Assistant Professor, Neurobiology
Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma causes severe pain, increased stress, and reduced quality of life, which exceeds the levels seen in other cancers. Beyond sensory/pain signaling, the peripheral nervous system has been identified as a component of the cancer microenvironment and may be involved in modulating tumor progression and tumor-associated immunity. The cancer microenvironment is comprised of stromal cells, glial cells, immune cells, neurons, (e.g., motor, sensory, sympathetic) and proliferating tumor cells. The Scheff lab seeks to integrate the neurobiology, cancer biology, and immunology fields in order to fully appreciate neural-immune-cancer communication and develop a more holistic approach to novel cancer pain treatment. The goal of my research is to understand how peripheral neurons evolve and adapt during cancer initiation and growth, and to investigate whether therapy targeted to neurons innervating the cancer can alleviate pain and slow tumorigenesis.