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Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Christina (Voelkel-)Johnson, PhD

Johnson PictureAssociate Professor
Microbiology and Immunology

1995-2000 Postdoctoral Fellow, MUSC

1995 Ph.D., North Carolina State University

Contact Info
Tel: 843-792-3125
Hollings Cancer Center Room HO-352

Research Interests

The long-term goal of my lab is to understand cancer signal transduction pathways and utilize the knowledge to improve cancer therapies. Specific areas of research include:

(1)Sphingolipids: Ceramide is a metabolite of sphingolipid metabolism that is involved in numerous physiological responses. My laboratory is focused on the roles of ceramide synthase 6 and acid ceramidase in cancer.
(2)Adoptive T cell therapy is a promising strategy for inoperable or advanced melanoma. Treatment success generally correlates with persistence of transferred T cells. My laboratory is interested in mechanisms underlying poor persistence and strategies by which adoptively transferred cells can be manipulated ex vivo to enhance persistence and function. 
(3)Delivery of therapeutic genes remains one of the challenges of cancer therapy. In collaboration with Dr. Kaushal Rege (Arizona State University), we are investigating gene delivery using polymers for gene delivery.

Recent Publications | Additional Publications

Venant  H, Rahmaniyan  M, Jones EE, Lu P, Lilly MB, Garrett-Mayer E, Drake RR, Kraveka JM, Smith  CD, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2015) The sphingosine kinase 2 inhibitor ABC294640 reduces the growth of prostate cancer cells and results in accumulation of dihydroceramides in vitro and in vivo. Mol Cancer Ther, in press.

Tirodkar TS, Lu P, Bai A, Scheffel MJ, Gencer S, Garrett-Mayer E, Bielawska A, Ogretmen B, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2015) Expression of ceramide synthase 6 transcriptionally activates acid ceramidase in a c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent mannerJ Biol Chem 290(21):13157-67.

Tirodkar TS, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2012) Sphingolipids in apoptosisExp Oncol 34(3):231-42. Review. PMID: 23070008

White-Gilbertson S, Mullen T, Senkal C, Lu P, Ogretmen B, Obeid L, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2009) Ceramide synthase 6 modulates TRAIL sensitivity and nuclear translocation of active caspase-3 in colon cancer cells. Oncogene 28(8):1132-41. PMID: 19137010

Adoptive T Cell Therapy
Kesarwani P, Al-Khami AA, Scurti G, Thyagarajan K, Kaur N, Husain S, Fang Q, Naga OS, Simms P, Beeson G, Voelkel-Johnson C, Garrett-Mayer E, Beeson CC, Nishimura MI, Mehrotra S. (2014) Promoting thiol expression increases the durability of antitumor T-cell functionsCancer Res 74(21):6036-47. PMID: 25164014

Kaur N, Naga OS, Norell H, Al-Khami AA, Scheffel MJ, Chakraborty NG, Voelkel-Johnson C, Mukherji B, Mehrotra S. (2011) T cells expanded in presence of IL-15 exhibit increased antioxidant capacity and innate effector molecules. Cytokine 5(2):307-17. PMID: 21602054

Norell H, Martins da Palma T, Lesher A, Kaur N, Mehrotra M, Naga OS, Spivey N, Olafimihan S, Chakraborty NG, Voelkel-Johnson C, Nishimura MI, Mukherji B, Mehrotra S. (2009) Inhibition of superoxide generation upon T-cell receptor engagement rescues Mart-1(27-35)-reactive T cells from activation-induced cell death. Cancer Res 69(15):6282-9.  PMID: 19638595

Gene Delivery
Gosnell H, Kasman LM, Potta T, Vu L, Garrett-Mayer E, Rege K, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2014) Polymer-enhanced delivery increases adenoviral gene expression in an orthotopic model of bladder cancerJ Control Release 176:35-43. PMID: 24370892

Kasman L, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2013) An orthotopic bladder cancer model for gene delivery studies. J Vis Exp (82):50181. PMID: 24326612

Kasman LM, Barua S, Lu P, Rege K, Voelkel-Johnson C. (2009) Polymer-enhanced adenoviral transduction of CAR-negative bladder cancer cells. Mol Pharm 6(5):1612-9. PMID: 19655763

Research Support

TCR Gene Modified T Cells for Adoptive Immunotherapy, Project 3: Impact of AICD on TCR Transduced T cells for Adoptive Immunotherapy
P01 CA154778 (PI: Nishimura, Project Leader: Voelkel-Johnson/Mehrotra)

Engineering DNA Delivery Polymers using Combinatorial and Cheminformatics Methods
NIH/R01 GM 093229-01A1 (PI: Rege)

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