Active Research Projects


Research Project 5, PI: Francesca Peruzzi, Ph.D.,  “Epigenetic and metabolic reprogramming in HIV-derived macrophages and increased risk of cancer”

  • Dr. Peruzzi is an Associate Professor of Medicine (with Tenure) at the LSUHSC-NO Cancer Center. She has over 60 publications and more than 15 years of experience in molecular biology and signal transduction pathways. Dr. Peruzzi participates in COBRE as a mid-career scientist who is transitioning from neurodegenerative disease research to cancer.
  • Hypothesis: Specific Epigenetic marks and specific metabolic features found in HIV-derived monocytes prime these immune cells to hyper-responsiveness following secondary insults, leading to increased cytokine production and immunomodulation in the tumor microenvironment. This overall hypothesis will be tested the following specific aims:  Aim 1: Determine the mechanism of dysfunctional expression of miR-146a-5p and miR-155-5p in HIV-derived cells;   Aim 2: Determine the role of energy metabolism in the trained immunity and evaluate if pharmacological interventions (rapamycin and BGP) can reverse high mitochondrial respiration and hyper-responsiveness of HIV-derived monocytes; Aim 3: Investigate the effects of HIV-derived macrophages on T-cell function and cancer cell growth and survival using in vitro modeling of tumor microenvironment.


Research Project 6, PI: Paul Rider, Ph.D.,   “Effect of oncolytic virotherapy on the tumor microenvironment”

  • Dr. Rider is an Assistant Professor at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, Baton Rouge. He has over 20 publications and more than 5 years of experience studying virology and cloning techniques. Dr. Rider participates in this COBRE following successful development of his pilot study in 2019.
  • Hypothesis: A major mechanism of efficacy is the ability of oncolytic viruses (VC2) to reverse immunosuppression in the tumor microenvironment, and the Aims are: 1) Test the hypothesis that herpesvirus-derived oncolytic vaccines alter the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment of B16F10 tumors; 2) Investigate the anti-tumor specific T-cell responses during oncolytic virotherapy as well as the potential of inducing systemic antitumor responses via immunization with VC2 expressing selected melanoma antigens; and 3) Investigate the role of prior immunity to HSV-1 on the oncolytic and anti-tumor efficacy of VC2 intratumoral immunization.


Research Project 7, PI: Monika Rak, Ph.D.,  “Human Endogenous Retroviral Sequences (HERVs) in the development and progression of human glioblastoma”

  • Dr. Rak is an Assistant Professor at LSUHSC-NO Cancer Center. Graduated her Ph.D. program at the Jagiellonian University Cracow, Poland in 2014. She has completed multiple international internships focused on different aspects of cancer therapies including: demethylating agents in bladder cancer treatment (Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY, 2015-2016, 8 months); targeted gene and drug delivery systems (Nagasaki University, Japan, 2019, 4 months); and the role of HERVs in glioblastoma stemness (Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, Louisiana State University, New Orleans, LA, 2018-2019, 10 months). She is an author of 13 publications, 3 patents and 1 pending patent application.
  • Hypothesis: Aberrant expression of HERVs found in glioblastoma clinical samples contributes to the enhanced glioblastoma stem-like phenotype and associated drug resistance. The hypothesis is being tested by the following experimental strategies: Aim 1: Determine HERV transcript levels in glial tumors and analyze if high HERV transcription correlates with: a) specific glioblastoma subtypes, and b) glioblastoma stem-specific transcription patterns;  Aim 2: Effects of inducible Crisp/Cas-mediated upregulation and downregulation of HERV transcripts on the development of stem-like phenotype and malignant growth of low-grade gliomas (LGG) and glioblastomas (GBM), respectively.  


Pilot Project 8, Lin, Hui-Yi, Ph.D., “Antioxidants Associated with Oncogenic HPV Infection and Cervical Pre-cancerous Lesions”