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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. We are particularly interested in ceramide synthase 6, which preferentially generates C16-ceramide.
(2)Adoptive T cell therapy is a promising strategy for inoperable or advanced melanoma. Treatment success generally correlates with persistence of transferred T cells. We are investigating mechanisms that could underlie poor persistence and develop strategies to increase T cell resilience.
(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

Tirodkar TS, Lu P, Bai A, Scheffel MJ, Gencer S, Garrett-Mayer E, Bielawska A, Ogretmen B, Voelkel-Johnson C. Expression of ceramide synthase 6 transcriptionally activates acid ceramidase in a c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent manner. J Biol Chem. 2015 Apr 3. pii: jbc.M114.631325. [Epub ahead of print]

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

White-Gilbertson S, Mullen T, Senkal C, Lu P, Ogretmen B, Obeid L, Voelkel-Johnson C. Ceramide synthase 6 modulates TRAIL sensitivity and nuclear translocation of active caspase-3 in colon cancer cells. Oncogene. 2009 Feb 26;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. Promoting thiol expression increases the durability of antitumor T-cell functions. Cancer Res. 2014 Nov 1;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. T cells expanded in presence of IL-15 exhibit increased antioxidant capacity and innate effector molecules. Cytokine. 2011 Aug;55(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. Inhibition of superoxide generation upon T-cell receptor engagement rescues Mart-1(27-35)-reactive T cells from activation-induced cell death. Cancer Res. 2009 Aug 1;69(15):6282-9.  PMID: 19638595

Gene Delivery
Gosnell H, Kasman LM, Potta T, Vu L, Garrett-Mayer E, Rege K, Voelkel-Johnson C. Polymer-enhanced delivery increases adenoviral gene expression in an orthotopic model of bladder cancer. J Control Release. 2014 Feb 28;176:35-43. PMID: 24370892

Kasman L, Voelkel-Johnson C. An orthotopic bladder cancer model for gene delivery studies. J Vis Exp. 2013 Dec 1;(82):50181.PMID: 24326612

Kasman LM, Barua S, Lu P, Rege K, Voelkel-Johnson CPolymer-enhanced adenoviral transduction of CAR-negative bladder cancer cells. Mol Pharm. 2009 Sep-Oct;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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