Faculty Profiles: Christopher Willey

Christopher Willey, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor


Research Interests:

“Cancer has surpassed heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States despite medical advances. Radiation therapy is used in over half of all cancer patients, yet many tumors are resistant to radiation-induced damage. This resistance occurs due to both tumor and host factors. Therefore, our lab seeks to define new molecular targets that can be modified such that radiation treatment becomes more effective. Our ultimate goal is to bring this therapeutic strategy into clinical trials."

Contact:

Erika White
Phone (205) 934-5670
Email: elwhite@uabmc.edu

Hazelrig-Salter Radiation Oncology Center
1700 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35249
Education and Postdoctoral Training:
  • B.S.E. Duke University, Durham, NC, 1992-1996, Biomedical Engineering
  • M.D. Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, 1996-2003, Medicine
  • Ph.D. Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, 1996-2003, Molecular Cellular Biology and Pathobiology
  • Transitional Internship Spartanburg Regional Health System Spartanburg, SC 2003-2004
  • Residency in Radiation Oncology Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nashville, TN 2004-2008


Publications
Please click on "Publications" to view a full listing.
Awards / Honors:

  • Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Fraternity
  • 2000-2002 NIH Predoctoral Fellowship (NRSA)
  • 2003 B. Leonard Holman Research Pathway by American Board of Radiology
  • February, 2005 Gordon Conference Travel Grant, Ventura CA
  • 2005 (August) ASTRO Translational Research Symposium Travel Grant, San Francisco, CA
  • 2006 (September) ASTRO Translational Research Symposium Travel Grant, Boston, MA
  • 2006 (November) Radiation Research Scholars in Training Travel Grant, Philadelphia, PA
  • 2007 (February) NCI Joint Lung and Head/Neck SPORE Travel Award, Charleston, SC
  • 2007 RSNA Roentgen Resident/Fellow Research Award
  • 2006-2007 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Awards for Medical Scientists Nominee, Vanderbilt, TN
  • 2007 ASTRO Basic Science Travel Grant Award
  • 2008 ACRO Travel Award Scholarship
Specific Research Activities:
  1. Bmx: Bone Marrow kinase on X-chromosome, or Bmx, is the ubiquitously expressed member of the Tec Family of non-receptor tyrosine kinases. This family is unique in that they are the only tyrosine kinase family that contains a pleckstrin homology domain, giving specific membrane interactions with phosphatidyl-inositol phosphates (PIPs). We have shown that Bmx is activated in vascular endothelial cells by ionizing radiation and that Bmx inhibition by shRNA or by drug treatment can enhance radiation cytotoxicity. We are developing, in collaboration, novel inhibitors for Bmx. Promising agents will be evaluated in multiple preclinical cancer models.
  2. PKC: We have found that ionizing radiation induces the activation of PKC and we believe this helps regulate endothelial cell viability and function. Our preliminary studies show that PKC inhibition modulates the cytotoxicity of irradiation of endothelial cells. The goals of the proposed research study are to determine the mechanism of PKC activation and to determine what downstream events rely on this radiation-induced PKC activation. This research will potentially lead to new molecular targets for radiation sensitization.
  3. High-throughput Discovery Tools: We have utilized kinomic systems to identify radiation responsive proteins in vascular endothelium. Numerous potential biological targets have been found which are being evaluated for radiation modulation. Several candidates are being validated and tested in pre-clinical models of tumor vascular endothelium with radiation.