Research Updates





*Congrats to Dr. Crystal Conn on receivng the 2024 Michael P. Nusbaum Graduate Student Mentoring Award!

The Michael (Mikey) P. Nusbaum Graduate Student Mentoring Award was established in 2017 to honor Mikey Nusbaum as he stepped down from his role as associate dean for graduate education and director of biomedical graduate studies.  This year’s recipient of the Michael P. Nusbaum Graduate Student Mentoring Award is Crystal S. Conn, an assistant professor of radiation oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Conn has made substantial contributions to mentoring that have made a great impact on their students since they have been at Penn. Further, Dr. Conn’s dedication to being a role model for training advocacy, inclusivity, and mentoring students to reach their scholarly potential exemplifies the type of scientist and mentor that Mikey Nusbaum represents.


*Congrats to George Morcos (Koumenis Lab) named a Thouron Scholar to pursue graduate studies in the UK!

George Morcos, from Rochester, New York, is majoring in biology with a concentration in molecular and cell biology, with minors in classical studies and nutrition in the College. As a University Scholar through the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships, Morcos conducts research in the Koumenis Lab in Penn Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology. He is also a writing fellow at the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing and an advising fellow in the student club Matriculate, which provides mentorship to high school students. He is an undergraduate coordinator at the Heart Health Bridge to Care, an extension of the United Community Clinic of West Philadelphia focused primarily on management of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Morcos is an American Association of Cancer Research Undergraduate Scholar and has presented his work at national conferences. As a Thouron Scholar, Morcos plans to pursue a master’s degree in pathology, conducting basic and translational research on therapeutic toxicities in cancer, at the University of Cambridge in England.

*Congratulations to SUPERS Alum Shereen Aissi for receiving the Best Presentation Award in Medical Physics at the 2024 ANS Student Conference, for her paper titled, "Dosimetric Effect of 2 vs 3 Treatment Fields in Pencil Beam Scanning Proton Therapy Treatment Planning for Lung Cancer"; awarded by the American Nuclear Society. 

*Annual Yuhas Award was held on April 30, 2024 honoring Joann B. Sweasy, PhD. Dr. Sweasy gave the talk "DNA Repair Variants and Human Disease" to a full auditorium and then enjoyed a reception and award ceremony hosted by Dr. Metz. 
Drs. Sweasy, Metz, Koumenis



RadOnc would like to welcome Ioannis Verginadis, MSc, PhD to the department in his new role as Research Assistant Professor! 

Congratulations to Duo Zhang of the Fan lab on a successful dissertation defense!

We welcome Chris Heer to the division as the new Financial Administrative Coordinator. 


  • Congrats to Kyle Kim will now be a Research Specialist A and is joining the Verginadis Lab.
  • Congratulations to Ioannis Verginadis for receiving the Abramson Cancer Center’s ACS pilot grant!
  • Congratulations to Priyanka Chowdhury from the Koumenis Lab for receiving an RRS Travel Award!
  • RadOnc would like to welcome Shiva Shahrampour, PhD is our new Technical Director of CARC.
  • Welcome Nektarios Kostopoulos, Postdoctoral Researcher to the Koumenis lab and congratulations for successfully defending his thesis on 9/8/2023, titled “Radiation-Driven Cross Presentation and STING Activation Enhance CAR T Cell Therapy in a Murine Lymphoma Model”
  • Welcome Shawnaleh Cada, Research Specialist to the Koumenis Lab


Congratulations to Menggui Huang, PhD, recipient of the Outstanding Poster Award given by The North American Vascular Biology Organization's annual conference. 

Congratulations to Dr. Christoforos Thomas who accepted a Research Assistant Professorship with The University of Houston beginning in February. 

Congratulations to Dr. Amit Maity who accepted a Chairmanship with the University of Utah Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine and the Huntsman Center beginning in June. 

News Flash: Constantinos Koumenis, PhD, the Richard H. Chamberlain Professor of Research Oncology, spoke about Penn Medicine recently being awarded a $12.3M NIH Grant to study ultra-fast, high-dose FLASH radiation therapy for cancer. Listen to the podcast here


Congratulations to Ioannis Verginadis, PhDAdjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology for receiving the 2 below awards!

  • Early Career Investigator (ECI) Travel Award at the Annual Meeting of the Radiation Research Society (RRS)
  • Best Abstract Award at the Flash Radiotherapy and Particle Therapy Conference (FRPT)

Winter/ Spring

Research has 2 Transdisciplinary Awards Program in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics from ITMAT awards to celebrate:
Ioannis Verginadis, PhD, PI on Pre-clinical studies on Proton FLASH Radiotherapy for treatment of orthotopic pancreatic tumors and sparing normal intestine tissues, a 2 year award of $150K
Yi Fan, PI on Novel nano-vasculotherapy to improve glioblastoma immunotherapy, a 2 year award of $150K

A big congratulations to Ioannis Verginadis, PhDSenior Research Investigator in Koumenis Lab for receiving the "Best Oral Presentation Award" at the 2021 Flash Radiotherapy & Particle Therapy Conference for his presentation, Preclinical Studies with Proton FLASH Radiotherapy: Biological Effects and Potential Mechanisms

Congratulations to: 
Ioannis Verginadis (Koumenis lab) for receiving the Early Career Investigator of the month award from the Radiation Research Society.
Zachary Lampluph for receveing an NIH T32 grant and to Duo Zhang for the American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship award, both from Fan lab.
Yi Fan  awarded a $2.4M NIH RO1 Grant for his study entitled “Endothelial plasticity in cardiac repair after myocardial infarction”.

The division would like to recognize the following promotions:

  • Keith Cengel, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Standing Faculty - Clinician Educator track
  • Andy J. Minn, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Director of the Mark Foundation Center at Penn


It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Crystal Conn, PhD as Assistant Professor-Tenure Track, to the Research Division of Radiation Oncology!
Dr. Conn started with us on Thursday, January 2, 2020. She most recently was a Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSF in the lab of Dr. Davide Ruggero, one of the premier groups internationally engaged in the study of translational control of gene expression in cancer. Dr. Conn’s research interests are centered on understanding the identifying adaptive stress responses that are translationally regulated, primarily in lung and prostate cancer, allowing for early detection of malignant disease with potential for new therapeutic applications. Her expertise in the salient features in translational control of gene expression, which is increasingly being appreciated as a major contributor to malignancies and immune system function, will enable her to interface with multiple groups within the RadOnc department, as well as the School of Medicine and beyond.

We would like to recognize Alexi Dreyfuss from the Koumenis Lab on graduating with her MD/ MTR. She defended her MTR Thesis based on work in the Koumenis lab. 


Please join us in congratulating Theresa Busch, PhD on her appointment as the Radiation Oncology Department’s first Vice Chair for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. This new role will both report to and work closely with the Department Chair to oversee, promote, and facilitate excellence in diversity, inclusion, equity and anti-racism efforts across all aspects of the department. The Vice Chair is responsible for creating and maintaining a culture that embraces inclusion and ensuring that all departmental policies and practices are grounded in the tenants of equity and anti-racism. Together with departmental leadership, the Vice Chair will examine our research, clinical and educational activities through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion, and develop strategies to build a strong culture of anti-racism as well as metrics to measure the success of these strategies.

Congratulations to Ioannis Verginadis, Senior Research Investigator, on winning the Career Development Award from the Radiation Research Foundation on the project entitled “Delineating the role of STAT3 on normal tissue radioprotection and pancreatic tumor radiosensitization in a preclinical setting ”. This proposal is based on data generated in the past 2 years regarding the effects of focal radiotherapy on intestinal damage. Together with Dr. Constantinos Koumenis and Dr. Edgar Ben-Josef, Ioannis developed a novel, more clinically relevant mouse model of intestinal radiation injury based on precision, image-guided radiotherapy using the Small Animal Radiation Research Platform (SARRP). This model gives us the unique capability to fully mimic the clinical setting because we can study both irradiation(IR)-induced damage to the normal intestine and the impact of IR on orthotopic pancreatic tumor models in the same mice. The goal of this effort is to translate the findings into human clinical trials for early detection and therapeutic intervention of radiotherapy(RT)-induced intestinal toxicity. If the results are promising, Dr. Ben-Josef will initiate a clinical trial using the STAT3 inhibitor OPB-51602 combined with RT as a novel treatment for pancreatic tumors.

Congratulations to Dr. Gary Kao and Dr. Jay Dorsey for their participation in the paper entitled “Multi-block Discriminant Analysis of Integrative 18F-FDG-PET/CT Radiomics for Predicting Circulating Tumor Cells in Early Stage Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Treated with Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy”, which was an Award Winner at the Science Council Session of the 2020 American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM). Authors of the paper: Sang Ho Lee, PhD, Gary D. Kao, MD, PhD, Steven J. Feigenberg, MD, Jay F. Dorsey, MD, PhD, Melissa A. Frick, MD, Samuel Jean-Baptiste, MD, Chibueze Z. Uche, PhD, Yong Fan, PhD, Ying Xiao, PhD

The division would like to recognize the following promotions: 

  • Meena Swaminathan, Director of Fiscal Operations
  • Christie Foti, Payroll and Onboarding Manager
  • Jenine Iannaccone, Grants Manager B
  • Yi Fan, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Standing Faculty
  • Andy Minn, MD, PhD, Professor of Radiation Oncology in the Standing Faculty

Congratulations to Dr. Andy Minn, associate professor of Radiation Oncology and appointed director of the newly established Mark Foundation Center for Immunotherapy, Immune Signaling, and Radiation at the University of Pennsylvania. The $12 Million Grant will study the connection between radiation and immunotherapy. Read the News Release.
The Division would like to recognize Dr. Theresa Busch on her National Cancer Institute  R01  Titled: Photodynamic therapy with prior inhibition of epidermal growth factor receptor to stimulate antitumor innate immune response
Congratulations to Dr. Andrea Facciabene on his promotion to Research Associate Professor!
Congratulations to Dr. Christoforos Thomas, member of Dr. Amit Maity's Lab, on for receiving a $50,000 Research Award from the PA Breast Cancer Coalition.
Congratulations to Dr. Yi Fan for receiving a 2019 Sharpe Award from National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS)
The Division would like to recognize Feven Tameire of the Koumenis Lab for receiving her Doctorate in Cancer Biology.

Congratulations to Dr. Yi Fan on receiving the Research Excellence Award from American Heart Association.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Yi Fan, along with Fan Lab in publishing the paper, Vascular niche IL-6 induces alternative macrophage activation in glioblastoma through HIF-2α, in the prestigious Nature Communications.

Congratulations to Dr. Yi Fan – the 2018 Springer Junior Investigator Award Recipient! He was awarded at the Vascular Biology 2018, where he presented his Springer Award lecture, "Wnt-mediated endothelial transformation into mesenchymal stem cell-like cells induces chemoresistance in glioblastoma" 

To Dr. Yi Fan for receiving 3 awards:
•Brain Cancer Investigator Award, B*Cured Foundation
•Young Investigator Award, Cancer Stem Cell Conference
•Innovative Project Award, American Heart Association



Congratulations to Dr. Yi Fan for recently receiving the following two awards: the Sharpe Award from National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) and the Early Career Investigator Award from the Radiation Research Society (RRS).


Congratulations to Dr. Andrea Facciabene! He received an award at the Penn Center for Innovation Celebration for Innovation, held on May 3, 2017. Dr. Facciabene was honored for two US patents (# 9,289,426 and #9,290,556).  Respectively, these inventions involve Methods and compositions for treating solid tumors and enhancing tumor vaccines and Tumor vascular marker-targeted vaccines.


Congratulations to all who received the Radiation Oncology Translational Center of Excellence (TCE) pilot awards!

  1. Using Radiation and Blockade of Interferon Signaling to Improve Durable Response to Immune Checkpoint Blockade Co-PIs: Andy Minn, MD, PhD (RadOnc) & Taku Kambayashi, MD, PhD, (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine) Co-I: E. John Wherry, PhD (Microbiology)
  2. PD-1 Blockade to Attenuate Surgery-Induced Immunosuppression during Intraoperative Photodynamic Therapy Co-PIs: Theresa Busch, PhD & Edmund Moon, MD (Medicine), Keith Cengel, MD, PhD Co-Is: Andrea Facciabene, PhD (RadOnc), Mary Putt, PhD, (Biostatistics and Epidemiology) & Sunil Singhal, MD (Surgery)
  3. Hypofractionated radiotherapy as a vaccine in combination with the TLR7/8 agonist resiquimod for metastatic melanoma Co-PIs: Amit Maity, MD, PhD (RadOnc),  George Xu, MD, PhD (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine), & Alain Rook, MD (Dermatology) Co-I: Andrea Facciabene, PhD (RadOnc)

The research division congratulates Dr. Theresa Busch and Dr. Zhiliang Cheng (Bioengineering) labs’ for their proposal entitled Mesothelin-targeted nanophotosensitizer for photodynamic therapy of TNBC selected by the Center for Targeted Therapeutics and Translational Nanomedicine (CT3N) for funding.

We also congratulate Natalie Daurio in Koumenis Lab for a successful doctoral dissertation defense on March 28, 2016. The title of her thesis was “Tamoxifen Mediated Metabolic Stress: Molecular Mechanism and Therapeutic Opportunities.”.

Congratulations to Dr. Gary Kao on the award of his R01 grant, Circulating Tumor Cells Analyses and Molecular Profiling for Patients Receiving Radiation Therapy, which was recently funded by the National Cancer Institute.

We also congratulate Dr. Stephen Avery on receiving R21 grant, Protoacoustics - Clinical Based Range Verification for Cancer Treatment. This project was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

Congratulations to Dr. Yi Fan was recently honored as a recipient of the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Judah Folkman Career Development Award for Angiogenesis Research. Dr. Fan was selected for this award based on the relevance of his research to the AACR’s mission and its expected impact in the field of cancer research.   This award recognizes Dr. Fan’s position as a burgeoning leader in cancer research.

The 2016 SUPERS program came to a close on Wednesday, August 3 with the end-of-the-program retreat where each of the fourteen SUPERS students presented a summary of their own hypothesis-driven research project.  Student projects included research in molecular radiobiology, photodynamic therapy, proton dosimetry and nuclear medicine and PET imaging.  In addition to their own hands-on lab experience, students took part in lectures and research discussions led by many of our faculty, as well as faculty from the departments of Radiology and Bioengineering. As the keynote speaker for the event, Dr. Michelle Alonso-Basanta from Penn Radiation Oncology described how her experiences as an undergraduate piqued her interest in a career as a clinician scientist. 2016 represented the 7th summer for the SUPERS program, to date SUPERS has graduated 80 alumni and the vast majority, nearly 90%, have gone on to graduate and/or medical school.

SUPERS students 20172016 SUPERS students pictured with Dr. Eve Higginbotham, Vice Dean for Inclusion and Diversity at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Higginbotham shared her own formative experiences as an undergrad while stressing the importance of diversity and inclusion to the future of research and medicine in the biomedical research community.

PDT: It's Not Just For People! - Check out this link for a story on how photodynamic therapy was recently used to treat Anita the horse for squamous cell cancer that surrounded both of her eyes.  Photodynamic therapy, or PDT as it is frequently called,  utilizes a light-sensitize drug and lasers to kill cancer cells.  Anita’s treatment was possible through the collaborative effort of Penn Medicine's Radiation Oncology and Penn Vet’s Large Animal Ophthalmology. PDT is studied for treating cancer in people by Radiation Oncology physicians, physicists, and scientists through a multidisciplinary grant that is funded by the National Institutes of Health.  It is currently under investigation through the Abramson Cancer Center for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma in conjunction with surgery.

The Research Division congratulates Dr. Cameron Koch on receiving the Outstanding Research Award along with the late Dr. James Raleigh of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This award was presented by Members of the Tumor Microenvironment Research Community at the 14th International Tumor Microenvironment Workshop in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is in recognition of Dr. Koch’s contributions to the identification, characterization and targeting of the tumor microenvironment for the advancement of cancer therapy and patient care.

We congratulate Dr. Andy Minn as the recipient of the 2015 Scientific Research Award presented by the American Cancer Society in honor of his outstanding leadership and accomplishments among local cancer professionals.

Additionally, congratulations are in order for Dr. Yi Fan on receiving the McCabe Award from the Perlman School of Medicine for his work on targeting endothelial plasticity to treat brain tumors. 

At the recent departmental retreat, Drs. Minn and Fan were further recognized for their achievements through awards for the Radiation Oncology Innovation Award and the Radiation Oncology Young Investigator Award of Excellence, respectively. The Innovation Award was presented to Dr. Minn in recognition of his novel and creative contributions to the field of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Fan received the Young Investigator Award of Excellence as a new faculty member in department (< 3 years) who has shown exemplary performance in the area of clinical service, research or teaching.

Congratulations to Drs. Jay Dorsey and Yi Fan who individually received grants on NeuroOncology Innovation from the Neuro Translational Center of Excellence of the Abramson Cancer Center.  Dr. Dorsey is studying Glioma - derived Circulating Tumor Cells, while Dr. Fan’s proposal is on the topic of Development of Next-Generation Vasculotherapy by Targeting Vascular Transformation.  Finally, we recognize Dr. Fan on the success of his R01 grant Endothelial Plasticity in Glioma Vascularization and Therapy Resistance.   This award is expected to begin in October of 2015 and includes Radiation Oncology co-investigator Dr. Jay Dorsey.  This is Dr. Fan’s first R01 grant and the Division shares with him our hearty congratulations.

The Research Division congratulates Dr. Andy Minn on receiving the Michael S. Brown New Investigator Research Award. This award is given by the Perelman School of Medicine for the purpose of recognizing emerging investigators who are engaged in innovative discoveries. Dr. Minn was selected for this award based on his work in studying radiation and immune therapies as they relate to the biological basis of therapeutic cancer resistance.