Personal Statement

The focus of my laboratories over the years has been to elucidate determinants and mechanisms underlying brain metastasis. This includes the discovery of novel microenvironmental interactions between normal and tumor cells invading the central nervous system. The objective of our research is to provide key insights into the biology of rare circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and to decipher functional pathways of CTC subsets directly isolated from patients diagnosed with or without brain metastasis (no concurrent malignancy, no prior chemotherapy). CTCs are “seeds” of fatal metastasis and smallest functional units of cancer. However, the comprehensive characterization of CTC properties, heterogeneity and mechanisms remain elusive.

I have the expertise, leadership and determination needed to successfully carry out this work. I possess a broad background in neurochemistry and in the cell/molecular biology of cancer, having trained in reputable laboratories and Institutions devoted to cancer metastasis research. I am currently Professor in the Division of Molecular Medicine/Department of Internal Medicine, Professor of the Department of Pathology at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and Full Member of UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center where I direct a laboratory focused on CTC/Translational cancer research.

As PI, I have assembled over the years a strong team of trainees, mentoring a myriad of undergraduate/graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and Junior Faculty members. Specifically, I have mentored 12 undergraduate students (8 women), 4 PhD students (3 women), 55 Postdoctoral Fellows (23 women), 3 PhD/MD fellows (1 woman), and 4 Junior Faculty members (1 woman, 1 under-represented minority). I have been involved in graduate student programs and served on admission committees in graduate, veterinary and medical schools. I am also Director of Junior Faculty Development at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center (UNMCCC).

Over my multi-decade career, I successfully contributed to the cancer literature ( >4,200 manuscript citations) and administered various projects (staffing, budget, scientific objectives and their implementation) funded by federal (28 years of uninterrupted NIH funding), state (CPRIT, Louisiana Governor’s Biotechnology Initiative), institutional (MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine), and private (Phillip Morris, Inc., The Avon Foundation for Women) agencies.

Further, I have pioneered programs for improved understandings of the biology and therapeutic utility of CTCs by conceptualizing, developing, and establishing CTC Cores at BCM and HMRI, a first in the Nation. My extensive education leadership qualifies me to serve as: (1) full member in the Cellular and Molecular Oncology (CMO) Program of UNMCCC; and (2) co-leader of the Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination Core (CRTECC) program, along with Drs. Wandinger-Ness and Andritsos.


Graduate School: The University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy (1979)


  • Italian, Spanish