Meet the Scientists

Ralph H. Hruban, M.D.

Ralph H. Hruban is a Professor of Pathology and Oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He received his Doctor of Medicine from The Johns Hopkins University. He continued at Johns Hopkins for his residency training, spending one year as a fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and then returning to Johns Hopkins to join the Faculty in 1990. He established the National Familial Pancreas Tumor Registry January 1, 1994.

Dr. Hruban is currently the Director of The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, and Director of the Division of Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology. Dr. Hruban has written over 500 scientific papers, 80 book chapters and reviews, and four books. He is recognized by the Institute for Scientific Information as a Highly Cited Researcher and by Essential Science Indicators as the most highly cited pancreatic cancer scientist – designations given to the most highly influential scientists. In addition to his research efforts, he helped create the Johns Hopkins Pancreatic Cancer Web Page, Dr. Hruban has received a number of awards including the Arthur Purdy Stout Prize for significant career achievements in surgical pathology, the Young Investigator Award from the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, the PanCAN Medical Visionary Award, and five teaching awards from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His research interests include the precursor lesions that give rise to invasive pancreatic cancer and familial pancreatic cancer.

Professor of Pathology and Oncology
The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center
The Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineJ




James R. Eshelman Jr., M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology and Oncology at Johns Hopkins, is a senior investigator in the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center.  Dr. Eshelman’s areas of clinical expertise include molecular diagnosis.

He received his bachelor’s degree in biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania, before earning both his medical degree and doctoral degree in anatomy and structural biology from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.  Following graduation, Dr. Eshelman completed a residency in clinical pathology and a fellowship in blood banking and transfusion medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, he served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.  In 1997, Dr. Eshelman joined the Johns Hopkins Department of Pathology faculty as Assistant Professor and became Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory.  He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2002 and full Professor in the Department of Pathology and Oncology in 2010.

Dr. Eshelman’s research interests include studying the genetics of hereditary and sporadic pancreatic cancers; using genetics to develop personalized chemotherapy regimens and other treatments for pancreatic cancer patients; finding new ways to enable rapid drug screening for pancreatic cancer; and developing new molecular pathology tools.  He has published 150 peer-reviewed papers during his career including 39 papers on pancreatic cancer and pancreatic cancer precursor lesions over the past 14 years.


N. Volkan Adsay, M.D.

Dr. Volkan Adsay is Professor of Pathology, Vice Chair, and Director of Anatomic Pathology at Emory University. After graduating from Hacettepe University School of Medicine (Turkey), Dr. Adsay completed his Anatomic Pathology and Clinical Pathology residency in New York and went on to complete a two-year fellowship in Oncologic Pathology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. After 11 years as faculty at Wayne State University and Karmanos Cancer Center, he joined Emory University. Dr. Adsay is an internationally-recognized pathologist in the field of gastrointestinal and pancreatobiliary cancers. He has published over 180 peer-reviewed articles, authored several chapters in the most prestigious textbooks of Gastrointestinal Tract Surgery and Gastrointestinal Tract Oncology, mostly focusing on cancers of pancreas, gallbladder and ampulla. He was a member of the Pancreas Review Group of National Cancer Institute, and co-author in multiple chapters in the World Health Organization’s “classification of tumors” series. Among his contributions, he was instrumental in the characterization of various tumor types of the pancreas and biliary tract, and was also the member of an international group that put forth the definition and criteria for the early cancerous lesions of these organs. He serves as committee member in several national and international academic medical societies. He has given over 90 lectures at national and international platforms. He sits on the editorial board of 7 medical journals. He is also the recipient of multiple teaching awards

AdsayVDr. Adsay
Professor and Vice-Chair Director of Anatomic Pathology
Emory University





Dr. Elizabeth Thompson

Dr. Elizabeth Thompson is an Assistant Professor of Pathology in the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins. She graduated from the MD/PhD program at the University of Virginia in 2012 where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society as well as the Association of Pathology Chairs Pathology Honor Society. She completed her graduate thesis in the laboratory of Dr. Victor Engelhard, studying the activation and homing of melanoma specific T cells to the tumor microenvironment, and was nominated for the Wagner prize honoring the most exceptional graduate student in microbiology and immunology. She then came to Johns Hopkins to complete a residency in anatomic and clinical pathology where she served as Chief Resident and continued her research interest in tumor immunology, studying the composition of the tumor microenvironment in a variety of tumor types including gastric, esophageal, and breast. Dr. Thompson joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2016 in the Division of Surgical Pathology with plans to build a research program focused on the immunology of pancreatic cancer. In collaboration with other researchers at the newly formed Bloomberg/Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, she will focus on the pancreatic tumor immune microenvironment, working to understand the progression of the immune response to pancreatic cancer. She will focus both on precursor lesions and early invasive cancers, a point at which the immune system is in a critical balance and can either promote or inhibit invasive growth, as well as study changes that occur in the immune response as tumor metastasize. In addition, Dr. Thompson will work with other physician scientists on clinical trials for immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer, working to understand how the treatments impact the immune response and tumor microenvironment in hopes of developing better therapies for patients.

dr-elizabeth-thompsonDr. Elizabeth Thompson
Assistant Professor of Pathology
The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine




Dr. Laura Wood

Dr. Laura Wood is talented and promising physician scientist who has recently launched her independent research career at Johns Hopkins. She is a graduate of the MD/PhD program at Johns Hopkins where she excelled both clinically and scientifically. For her groundbreaking PhD work in the laboratory of world-renowned cancer geneticist Dr. Bert Vogelstein, Dr. Wood performed the first whole exome sequencing studies in human cancers. These studies, which revolutionized the new field of cancer genomics, were published in the journal Science as a landmark in the field. She continued her involvement in translational research throughout her busy clinical training in pathology at Johns Hopkins, developing a pipeline for preparation of human tumor samples for genomic analyses. She co-authored several important papers in cancer genomics and led two additional cancer genome sequencing studies in pancreatic and bile duct cancers during her clinical training, all of which were published in top journals. Throughout her training, she also excelled clinically she was elected to the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and served as Chief Resident for the Department of Pathology. After completely her fellowship in Gastrointestinal and Liver Pathology at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Wood joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins as an Assistant Professor of Pathology and Oncology. Her research focuses on defining the key steps in malignant progression in the pancreas, and she has several exciting ongoing projects. Her group is working to define the molecular changes that underlie the “moment of invasion” in pancreatic cancer this work will help to understand a key transition in the biology of pancreatic cancer and will also identify targets for early detection. In addition, she is developing an approach for genetic analyses of single pancreatic cancer cells in order to better define tumor development at a single cell level. Finally, her group is developing a novel three-dimensional “organoid” model of pancreatic cancer in order to test the importance of potential biomarkers in living pancreatic cancer cells. For her work, Dr. Wood has been recognized as an AGA-Schwartz Pancreatic Cancer Research Scholar by the American Gastroenterological Association and was a member of the team from Johns Hopkins recognized by the American Association for Cancer Research with the Team Science Award.

PhotoDrLauraWoodDr. Wood
Assistant Professor of Pathology and Oncology
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine





Dr. Nicholas Roberts

Dr. Nicholas Roberts is an innovative researcher dedicated to deciphering the genetic and biological basis of pancreatic cancer risk and translating these developments into personalized screening, early detection methods, and novel therapies for patients. He studied Veterinary Medicine (Vet.M.B.) at the University of Cambridge before completing a Ph.D. in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology at the Johns Hopkins University. His cutting-edge graduate and postdoctoral work was conducted in the laboratory of accomplished cancer researchers, Drs. Bert Vogelstein and Kenneth Kinzler. During this time, Dr. Roberts set out to understand pancreatic cancer risk using next-generation sequencing technologies. In doing so, he discovered a new familial pancreatic cancer susceptibility gene and developed a mathematical model of disease risk in the population to determine the ability of personal genome sequencing to predict disease. His work has also extended into comparative models of cancer, where his efforts testing a novel cancer therapy have led to a human clinical trial. These pioneering studies were published in the high-profile journals Science Translational Medicine and Cancer Discovery. Dr. Roberts’ work continues to focus on the genetic and biological determinants of familial pancreatic cancer risk. He is applying big-data analytic approaches to the genome sequences of over 650 familial pancreatic cancer patients to identify new susceptibility genes. Dr. Roberts is also integrating state-of-the-art in vitro and in vivo experimental models, using pancreatic ductal organoids, to characterize the functional biology of newly identified susceptibility genes. These comprehensive studies will identify the most important familial pancreatic cancer genes and significantly impact patient care.
NickRoberts2013Dr. Roberts





Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue, M.D., Ph.D.

Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from Adelphi University in Garden City NY in 1991, and both her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Boston University School of Medicine in 1998. Upon graduation, she moved to Baltimore where she completed a residency in Anatomic Pathology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, the final year of which she served as one of two appointed Chief Residents. Her training also includes a postdoctoral fellowship in Gastrointestinal Oncology in the lab of Dr. Scott Kern M.D., a renowned pancreatic cancer researcher and pioneer in the field of pancreatic cancer genetics, and a Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Iacobuzio joined the full-time Pathology faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2003 as an Instructor, was promoted later in 2003 to an Assistant Professor of Pathology and Oncology, and then an Associate Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Surgery.

In January 2012 John Hopkins officially announced that in December 2010 Dr. Iacobuzio-Donahue was promoted to Full Professor of Pathology, Oncology and Surgery, a milestone she reached 8 years sooner than the average age of all newly appointed full professors at Johns Hopkins. This comes at a time when she also is embarking on a new research effort (in part supported by the JCM Foundation) to define the clonal evolution of metastatic disease as a followup on her findings published in Nature in 2010 (Please visit JCM Foundation Funded Research. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Epigenetic Studies.

Dr. Iacobuzio is the Principal Investigator of an NIH funded laboratory whose focus is the molecular genetics of gastrointestinal cancers, with a focus on pancreatic cancer.  She is also the Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Rapid Medical Donation Program to enable patients with terminal gastrointestinal cancer to consent to a rapid autopsy for research. The impact of this program has been far reaching. Utilizing this unique resource, her lab had demonstrated the technical methods and frequency by which cell lines and xenografts can be generated from postmortem tissues, that the genetic and epigenetic features of these samples are reflective of the tissues from which they are derived, and the gene expression associated with disease progression. This resource has also formed the basis of a multi-collaborator effort to sequence the pancreatic cancer genome that was recently published in the journal Science, the scale of which is unparalleled for any tumor type thus far.  Based on this program, her lab has also shown that pretreatment levels of deoxycytidine kinase (dCK) are highly predictive of survival following Gemcitabine treatment, and that levels of dCK do not change even after clinical resistance has been documented. Most recently, her lab has made the striking discovery that genetic inactivation of the DPC4 and TP53 tumor suppressor genes in primary pancreatic cancers at diagnosis are strongly correlated with metastatic disease that ultimately lead to treatment failure and death, whereas primary carcinomas of patients that contained an intact DPC4 gene died of complications related to locally advanced pancreatic cancer and not lethal metastasis. The implications of this finding are profound as it suggests that pancreatic cancers are represented by two different biologic phenotypes, and that a determination of these genetic features at diagnosis may have value in therapeutic decisions.
testimonial_image2Dr. Iacobuzio-Donahue
Professor of Pathology and Oncology
The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine



Yi Zhong, M.D., Ph.D.

Yi Zhong, M.D., Ph.D. is a postdoc fellow in Gastrointestinal/Liver pathology in Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s lab. Yi’s salary is supported by the Joseph C. Monastra Fund. He graduated from Xuzhou Medical College, P.R. China in 1994, and was a surgeon in the digestive surgery department. Yi then Anchorat Kyoto University in Japan and received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees in 2008. He came to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Institutions after graduating from Kyoto University where he is studying the molecular genetics and gene expression profiles of pancreatic cancer. His research focuses on the function studies of interested genes in pancreatic cancers, and on understanding how pancreas cancers develop and spread throughout the body

testimonial_image6Yi Zhong, M.D., Ph.D
Postdoc Fellow in Gastrointestinal/Liver Pathology




Jacqueline Brosnan

Jacqueline Brosnan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Pathobiology graduate program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  Originally from Haverhill, MA, Jacqueline graduated from Bowdoin College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology with Honors in 2008.  She is interested in deciphering how alterations in cell signaling networks, particularly in the TGF-β pathway, promote pancreatic cancer metastasis.  Jacqueline hopes that her research in Dr. Iacobuzio-Donahue’s laboratory will contribute to the development of better therapies for pancreatic cancer treatment.
testimonial_image7Jacqueline Brosnan
Ph.D. candidate in the Pathobiology GraduateP rogram
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine



Yoshiki Naito

Yoshiki Naito, M.D., Ph.D. received his M.D. degree from Aichi University School of Medicine in 2001, and his Ph.D. from Kurume University School of Medicine, Japan in 2007. After a one-year fellowship at Kurume University School of Medicine, Yoshiki came to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to work in Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s lab. He is researching metastatic pancreatic cancer using a number of molecular biomarkers.
testimonial_image8Yoshiki Naito, M.D., Ph.D
Aichi University School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions



Shinichi Yachida, M.D., Ph.D.

Shinichi Yachida, M.D., Ph.D. received his M.D. in Tottori University in 1994, and his Ph.D. in Kagawa University, Japan in 1998. He is a Board Certified Gastroenterological Surgeon and was an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Kagawa University prior to coming to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions to join Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s lab as a postdoc fellow. His research focuses on genetic alterations associated with clonal progression of pancreatic cancer metastasis.

testimonial_image9Shinichi Yachida, M.D., Ph.D.
Tottori University
Kagawa University, Japan
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


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