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Lab Members

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Principal Investigators

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John C. Byrd, MD

Dr. Byrd is the chair of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Byrd, Gordon and Helen Taylor Professor of Medicine endowed chair, is a board-certified hematologist specializing in the care of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He is an active researcher who has received more than $28 million in basic and clinical research grant support during his career. He leads the Leukemia and Drug Development Lab (LDDL). The LDDL focuses on translational immune and molecular pharmacology. Dr. Byrd’s research has shown that therapeutic agents such as rituximab, idelalisib, ibrutinib and acalabrutinib are effective against CLL, and has led efforts to understand how resistance develops to these agents. His work with ibrutinib was transformative in eliminating the use of chemotherapy in most patients with CLL and changing the natural history of this disease. He serves as the chief medical officer for Beat AML, a precision medicine effort that will also come to the University of Cincinnati and provide access to patients to novel treatments in the Division of Hematology. He has published more than 550 scientific papers related to his research and is a top-cited author among the world in hematological biomedical research. 

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Erin Hertlein, PhD Assistant Professor  

Dr. Hertlein completed her graduate and post-doctoral studies at The Ohio State University prior to transferring to the University of Cincinnati in August of 2021 as a faculty member in the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Dr. Hertlein’s studies focus on novel drug development and mechanistic understanding of the development of leukemia, primarily chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Current research programs in the group focus on BCL3, PTPN11, EZH2, BCL2 and DHODH, as well as several other new targets. In general, our research strives to understand 1) the mechanistic contribution of these aberrant proteins and signaling pathways on leukemia development, 2) therapeutic mechanisms of novel agents directed at these targets, 3) how these targets mediate transcriptional regulation and cellular differentiation and 4) the impact on the tumor microenvironment, and how bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and tumor-associated immune cells can be manipulated to enhance anti-tumor responses. We use novel animal models of both CLL and AML to characterize how the microenvironment can be subverted to support tumor development which is pivotal to our understanding of cancer development and response to therapy.

Research Team

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Carolyn Cheney, BS. Senior Research Associate.

Ms. Cheney graduated from the University of South Carolina. She has worked with Dr. Byrd for 18 years. As flow cytometry specialist, she maximizes her expertise in researching the mechanism of action for candidate therapeutics and rational drug combination therapies. Her current research focus is utilizing her expertise in her own research and mentoring laboratory members in designing and running their own flow cytometry experiments.

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Megan Johnstone, PhD. Clinical Research Project Manager.

Dr. Johnstone completed her PhD at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in Cellular and Molecular Nutrition. She completed her T32 funded postdoctoral studies at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where she studied translational murine models. Her current research focus is moving the portfolio of therapeutic discoveries of the LDDL from bench to bedside.

Furby Casie
Casie Furby, RVT. Research Assistant

Ms. Furby received her Associates of Applied Science and Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Cincinnati. As a registered veterinary technician, she will be heading the lab’s colony management team. Her current work will be assisting researchers with various aspects of their experiments and gaining more experience in an academic research lab setting.

Elgamal Ola
Ola Elgamal, PhD. Research Scientist

Dr. Elgamal completed her PhD at The Ohio State University in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the College of Pharmacy. She pursued her passion for translational drug discovery by joining Dr. John Byrd’s laboratory for her postdoctoral studies during which she received a T32 fellowship to study the biology of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) spontaneous murine models. Dr. Elgamal’s current efforts focus on providing tolerable novel therapeutic strategies for leukemia patients.

Elgamal Sara with UC lab coat

Sara Elgamal, PhD. Research Scientist

Dr. Elgamal completed her PhD at The Ohio State University in Microbiology at the College of Arts and Sciences. She pursued her postdoctoral studies in translational research by joining Dr. John Byrd’s laboratory. During her postdoctoral tenure, she received a Pelotonia fellowship to study the role of  extracellular vesicles in leukemia pathogenesis. Dr. Elgamal’s current efforts focus on preclinical evaluation of novel therapies.

Abdul-Aziz Amina with UC lab coat

Amina Abdul-Aziz, PhD. Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Abdul-Aziz completed her PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA, Norwich, UK) in Biomedical Research where she studied the role of bone marrow mesenchymal cells in Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) survival and development. In early 2020, Dr. Abdul-Aziz was awarded an NCI Pathway to Independence Award for Outstanding Early Stage Postdoctoral Researchers (K99/R00) to study aging and senescence in the microenvironment of AML. Her research aims to identify cancer-promoting aging processes that can be targeted for AML prevention and treatment.

Photo of Lerma James in UC lab coat

James Lerma, B.S. Research Assistant

James graduated in May of 2021 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Xavier University. As a research assistant, he is helping the researchers and postdoctoral fellows of the LDDL with their different projects and experiments. Through this work, James is also obtaining laboratory skills and experience in a research environment. 

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Sydney Fobare, BA, Visiting Scholar

Sydney is a graduate student under the mentorship of Drs. Byrd and Hertlein. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Hendrix College. Her research focuses on studying murine models of AML and utilizing these models for the development novel therapeutics.


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Krishna Krothapalli, BS, Research Assistant 

Mr. Krothapalli graduated in May 2021, with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, at the University of Cincinnati.  As a Research Assistant in the LDDL lab, Krishna is learning various lab techniques and gaining valuable research experience while assisting researchers with mice handling and colony management.

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Kinsey Bryant, BS, Research Assistant 

Kinsey graduated from Hendrix College in May of 2022, obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Her work as a research assistant consists of helping the postdoctoral fellows and researchers in the LDDL with their in vivo and in vitro projects. Through this experience, she is gaining scientific knowledge and laboratory skills in a translational research setting.

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Tom Sesterhenn, MS. Research Associate 

Mr. Sesterhenn completed his Masters in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy. He has 20 years of research experience, having previously worked in labs focused on infectious disease and developmental biology. His current research focus is supporting members of the LDDL lab in completing their ongoing projects.

Photo of Krothapalli Krishna

Izzy Adams, Student Worker 

Izzy is a Medical Sciences major at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is expected to graduate in May 2025. Her work has consisted of assisting other members in the lab with their projects and most recently, conducting a project about the effects of SOD1 in CLL. She has presented this work at the Medical Sciences Poster Fair. As a member of the LDDL, she is able to gain laboratory experience and valuable scientific knowledge for her future career aspirations.

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Kaytlynn Fyock, BS, Research Assistant 

Kaytlynn received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the Honors College at Portland State University in June of 2017. She is part of the lab’s colony management team as a Research Assistant. She assists the researchers with various aspects of their experiments regarding mouse handling and colony management, and is gaining experience in an academic research lab setting learning new skills.

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University of Cincinnati
Department of Internal Medicine

Division of Hematology & Oncology
231 Albert Sabin Way, ML 0562
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0562

Phone: 513-558-2115
Fax: 513-558-2125