Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center Research Program

The basic research component of the Melanoma Center serves as the hub providing a continuous source of new targets, biomarkers, therapeutic agents and translation of these discoveries into clinical protocols or trials to benefit melanoma patients. This is accomplished by the program through interactions with faculty throughout the Cancer Institute and scientific community. 

It involves identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets, discovery and development of new treatments and clinical evaluation of these experimental drugs in patients thereby providing a constant stream of new agents with improved clinical promise to treat this deadly disease.
The Melanoma Therapeutics Program focuses on malignant melanoma, which is the most deadliest form of skin cancer.  The central goal of his program is to unravel the biology and signaling pathways involved in melanoma tumor development in order to develop the next generation of therapeutic agents to treat this disease.  Specifically, it involves identification and validation of novel therapeutic targets, discovery and development of new treatments and clinical evaluation of these experimental drugs in patients.

Gavin P. Robertson, PhD, Director
Professor of Pharmacology, Pathology, Dermatology and Surgery, Director, Penn State Health Melanoma Center
Director, Melanoma Therapeutics, 
Director, Foreman Foundation Melanoma Research Laboratory
Area(s) of interest: Experimental Therapeutics Agent development for treatment of Melanoma, Apoptosis, Metastasis, Nanotechnologies/Liposomes and RNAi

Rogerio Neves, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery and Dermatology and Medicine.
Deputy Director Penn State Health Melanoma Center.
Director, Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology Program
Clinical Science Leader, Melanoma and Area(s) of interest: Cutaneous oncology, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research of melanoma, cutaneous sarcomas and other skin cancers

James Adair, PhD
Professor of Material Sciences
Area(s) of interest: Material Sciences

Gary Clawson, MD, PhD,
Professor of Pathology
Area(s) of interest: Early changes in Carcinogenesis

Cheng Dong, PhD
Distinguished Professor and Department Head of Bioengineering
Area(s) of interest: Tumor Microenvironment leukocytes and endothelial immune functions which effect Cancer Metastasis. Micro-hemodynamics, cell adhesion and signaling.

Joseph Drabick, MD
Professor of Medicine, Associate Director of Translational Oncology, Penn State Health Melanoma Center
Area(s) of interest: Melanoma and Clinical trials

David Feith, PhD
Assistant Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Area(s) of interest: The role of Polyamines in neoplastic growth as a target for cancer prevention therapy.

John Flanagan, PhD
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Area(s) of interest: Xray Crystalography of Proteins and Interacting drugs [more]

Klaus Helm, MD
Professor of Dermatology, Associate Director of Dermatopathology, Penn State Health Melanoma Center
Area(s) of interest: Dermatopathology.

Anna Leung, MD
Assistant Professor of Surgery, Department of Surgery
Area(s) of interest: Melanoma Immunotherapeutics, cytoreductive surgery, management of advanced malignancies.  Clinical Trial design.

Heath Mackley, MD
Assistant Professor of Radiology/Radiation Oncology, Associate Director of Oncologic Dermatopathology, Penn State Health Melanoma Center
Area(s) of interest: Head and Neck malignancies, Gastrointestinal malignancies, Gynocologic malignancies, Cutaneous malignancies, Sarcomas, Population research, Advanced Radiation Technologies, Radiosurgery.

Colette Pameijer, MD

Department of Surgery.

Area(s) of interest: Melanoma, miRNA profiling, Sentinal node imaging and Regional therapy for advanced malignancies.

Changagalu D. Raghavendragowda, PhD
Research Associate
Area(s) of interest: Melanoma Targets, Drugs and Delivery System.

Lisa Shantz, PhD
Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Area(s) of interest: Understanding molecular mechanisms of non-melanoma skin cancer development, emphasizing signal transduction pathways downstream of the Ras oncogene.

Arati Sharma, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacology
Area(s) of interest: Melanoma Targets, Drugs and Delivery System

Christopher Siedlecki, PhD
Associate Professor of Surgery
Area(s) of interest: Interactions of proteins with biomaterial surfaces and development of thrombosis, nanotechnology in medicine, biological scanning probe microscopy.

Kent Vrana, PhD
Elliot S. Vesell Professor and Chair of Pharmacology
Area(s) of interest: Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology.

Jiyue Zhu, PhD
Associate Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Area(s) of interest: Molecular mechanisms of cellular immobilization and cancers [more]
Area(s) of interest: Cutaneous oncology, including prevention, diagnosis, treatment and research of melanoma, cutaneous sarcomas and other skin cancers.

Project 1

Validate the preclinical effectiveness of targeting a variety of different targets in melanomas, as well as, identify novel targets to inhibit in combination to more effectively treat and prevent melanoma development.

Project 2

Establish an expression profiling strategy for circulating metastatic melanoma cells that can be used for prognostic, and diagnostic purposes, as well as, for selecting more effective therapeutic regimes for patients.

Project 3

Development of novel inhibitors and validate effectiveness in preclinical models of melanoma, which would form the underpinnings for clinical trials targeting these proteins aberrant in patients.

Project 4

Develop novel nanotechnology for imaging, loading and delivering into disseminated metastatic melanoma cells present in preclinical animal models of melanoma.

Project 5

Evaluate the clinical therapeutic effectiveness of novel inhibitors, alone, or in combination with the immune modulators in phase I clinical trials.