Bruce Kirkpatrick

University of Colorado MSTP Annual Retreat: Celebrating Our 40th Anniversary!


On behalf of the MSTP Retreat Committee and MSTP Student Council, we invite you to the 6th annual MSTP retreat! This year’s retreat coincides with our program’s 40th anniversary and 30 years of continuous NIH funding. This annual event strengthens our MSTP student and alumni community by providing a forum where current MSTPs, MSTP alumni, and mentors learn about the ongoing research of current students and celebrate the recent successes of both students and the program at large.


Dr. Pippa Cosper, MD, PhD
Dr. Cosper received her B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. After taking 2 years off to coordinate clinical trials, she enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Colorado where she joined the lab of Dr. Leslie Leinwand, an HHMI Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. During this time, she studied the mechanisms underlying cardiac muscle atrophy due to cancer and was the first to establish and describe a murine model of this specific type of cachexia. Following medical school, Dr. Cosper started her residency in Radiation Oncology at Washington University in St. Louis. She was admitted to the B. Leonard Holman Research Pathway from the American Board of Radiology which provided 18 months of fully protected research time during residency. During this time, she studied gene expression differences in paired cervical tumor biopsies before and during chemoradiation to determine genes associated with radiation resistance. This work revealed that maintenance of human papillomavirus (HPV) oncogene expression and a reduced local immune response were associated with a decreased response to chemoradiation and poor patient outcomes. This work led to an interest in how HPV modulates tumor biology and therapeutic response. Following residency, Dr. Cosper pursued further post-doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was able to continue her studies on HPV but was also introduced to the field of chromosomal instability (CIN) under Drs. Beth Weaver and Paul Lambert. There, she characterized a novel mechanism of HPV-induced chromosomal instability. She found that the E6 oncoprotein selectively degrades the mitotic kinesin CENP-E, which results in polar chromosomes and ultimately CIN and aneuploidy, which likely plays a role in tumorigenesis. During her post-doctoral studies, she also studied how CIN, a continuous rate of chromosome missegregation over the course of multiple cell divisions, affects radiation sensitivity in head and neck cancer. Using engineered isogenic CIN and non-CIN cell lines, she showed that cells with higher levels of CIN at baseline are more sensitive to radiation because they are closer to their maximally tolerated threshold of chromosome loss. This was also shown to be true in patients: patients with laryngeal cancers with higher CIN have a better response to radiation therapy and have decreased local recurrence. The goal is to establish CIN as a biomarker to enable dose de-escalation in some patients or to inform that escalation of therapy will likely be necessary. Within this body of work, she has also shown that docetaxel, a microtubule stabilizing drug, radiosensitizes tumors by inducing multipolar spindles (a form of CIN) rather than causing mitotic arrest, challenging the dogma of the last 35 years. Dr. Cosper became an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2022. Her lab currently focuses on utilizing errors in mitosis, or CIN, as an Achilles heel to promote radiation induced cell death. Her life-long goal is to have a deeper understanding of the tumor biology that drives radiation sensitivity and overall treatment response such that we can provide more personalized radiation therapy to improve patient outcomes and decrease treatment related toxicities. She treats cancer patients one day per week at a satellite clinic near Madison. Dr. Cosper has received numerous early career awards including the ASCO Young Investigator Award, Fellowship awards from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), as well as a K08 award from the NCI during her post-doctoral studies. She was named a Forbeck Scholar from the William Guy Forbeck Foundation, which brings together “the most brilliant minds in cancer research” to advance the field. She is an Associate Senior Editor of Biology for Advances in Radiation Oncology, is committed to service with the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and participates in various foundation study sections. She is a frequent guest lecturer for the UW-Madison Radiobiology course, a Clinical skills course for MD students, and assorted virology classes.
Dr. Craig van Horne, MD, PhD
Dr. van Horne grew up in Colorado then graduated with a B.A. from Williams College where he authored an undergraduate thesis on nerve grafting in goldfish. Subsequently, he returned to the University of Colorado where he received an M.D. and Ph.D. from the department of Pharmacology under Professor Barry Hoffer. He completed his residency in Neurological Surgery from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. After completing his residency, he remained in Boston at The Brigham becoming the Co-Director of the Neurosurgical Movement Disorders Program then the Chief of Neurological Surgery at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center before moving to the University of Kentucky where he is now Professor and Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery. Dr. van Horne has been at the forefront of using deep brain stimulation (DBS) as a therapy for movement disorders and has over 20 years of experience implanting this therapy. However, from his time as an undergraduate, he has steadily advanced the concept of using cell-based therapies for repair of neurodegenerative diseases of the central nervous system. During his doctoral work and residency, his research concentrated on tissue grafting and transplantation strategies in animal models of Parkinson’s disease before serving as the local implanting neurosurgeon for a trial investigating the xenografting of fetal porcine cells for Huntington’s disease. Since arriving at Kentucky, he has assembled a multi-disciplinary team that has made advances through multiple clinical trials including stem cell therapy for patients with chronic stroke symptoms and a series of three different trials to use reparative autologous peripheral nerve tissue as a source for altering neurodegenerative disease progression. This last set of trials involved a first-of-its-kind combination of DBS and cell therapy in what has been termed DBS-Plus. Dr. van Horne has designed, established and executed three different DBS-Plus trials beginning first with a pilot study, then a safety and feasibility study, and currently a Phase I trial to guide future efficacy studies. While the predominant focus of these studies has been on movement disorders, he has also expanded to examining strategies for altering cognitive decline by targeting the nucleus basalis of Meynert. These trials have involved over 80 participants with PD thus making the University of Kentucky a leader in neurosurgical interventional cell-therapy. An indirect benefit of the DBS-Plus trials is that Dr. van Horne has enabled the study of human peripheral nerve injury in a way that has not been previously possible because naïve and regenerative sural nerve tissue is collected from the same participant. His lab has established the only human peripheral nerve regeneration transcriptomic and proteomic database. Dr. van Horne is an active artist whose works are displayed at the UK hospitals and clinics and has recently developed an interest in the potential of merging art with AI.
Dr. Taraz Samandari, MD, PhD
Dr. Samandari was trained at University of Colorado’s Medical Scientist Training Program, completing his PhD in Biochemistry in 1991 and his MD in 1993. From Denver, he left to serve as a resident in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and as a fellow in infectious diseases in Baltimore at University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development where he investigated the human immune response to Shigella vaccines. Seeking to improve the lives of large populations, particularly those in developing countries, Dr. Samandari began his career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2001. For the duration of his tenure at the CDC, he remained within the National Center for HIV Viral Hepatitis STD and Tuberculosis Prevention as an officer of the US Public Health Service. During this period, he conducted research in medical epidemiology, participated in outbreak investigations, the immune response to vaccines and infectious diseases and conducted clinical trials for prevention of disease. Infectious diseases he studied with his colleagues included viral hepatitis A and B, anthrax during the 2001 attacks, tuberculosis, HIV and COVID-19. He has worked in countries and territories as far flung as Palau in the western Pacific, Alaska, Thailand, Kenya, Botswana and the United States. Dr. Samandari established collaborative projects with academia, government and donor organizations and throughout his career has had supervisory and financial responsibilities. He has held academic positions with the University of Maryland and Emory University and served as an expert panelist at the World Health Organization. Dr. Samandari has over 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals and served as a reviewer for 16 journals. Topics of his publications range from the human immune response to viruses and vaccines, to clinical trials for the prevention of TB, HIV and COVID-19, public health policy statements, outbreak investigations and large-scale health systems research for the prevention of HIV.

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