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Headshot of Dr. Christopher Willey, MD (Professor, Radiation Oncology) in white medical coat, October 2022.

Hale-Stephens ROAR Endowed Professor for Distinctive Research
Associate Vice Chair of Translational Research
Physician Scientist

Areas of Interest:
Central Nervous System (CNS), Head & Neck

Physical address
Hazelrig-Salter Radiation Oncology Center
1700 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233

Administrative Contact
Valeria Glenn

Research Interests

"My lab is dedicated to the understanding of the abnormal signaling that governs cancer biology at the individual tumor level and then exploiting these processes for optimal treatment strategies. My research career has been focused on kinases, enzymatic proteins that control signaling within cells through their phosphorylation of other proteins. Kinases are critically involved in virtually all biological processes but are particularly important in disease processes where they are abnormally regulated. It is thought that most cancers are driven by aberrantly activated kinases. Therefore, molecularly targeted drug therapies are actively being developed to potentially enhance traditional therapies in cancer treatment. For this reason, kinase-directed agents represent the most prominent target for drug development at this time. Our lab seeks to identify and develop new molecular targets that can be modified such that cancer treatments, including radiation, become more effective. Our ultimate goal is to bring this therapeutic strategy into clinical trials."

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

Awards and Honors

Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Fraternity (elected in 2002)
2000-2002 NIH Predoctoral Fellowship (NRSA)
2003 B. Leonard Holman Research Pathway by American Board of Radiology
2005 Gordon Conference Travel Grant, Ventura CA
2005 ASTRO Translational Research Symposium Travel Grant, San Francisco, CA
2006 ASTRO Translational Research Symposium Travel Grant, Boston, MA
2006 Radiation Research Scholars in Training Travel Grant, Philadelphia, PA
2007 NCI Joint Lung and Head/Neck SPORE Travel Award, Charleston, SC
2007 RSNA Roentgen Resident/Fellow Research Award
2007 ASTRO Basic Science Travel Grant Award
2007 Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Training Award
2008 ACRO Travel Award Scholarship
2008 ASTRO Junior Faculty Career Research Training Award
2011 John R. Durant Award for Excellence in Cancer Research, 1st Place Jr. Faculty
2011 UAB CCTS 3rd Annual Scientific Symposium Poster Session, 1st place
2008-2013 NIH Loan Repayment Program Award


Specific Research Activities


We are working on strategies to evaluate the global kinase signaling within individual tissue, tumor and cellular samples. These “kinomic profiles” provide a fingerprint or signature of kinase activity within these samples. The UAB Kinome Core (Director: Christopher D. Willey; kinomecore.com) is dedicated to investigating kinase driven signal transduction cascades in a spectrum of biological systems (in vitro to in vivo), particularly related to cancer, but also other kinase driven diseases. This core utilizes a high-content peptide array platform (PamStation®12) that measures global kinase activity in cell and tissue lysates providing broad basic and translational potential. Several collaborations are ongoing across UAB campus and with other Universities and Institutes. An emphasis of the core is to develop personalized medicine approaches through evaluation of kinomic profiles in tumor specimens coupled with ex vivo profiling of small molecule inhibitors (kinase inhibitors) to guide therapy selection. Specific cancers being tested include: Glioblastoma, meningioma, lung cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, leukemia, renal cell cancer, bladder, penile, and pancreas cancer. Several non-cancer emphases include: IgA Nephropathy, Immunology, and Schizophrenia.

Cancer biology and radiation response modulation

We are investigating several key signaling proteins in the context of tumor biology as well as radiation response. The intent is to identify and develop targets for therapeutic development. We have particular interest in lung cancer and Glioblastoma multiforme where we have identified novel roles for a protein MARCKS in cancer and radiation response.

Advanced model systems for Glioblastoma multiforme

In collaboration with Dr. Yancey Gillespie in the UAB Brain SPORE and Neuro-Oncology Program, we have been molecularly characterizing human brain tumors that have been resected from patients and maintained by direct implantation into mice. These patient-derived xenografts (PDX or “xenolines”) are representatives of the patient’s tumor but with the advantage that they are testable model systems. We are evaluating ways to use high content data (such as kinomics) to make therapeutic decisions in Glioblastoma multiforme beginning in PDX with the ultimate goal of doing so in patients.