified as a medical geneticist by the Mexican Board of Genetics. From 2014 to 2016 he worked at the Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Chiapas, Mexico as a clinical geneticist. In CGB, Dr. Fiesco-Roa is working under the mentorship of Blanche P. Alter, M.D., M.P.H., senior clinician, to investigate phenotype-genotype correlation in Fanconi anemia patients and  cancer risk in their relatives. He is also working to create a national registry of Fanconi anemia patients in Mexico.

Matthew Gianferante, M.D. - Clinical Fellow

Matthew Gianferante, M.D., joined the DCEG, as a postdoctoral clinical fellow.  Dr. Gianferante obtained his M.D. at the Uniformed Service University in 2011 and completed his pediatric residency at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children in 2014. Dr. Gianferante is a Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinical Fellow at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and an officer in the United States Public Health Service. He joins the division for the final two years of his clinical fellowship to study pediatric cancer genetic etiology. In the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB), Dr. Gianferante will be working with Dr. Lisa Mirabello and Dr. Sharon Savage to investigate the disease-associated mutations in nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome families and pediatric medulloblastoma trios using whole-exome sequencing data.

Scientific Publications - Matthew Gianferante

Sarah Irvin, M.S. - Predoctoral Fellow

portrait of Sarah Irvin

Sarah Irvin, M.S., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in November 2017 as a predoctoral fellow. Ms. Irvin earned her M.S. in epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with a concentration in cancer epidemiology. Prior to joining NCI, Sarah worked as a consultant in the field of pharmacoepidemiology, and interned at Bayer AG in Berlin, Germany. Ms. Irvin is working under the direction of Dr. Nicolas Wentzensen on projects investigating immune markers in cervical cancer development and the risk of ovarian cancer by subtype after exposure to multiple inflammatory exposures.

Jung Kim, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jung Kim, Ph.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in October 2016. Dr. Kim earned her Ph.D. in cancer biology from the Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences at Northwestern University in 2015, after which she completed a one-year postdoctoral fellowship working with Dr. Jindan Yu. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research focused on the transcriptional regulation of key signaling pathways in prostate cancer, including miRNA and epigenetic regulators. In DCEG, she is working with Douglas Stewart, M.D., investigator, CGB, to study the population genetics and phenotype of DICER1 and associated miRNA processing genes, and to analyze somatic genomic data of DICER1-associated malignancies.

Scientific Publications - Jung Kim

Tamara Litwin, Ph.D., M.P.H. - Postdoctoral Fellow

Tamara Litwin, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2016.  Dr. Litwin earned her Ph.D. in biological sciences in 2014 from the University of Cambridge through the NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program.  She then went on to earn her M.P.H. with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2016. For her doctoral research, performed at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and with the United Kingdom Medical Research Council’s Mitochondrial Biology Unit, Dr. Litwin used biophysical methods to investigate how DNA topology affects DNA interactions with topoisomerases and other DNA binding proteins.  Dr. Litwin’s research interests include the discovery and translation of biomarkers for risk prediction, prevention, and early detection of gynecologic cancers.  She is working with Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, CGB, on projects related to the molecular epidemiology of gynecologic cancers.

Scientific Publications – Tamara Litwin

Lisa J. McReynolds, M.D., Ph.D. – Clinical Fellow

Lisa J. McReynolds, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in August 2016. She earned her M.D. and her Ph.D. at Albert Einstein College of Medicine as a Rudin Scholar in the Medical Scientist Training Program (2009).  She completed her dissertation work in the laboratory of Todd Evans, Ph.D., focusing on Smad signaling in a zebrafish model of hematopoiesis.  She completed a residency in pediatrics at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center in 2012, and a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology in the combined NCI-Johns Hopkins University program in 2016. During her clinical fellowship, Dr. McReynolds developed expertise in GATA2-deficiency, an inherited primary immunodeficiency disorder associated with very high rates of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML), under the mentorship of Steven Holland, M.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. She is working under the mentorship of Sharon A. Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, on the inherited bone marrow failure study. She is focused on gene discovery and genome characterization in marrow failure patients.

Scientific Publications – Lisa McReynolds

Leatrisse Oba, M.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Leatrisse Oba, M.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in March 2018. Dr. Oba earned her M.D. from the University of Brasilia, Brazil in 2001, and worked in clinical research for four years. She completed her residency in pediatrics in 2009 at Asa Sul’s Regional Hospital, FEPECS, Brasília, Brazil. After her residency, she worked as a pediatrician and a clinical assistant in the Emergency department, collaborating with the Pediatrics Residency Program at the University Hospital of Brasilia and Asa Sul’s Regional Hospital, Brazil. Dr. Oba first joined CGB as a special volunteer in December 2016, working with Maria Isabel Achatz, M.D., Ph.D., adjunct investigator, and Payal Khincha, M.D., M.B.B.S., staff clinician, on a collaborative project evaluating the effect of cancer treatment on the development of subsequent cancers in Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) patients. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Oba is working with Sharon A. Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, and Dr. Khincha, continuing the study of radiotherapy and chemotherapy effects on LFS patients, as well as researching screening exam findings on LFS patients, and novel clinical findings in other cancer predisposition syndromes.

Scientific Publications – Leatrisse Oba

Maisa Pinheiro, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Maisa Pinheiro joined the Clinical Genetics Branch as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2017. She completed a Bachelor`s degree in biology at the State University of North Paraná, Brazil, and received her Ph.D. in genetics from the São Paulo State University, Brazil, in 2016. Her Ph.D. research was focused on evaluating whole exome sequencing data to identify novel candidate genes that predispose to familial breast and thyroid cancers. Dr. Pinheiro performed part of her thesis work at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network and the University of Toronto, Canada. Under the mentorship of Lisa Mirabello, Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Investigator, CGB, her work in DCEG is focused on HPV genomic studies including the evaluation of HPV genome variation and its associations with carcinogenicity.

Scientific Publications - Maisa Pinheiro

Youjin Wang, Ph.D. - Postdoctoral Fellow

Youjin Wang, Ph.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2016. Dr. Wang earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University at Buffalo, SUNY School of Public Health and Health Professions in 2016. Working with Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende, her doctoral research focused on the interactions of genetic susceptibility, menopausal estrogen use, and calcium/vitamin D supplementation on fracture risk among postmenopausal women. Dr. Wang’s research interests are to study the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in cancer risk and cancer treatment outcome. She is working with Shahinaz Gadalla, M.D., Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Tenure Track Investigator, CGB, to understand the etiology of cancer susceptibility in patients with myotonic dystrophy.

Scientific Publications – Youjin Wang

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Learn about research training opportunities in the Clinical Genetics Branch.