Neurosurgery: Brain Tumor Stem Cell Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa

Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, known by his patients as Dr. Q, received his undergraduate from UC Berkeley and earned his medical degree from Harvard with Honors. He did his residency at the University of California San Francisco where he also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental and stem cell biology. His career began at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland, where he became a Professor of Neurological Surgery, Professor of Oncology, Director of the Brain Tumor Surgery Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and Director of the Pituitary Surgery Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Nowadays, he is the "William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor" and Chair of Neurologic Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida. In his laboratory, his team is investigating the ability of stem cells to fight brain cancer. In his free time Dr. Q enjoys mentoring, training for his half-marathon fund raiser run, and spending time with his wife and three kids.

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Mayo Clinic Florida Faculty

Assistant Professor

Hugo Guerrero-Cazares

Dr. Hugo Guerrero-Cázares received his M.D. in September 2000 and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences in February 2007 from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico. He moved to Baltimore, MD with his family to join the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory in March 2007 and is currently an Assistant Consultant at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Dr. Guerrero-Cazares participates in multiple research projects in the lab, particularly on studying the effects of Slit proteins on the migration of Brain Tumor Stem Cells. For this project he developed a model to evaluate the migration of human cells on human tissue.

Awards & Grant support: MSCRF (TEDCO)

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Assistant Professor

Rachel Sarabia-Estrada

Dr. Rachel Sarabia-Estrada, currently a Research Assistant Professor at Mayo Clinic Florida, received her DVM and Ph.D. in Neuroscience from University of Guadalajara, Mexico in 2008. Rachel joined the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery department in 2009 as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research focuses in metastatic cancer to the spine and in the understanding of the interactions of solid tumors in the spine and the gait locomotion and nociceptive response during tumor progression in animal models. She has developed and refined multiple animal models to study the pathophysiology of spine tumors and their response to surgery, standard radiation, chemotherapy, growth factors, nanoparticles and other therapies.

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Research Associate

Paula Schiapparelli

Dr. Paula Schiapparelli, currently a Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, received her BS in Biology and Biochemistry in September 2006 from University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. She obtained her Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology in November 2010 at the same institution, where she focused her research on the role of Sonic Hedgehog signaling alterations in pediatric tumors such as Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma. She continued her training as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Brain Tumor Stem Cell laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, under the mentorship of Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa. Her current research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which glioblastoma cells migrate and invade the human brain. Her main project is to describe the mechanisms by which NKCC1 modulates the actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell shape, spreading and migration in GBM.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

Sagar Shah

Sagar R. Shah is a doctoral student in the Department of Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Sagar completed his BS in biological sciences and a minor in mathematical sciences with general and departmental honors in both disciplines at Clemson University in 2006 and was bestowed the university’s highest honor, the Norris Medal. Subsequently, he completed his MS in bioengineering at Clemson University in 2007 through a 5-year BS/MS program. As a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, he completed his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine focusing on delineating novel YAP-driven networks that control aggressive behavior in cancer. The ultimate goal of Sagar's research is to identify key diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic targets and regulatory genetic networks in cancer to benefit patient care. Sagar's interests range from understanding American public policy to mentoring at a local school.

Awards & Grant support: NSF

Sara Ganaha

Sara Ganaha is a post-doctoral fellow (M.D) from Okinawa, Japan / Toronto, Ontario. Sara completed her BA in biology/biochemistry in 2006 at Carleton College, MN, and conducted translational research at the University of Minnesota until 2007. In March 2014, Sara joined the Hopkins neurosurgery team as a sub-intern. Her current research focus is to elucidate the role of Brachyury in promoting cancer progression in glioblastoma, chordoma, and other metastatic cancers to the brain.In her spare time, she enjoys playing the drums for her church, learning new languages and plans on applying to neurosurgery residency next year.

Medical Students

Montserrat Lara Velazquez

Montserrat Lara Velazquez is a MD/PhD student from the PECEM program of the School of Medicine of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She has been involved in several projects in the National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Mexico City. Currently, she is a visiting graduate student doing her PhD thesis under the guidance of Dr. Guerrero-Cazares in a project that is investigating the role of the cerebrospinal fluid in the migration/invasion of glioblastoma cells. Her main long-term goal is to become a neurosurgeon-scientist focused on brain tumor research. Upon graduating, she plans to apply to residency in neurosurgery.

Graduate Students

Rawan Al-kharboosh

Rawan Al-kharboosh is a PhD student in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She graduated with honors in Public Health and received her Masters in Tumor Biology from Georgetown University - Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center where she graduated top of her class in 2012.

She is currently working on modified mesenchymal stem cells derived from human adipose tissue (hMSCs) to target and combat glioblastomas. Her future work will center on investigating therapeutic modilities to combat brain tumor initiating cells (BTICs) implicated in brain cancer progression and resistance. Since BTICs appear to underlie the ability for GBM migration and proliferation, inducing their differention may attenuate the malignant features of high grade gliomas. Her current work is centered on virally-transduced and nanoparticle transfected hMSCs in collaboration with Dr. Jordan Greens lab at the institute for nanobiotechnology to deliver targeted therapy to BTICs. In addition, she is using a nanomedicine ased approach to target oncogenic pathways implicated in proliferation and migration using siRNA in collaboration with the Green lab. Her interests also lies in exploring the immune cells in the CNS and the different ways in which it can be manipulated to stifle cancer progression via targeted therapy using mesenchymal stem cells known to intrinsically home to areas of insult in the brain.


Dr. Curt Civin

Hematopoetic Stem Cells

Dr. Civin’s Laboratory is located at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. His laboratory focuses mainly on normal and malignant stem cells. Dr. Civin’s laboratory has created a NOD-SCID (non obese severe combined immunodeficiency disease) mouse that allows for engraftment of foreign cells.

Dr. Xingde Li

Dr. Xingde Li is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering at WSE and a Fellow of OSA, SPIE and AIMBE. His research interest centers on development of cutting-edge and translational biophotonics technologies that interface and bridge basic engineering research and medical diagnosis and intervention.

Dr. Steven Goldman

Dr. Goldman is the Chairman of Department of Neurology, Chief of Division of Cell and Gene Therapy, Glenn-Zutes Chair in Biology of the Aging Brain, and Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Dr. Goldman collaborates with Dr. Quinones’s research laboratory in establishing a molecular atlas of the neural and glial progenitor cell populations of the adult human brain, as derived from both normal brain tissue and from primary brain tumors.

Dr. Jose Manuel Garcia-Verdugo

EM World Expert

Dr. Garcia-Verdugo’s laboratory is based in the Instituto Cavanilles in the University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain. His focus is on adult neural stem cells and on their possible use for brain cell therapy.

Dr. George Jallo

CSF Proteins and Factors
Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) Collaborator

Dr. Jallo is an Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Jallo's laboratory research is focused on the development of an animal model for brainstem and intramedullary spinal cord tumors. Dr. Jallo and Dr. Quinones collaborate through a grant from the Children’s Cancer Foundation to elucidate the putative role of the pediatric subventricular zone in the development of brain cancer stem cells.

Dr. Hongjun Song
Cell Migration
Dr. Song’s Laboratory is located in the Institute for Cell Engineering at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Dr. Song's laboratory is interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal development of adult neural stem cells in the adult central nervous system as well as the mechanisms involved in migration.

Dr. Oscar Gonzalez-Perez
EGF Cell Activation
Studies the mechanism of migration and invasion of transit-amplifying neurogenic precursors stimulated by Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) in vivo.

Dr. John Laterra

John J. Laterra is a research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is also a professor in the Department of Neurology, Neuroscience and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is the director of the Division of Neuro-Oncology in the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Andre Levchenko

The Levchenko lab studies intraceullar signal transduction and cell-cell communication by combining molecular biology, microfabrication and imaging techniques and combining them with the state of the art modeling studies to investigate how living cells can sense their environment and how this sensing ability can help them establish communication leading to complex ensemble responses.

Dr. Jordan Green

Dr. Jordan Green is an Assistant Professor in the Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Green's Biomaterials and Drug Delivery Laboratory is acutely interested in biomaterials, drug delivery, gene therapy, nanobiotechnology, and cell engineering.

Dr. Peter C. Searson

Dr. Peter Searson is a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. His research interests include: Cell biophysics: photolithography, soft lithography, microfluidics, electrochemistry, live cell and fluorescence microscopy to study the role of physical interactions and mechanical forces in cell behavior; Quantum dots for biology and medicine: quantum dot synthesis and characterization, surface engineering, quantitative profiling of cancer biomarkers, tumor targeting in animal models.

Dr. Helim Aranda-Espinoza

Dr. Helim Aranda-Espinoza is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. His research interests include the application of the theoretical and experimental machinery of physics and engineering to obtain a quantitative understanding of specific problems inspired by biological systems. Specifically, his long term aims are to develop a fundamental understanding on cell mechanics and the mechanisms by which motile cells adhere, spread, and crawl over adhesive substrata with a primary focus on neurons and cells involved in cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Alessandro Olivi

Dr. Alessandro Olivi, Professor of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, focuses on the surgical treatment of primary and metastatic tumors of the brain and spinal cord. He performs microsurgery on skull-based tumors, such as acoustic neuromas, meningiomas and vascular lesions. Additional clinical interests include cerebrovascular conditions and craniofacial reconstructions.