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Current Fellows in the Clinical Genetics Branch

Meet the current fellows in the Clinical Genetics Branch and learn about current CGB 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

Burak Altintas, M.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Burak Altintas

Burak Altintas, M.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in July 2019. Dr. Altintas earned his M.D. from Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey in November 2018. His research interests include pediatric hematological malignancies and cancer predisposition syndromes, including inherited bone marrow failure syndromes and RASopathies, as well as immunodeficiency syndromes. Dr. Altintas is working with Blanche Alter, M.D., M.P.H., senior clinician, and Lisa McReynolds, M.D., Ph.D., assistant clinical investigator, CGB, to investigate genotype-phenotype associations in patients with Fanconi anemia participating in CGB clinical studies and characterization of somatic mutations in patients with inherited bone marrow failure syndromes. He plans to do a pediatric residency after his time at the NCI.

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

Megan Clarke, Ph.D., M.H.S – Research 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, CGB, 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. Dr. Clarke was promoted to research fellow in 2019. Under the mentorship of Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, CGB, she 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

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 Lisa Mirabello, Ph.D., senior investigator, CGB, and Sharon Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, 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

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 mentorship of Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, CGB, 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. – Research 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, where she was promoted to research fellow in 2019, she is working with Douglas Stewart, M.D., senior 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

Marena Niewisch, M.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Marena Niewisch

Marena Niewisch, M.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2019. Dr. Niewisch earned her M.D. from Eberhard Karls University of Tuebingen, Germany. She completed her residency in pediatrics at the University of Freiburg Children’s Hospital, Germany in 2016, followed by a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at Hannover Medical School, Germany. She has previously worked in clinical research focusing on myelodysplastic syndrome in children.As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Niewisch is working under the mentorship of Sharon A. Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, and DCEG Clinical Director, to investigate genotype-phenotype correlations in dyskeratosis congenita and associated telomere biology disorders.

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.B.B.S., M.S.H.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.

Valencia Owens, B.S. - Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Portrait of Valencia Owens

Valencia Owens, B.S., joined the Clinical Genetic Branch (CBG) as a postbaccalaureate fellow in September 2019. In CBG, Ms. Owens is working with Sharon A. Savage, M.D., Chief and DCEG Clinical Director, and Lisa J. McReynolds, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Investigator. She is also working in the DCEG Cancer Genomics Research (CGR) Laboratory under the mentorship of Seth Brodie, Ph.D., senior investigator. Ms. Owens graduated in August 2019 from the University of Minnesota where she completed her B.S. in psychology. As an undergraduate student, Ms. Owens worked at the STEM Cell Institute under Dr. Jakub Tolar, where she was involved in studies of childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy (ccALD). Subsequently, Ms. Owens completed her capstone project in a neuroscience lab under Dr. Nicola Grissom at the University of Minnesota; she investigated correlations between learned behavior and the nucleus accumbens. As a postbaccalaureate fellow in CGB and CGR, Ms. Owens is working on functional studies of variants discovered in exon sequencing studies and will work on variant genomics using bioinformatic tools.

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., senior 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

Carolann Risley, Ph.D., M.S.N. - Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Carolann Risley

Carolann Risley, Ph.D., M.S.N., joined the Clinical Epidemiology Unit in the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in July 2019. Dr. Risley earned an M.S.N. from the University of Pennsylvania and a certification as a women’s health nurse practitioner in 1992. She is a cervical colposcopist and has practiced throughout the Northeastern and Southern United States. She earned her Ph.D. in nursing in 2019 from the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) under the mentorship of Drs. Mary Stewart and Kim Geisinger. Prior to completing her doctoral degree, she studied determinants of HPV vaccination uptake and provider recommendations. For her doctoral dissertation, she analyzed electronic medical records to examine racial differences in HPV 16 prevalence in women receiving cervical cancer screening in Mississippi. Dr. Risley serves as the co-PI of the STRIDES study (STudying Risk to Improve DisparitES in cervical cancer in Mississippi), a study led by investigators at UMMC, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the NCI. The study is designed to evaluate risk of cervical precancer and to study novel biomarkers in women undergoing screening in Mississippi. Under the mentorship of Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., M.S., Deputy Chief and senior investigator, CGB, and Megan Clarke, Ph.D., research fellow, CGB, Dr. Risley is conducting epidemiologic analyses evaluating HPV natural history and cervical cancer risk in this racially-diverse and underserved population.

Michael Sargen, M.D. – Clinical Fellow

Michael Sargen, M.D., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in July 2018 as a postdoctoral clinical fellow. Dr. Sargen obtained his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2013 and completed his dermatology residency at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He subsequently completed a dermatopathology fellowship at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California. Dr. Sargen is board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology. He joins DCEG to study the clinical, histopathologic, and genetic characteristics of melanoma families. Dr. Sargen is also interested in genetic and environmental factors that modify melanoma risk within this patient population. In the Clinical Genetics Branch, Dr. Sargen works with Alisa Goldstein, Ph.D., senior investigator, and Margaret Tucker, M.D., scientist emerita, to investigate these questions as well as provide dermatology care to an American cohort of melanoma families.

 Scientific Publications - Michael Sargen

Radhika Srivastava, B.A. - Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Portrait of Radhika Srivastava

Radhika Srivastava, B.A., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postbaccalaureate fellow in September 2019. Ms. Srivastava graduated with distinction with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Duke University in May 2019. For her undergraduate honors thesis, she evaluated the culturally driven maternal influences on children’s language development through the Wilbourn Infant Laboratory at Duke. Her undergraduate research additionally focused on analyzing the mental health of orphaned and vulnerable children in a residential care program in New Delhi, India with the Duke Global Health Institute. At NCI, Ms. Srivastava is working under the guidance of Jennifer Loud, R.N., C.R.N.P., D.N.P., Assistant Branch Chief, CGB, to characterize different behavioral and genomic factors associated with patients with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. She is also working to gain clinical exposure. She hopes to attend medical school after completing her fellowship at the NCI.

Ashley Thompson, B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Ashley Thompson, B.S., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postbaccalaureate fellow through the NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program in June 2018. Ms. Thompson earned her B.S. in biochemistry from Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Her undergraduate research focused on analyzing the molecular weight distribution of a commercially-available synthetic biocide, in order to ascertain its biological efficacy. Ms. Thompson is working with Sharon A. Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, to determine if novel genetic variants in the regulator of telomere elongation helicase 1 gene (RTEL1) will result in alternative isoforms of the protein. The novel genetic variants will be studied for functional changes or changes in gene expression using RNA sequencing from patient-derived samples. Ms. Thompson is also involved with other genomic efforts in the Inherited Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes Study. She hopes to attend medical school to obtain her M.D./Ph.D. after her time at the NCI.

Mone't Thompson, B.S. - Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Mone't Thompson, B.S., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) in November 2018 as a postbaccalaureate fellow in the inaugural Intramural Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (iCURE) program, a new NCI program that supports mentored research experiences in the multidisciplinary research environment of the NCI for qualified scientists. Ms. Thompson received her B.S. in biology from Bowie State University, during which time she worked on research involving the key signaling pathway modulations that precede the development of sarcopenia. Ms. Thompson is an aspiring M.D./Ph.D. student and is interested in cancer biology, treatment, and prevention. As a postbaccalaureate fellow under the mentorship of Sharon Savage, M.D., Chief and senior investigator, CGB, Ms. Thompson is working on different aspects of myotonic dystrophy and Li-Fraumeni Syndrome.

Youjin Wang, Ph.D. - Research 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. In July 2018 Dr. Wang was promoted to research fellow. She is working with Shahinaz Gadalla, M.D., Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, CGB, to evaluate the effect of pre-transplant molecular markers and genetic alterations on outcomes after hematopoietic cell transplantation and to examine the association between pharmaceutical agents and the risk of cancer.

Scientific Publications – Youjin Wang

Catherine Wilsnack, M.S.W., L.M.S.W – Predoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Catherine Wilsnack

Catherine Wilsnack, M.S.W., joined the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a predoctoral fellow in July 2019. Ms. Wilsnack earned her Master of Social Work (MSW) from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Licensed Social Worker. She previously earned a B.S. in psychology with a minor in hispanic studies and social and economic justice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Wilsnack’s graduate research was focused on understanding the challenges faced by families with Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS), and she primarily has clinical experience working with patients and families with terminal illnesses in death, dying, and bereavement care settings. During her fellowship, she will continue to work on LFS related projects, as well as performing psychosocial research for Inherited Bone Marrow Failure Syndromes (IBFMS) under the mentorship of Sharon Savage, M.D., DCEG Clinical Director and Chief and senior investigator, CGB, and Dr. Allison Werner-Lin, University of Pennsylvania.