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Featured Stories

  • Phillip with Bre

    Diagnosed with stage 4 Ewing sarcoma on Labor Day of 2013, 14-year-old Philip Rawls’ life was turned upside down. Two years later—and nearly 18 months in remission—he sees hope in the research of pediatric oncologist, Dr. Ian Davis.

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  • Dr. Andrew Smitherman with patients.

    Childhood cancer patients are surviving in greater numbers but often suffer later complications related to their treatments. A grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation is enabling pediatric oncology fellow, Dr. Andrew Smitherman, to study how doctors can best care for survivors.

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  • Phineas is a survivor.

    When 4-year-old Phineas’ leukemia didn’t respond to conventional chemotherapy, his pediatric oncologist, Dr. Philip Roehrs, found him a clinical trial testing a groundbreaking new treatment called T-cell immunotherapy. Phineas, now 6, owes his life to that trial—and soon other North Carolina cancer patients will have access to T-cell immunotherapy trials at UNC.

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The cancer team meeting.

Meet Our Team

Stuart H. Gold, MD

Stuart H. Gold, MD

Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
Stuart H. Gold Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics

Leukemia, Lymphoma, Disparities, Improvement of Outcomes

My research interests are improving medical outcomes for children with cancer, particularly leukemia and lymphoma, and addressing barriers to care. Recently, I became involved in the development of pediatric self- and proxy-reported outcome measures to inform symptom monitoring and adverse event reporting for children enrolled in cancer clinical trials. I am the Site Principal Investigator for UNC-Chapel Hill within the Children’s Oncology Group, for which over 50 studies are open at UNC. I have a keen interest in diversity and currently serves as the Vice Chair in Pediatrics for Diversity and Patient Engagement and is a member of the inaugural Diversity Committee for the UNC School of Medicine.

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Yasmina Abajas, MD

Yasmina Abajas, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Bleeding disorders, Clotting disorders, Inhibitors in Hemophilia

Dr. Abajas is a clinical assistant professor in pediatric hematology/oncology. A native of Miami, FL, she attended medical school at the University of Miami and completed her pediatrics residency at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital. Her main clinical and research focus is studying inhibitor development, particularly in hemophilia B. Dr. Abajas is the recipient of the 2016 National Hemophilia Foundation-Shire Clinical Fellow Award allowing her to transition her efforts from bench research to a translational/clinical research focus in patients with FIX inhibitors.

Thomas Alexander, MD, MPH

Thomas Alexander, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Leukemia/Lymphoma, Developmental Therapeutics, Genomics

My clinical passion is caring for patients with hematological malignancies, focusing on high-risk, refractory, and relapsed leukemia and lymphoma. My areas of research focus include genomics of acute leukemia and early phase clinical trials. I have led an international effort to characterize the genomics of a high-risk subtype of leukemia called mixed phenotype acute leukemia, and remain involved in efforts through the Children's Oncology Group and St. Jude. Children's Research Hospital to study the biology of this rare type of leukemia. I am leading efforts at UNC to expand clinical trial opportunities for children and adolescents with relapsed or refractory malignancy.

Julie Blatt, MD

Julie Blatt, MD

Professor of Pediatrics

Long-Term Effects, Vascular Anomolies

Most recently, my research efforts and scholarly activities have focused on vascular anomalies and drug repurposing. With colleagues at other institutions, I have started a database of drugs used for children to promote research in these areas (Children’s Pharmacy Collaborative). My other long term interest is in the late effects of cancer therapy on children once they've completed therapy and have transitioned into adulthood; I continue to work with colleagues on mining national databases related to late effects to better understand the long-term implications of pediatric oncology treatments.

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Ian J. Davis, MD, PhD

Ian J. Davis, MD, PhD

G. Denman Hammond Associate Professor for Childhood Cancer

Transcriptional Regulation, Chromatin Biology, Solid Tumors

I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between transcriptional regulation and chromatin biology in order to understand fundamental mechanisms involved in pediatric cancers. Our lab employs genome-wide approaches to study transcription factor targeting, histone post-translational modifications and chromatin organization relationship in Ewing Sarcoma and Renal Cell Carcinoma. The lab uses both published computational algorithms, as well as novel computational approaches for discovery and hypothesis-driven exploration of genomic datasets. I serve as the primary attending for a limited number of children with solid tumors and as a resource for fellows seeking research lab opportunities and is the associate director of a newly funded postdoctoral T32 in Epigenetics and Chromatin Biology.

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John Hipps, MD

John Hipps, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Stem Cell Transplantation, Quality Improvement

I have a broad clinical training in general Pediatric Hematology/Oncology as well as Stem Cell Transplantation. In addition to my clinical practice, I am responsible for Quality Improvement projects for the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology division through supervision of department fellows and resident education . Outside of the department, I teach as part of the Patient Centered Care course for first and second-year medical students.

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George Hucks, MD

George Hucks, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Stem Cell Transplantation, Immunotherapy, Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell (CAR-T) therapies, Relapsed Leukemia

I have a passion for new immune-system based therapies that will offer options for patients with a variety of pediatric cancers in the coming years. I have specific experience with chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for patients with relapsed and refractory B cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. As part of the Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program at UNC, I am working on developing and implementing CAR-T cell protocols for relapsed leukemia, Hodgkin Lymphoma, and neuroblastoma.

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Kimberly Kasow, DO

Kimberly Kasow, DO

Director, Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant
Professor of Pediatrics
Associate Director for Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy Program Quality Initiatives

Pediatric bone marrow transplant; supportive care; and pediatric bone marrow transplant in non-malignant diseases, including osteopetrosis.

As Head of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, I direct both clinical care and clinical research efforts in transplant at UNC. One of my primary interests is in providing hematopoietic cell transplantation to patients with non-malignant diseases. This interest has led me to take a key role in the Sickle Transplant Alliance for Research (STAR) sponsored protocol, HLA Matched Related Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Children with Less Severe Sickle Cell Disease. The goal of this protocol is to provide life-saving therapy through matched sibling donor transplants to children less severely affected by sickle cell disease, in the hopes of improving their quality of life.

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Rupa C. Redding-Lallinger, MD

Rupa C. Redding-Lallinger, MD

Professor of Pediatrics

Sickle Cell Disorder

My activities include clinical care, teaching and research. I provide outpatient care for those in the Pediatric and the Adult Sickle Cell Clinics in Chapel Hill and the Parks Scholars Children’s Specialty Clinic in Raleigh. I also provides inpatient care for children on who I provide consultation within the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

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Philip Roehrs, MD

Philip Roehrs, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Pediatric blood and marrow transplantation; malignant and non-malignant diseases. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation; primary immunodeficiency; hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).

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Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD

Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD

Professor of Pediatrics
Assistant Director of Immunotherapy Program

Immunotherapy, Leukemia, Neuroblastoma

I am part of the Immunotherapy Group which is working on implementing new therapeutic approaches for pediatric tumors. Specifically, the Immunotherapy Group is currently conducting research in pediatric subjects with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) through a Phase I clinical trial using genetically-modified T-cells. Additionally, my reasarch group is exploring the preclinical development of engineered T-cells for treatment of neuroblastoma. Further assessment of the safety and improved efficacy of this neuroblastoma treatment approach will be conducted in a Phase I clinical trial for children with relapsed/refractory neuroblastoma.

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Andrew Smitherman, MD, MS

Andrew Smitherman, MD, MS

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Use of biomarkers of aging for the early identification of treatment-related morbidities

Stemming from combined training in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Pediatric Hematology-Oncology, I have developed clinical and research interests in providing and improving cancer care for adolescents and young adults (AYAs) as well as survivors of childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancers. Supported by a St. Baldrick’s Fellowship and using analyses of administrative databases, I have examined the patterns of healthcare usage among survivors to characterize emerging chronic treatment-related morbidities. Building on this work with the support of an NCTraCS career development award, I have plans to identify biomarkers predictive of these morbidities through prospective cohort studies.

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Patrick Thompson, MD

Patrick Thompson, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Fellow Education, Developmental Therapeutics, Liver Tumors

Bone marrow aspirations and biopsies; lumbar punctures; and administration of chemotherapy.

I am a self-proclaimed "Pharmacology Phanatic"; I am one of only a handful of Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologists who is also Board Certified in Clinical Pharmacology. My passion for pharmacology has led me to a career in developmental therapeutics focused on seeking better, less-toxic treatments for children with childhood cancer. I lead UNC's participation in the Sunshine Project, an early phase clinical trials network for children with cancer, and serves as a sub-PI for the group. Working with Drs. Alexander and Gold, I have helped UNC secure a membership in the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) Network, and am looking forward to providing more treatment options and clinical trials opportunities to children who are battling recurrent and refractory cancers. My other passion is education.

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Brent W. Weston, MD

Brent W. Weston, MD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Coagulation Disorders

Dr. Weston has completed 25 years as attending in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Division. Dr. Weston continue to care for oncology patients and benign hematology patients, with a focus on coagulation disorders. Dr. Weston ran a molecular biology research lab for 15 years and that informs his practice in both hematology and oncology. Many of these patients are on clinical trials through COG and our HTC, and Dr. Weston is a co-investigator on all of those studies. Currently, Dr. Weston's teaching focus is mostly bedside and within the Divisions's Fellowship Program.

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Michael Winstead, MD

Michael Winstead, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Stem Cell Transplantation, Immunotherapy, Hemoglobin disorders, Bone marrow failure, Immune reconstitution

My main research interests are immune function after stem cell transplantation (SCT) and the impact of T-cell recovery on quality of life and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). The T-lymphocyte population contains functionally distinct subpopulations whose interactions maintain immune homeostasis. Delineating the roles of distinct T-cell subtypes after transplantation may allow better prevention and control of transplant complications like GVHD and infection. My ongoing research involves the association between gamma-delta (GD) T-cell diversity and severity of GVHD. The recovery of GD cells is generally associated with favorable outcomes after transplantation, but the diversity of GD cells is not well explored, nor is the relationship between GD diversity and GVHD severity. Ideally this research will fit into a larger understanding of immune regulation in SCT recipients, particularly those with baseline immune dysregulation, for example patients with immunodeficiencies and sickle cell disease.

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