Melissa Wong, Ph.D.

Melissa Wong
Associate Professor
Department Vice Chair
Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology

Graduate Program Memberships:

Professional Memberships:

American Association for Cancer Research
International Society for Stem Cell Research
American Gastroenterological Association


1987 - University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
1994 - Bowman Gray School of Medicine/Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC


1995-1998 - Post-doctoral fellow, Washington University School of Medicine
1998-2001 - Instructor, Washington University School of Medicine
2001-2008 - Assistant Professor, OHSU
2008-present - Associate Professor, OHSU
2013-present - Vice Chair, Cell & Developmental Biology

Wong Lab

Sophia Bornstein
Sophia Bornstein, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Education: B.S., Notre Dame de Namur University, Biochemistry, Belmont, CA. M.D., Ph.D., School of Medicine and Cell & Developmental Biology, OHSU, Portland, OR.

Scientific Interests: My research focuses on the role of genomic alterations and the tumor microenvironment in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). In graduate school, I characterized a Smad4 knockout spontaneous mouse model of HNSCC, which highlighted the importance of genomic instability and inflammation in tumorigenesis. As a resident, I developed an HNSCC research group including establishment of a cell line bank, in vitro assays evaluating inhibitors of invasion, tissue arrays, high-throughput immunostaining protocols, and bioinformatics mining using the cancer genome atlas (TCGA) in collaboration with Missy Wong and Shannon McWeeney. I've collaborated with our new microenvironment microarray core under Joe Gray, using HNSCC cell lines to investigate which proteins are important for survival after radiation. In collaboration with Dan Clayburgh and other colleagues in Otolaryngology, along with Lisa Coussens and Missy Wong, we will start HNSCC Translational Tumor Board meetings in early 2016. I am now focused on clinical translational research, particularly pilot and phase I/II trials. I am working on early phase investigator initiated trials to evaluate B-cell inhibition in HNSCC based on the seminal work of Lisa Coussens. I wrote a pilot salivary biomarker study to detect HNSCC recurrence at the ECCO-AACR-EORTC-ESMO Workshop in Clinical Cancer Research in 2014, which I plan to open soon. Clinically, I've started a Radiation Medicine Palliative Care Clinic to improve the care of patients with complex needs. Lastly, I direct and teach our Radiation Medicine Radiobiology course. I recently started as an Assistant Professor within Radiation Medicine with shared lab space in the Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology Department under the mentorship of Drs. Lisa Coussens, Missy Wong, and Charles Thomas.

Charlie Gast

Graduate Student

Education: B.A. Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at Lewis and Clark College, Research Assistant, Dr. Brian Wong's laboratory, Infectious Disease, OHSU M.D./Ph.D. program

Scientific Interests: The role macrophages play in promoting the progression of cancer. Specifically, investigating phenotypic alterations in cancer that are a result of hybrid cells forming via fusion between cancer cells and macrophages. Also, testing specific immunotherapies that target macrophage function to treat metastatic disease.

Lara Riegler


Education: I am a Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Bone Marrow Transplant Fellow at Oregon Health & Science University. I attended medical school at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and completed my residency in Pediatrics at the University of Utah/Primary Children’s Medical Center. My original degree was in engineering, and I spent several years working in the field of biomedical research prior to attending medical school.

Scientific Interests: For my current fellowship scholarly activity, I am working in the lab of Melissa Wong, Ph.D. My research is focused on examination of a novel mechanism underlying acquisition of aggressive disease in cancer cells with the hope that new insights are revealed that will inform prognosis and treatment of advanced stage cancer. I am investigating cell fusion between macrophages and tumor cells as a non-mutational mechanism of tumor heterogeneity and aggressive disease in human cancers. In addition to my basic science research, I am enrolled in Oregon Health & Science University’s Human Investigations Program. The program’s two year curriculum includes clinical research analysis and design as well as biostatistics and grant writing.

Mark Schmidt

Research Assistant

Education: B.S., Portland State University with a focus on molecular/micro biology. Graduated with honors and was the first PSU student (and only still as far as I know) to do a thesis at Reed College. Interned at the National Animal Disease Center.

Scientific Interests: My personal research interests pertain more to behavioral genomics/epigenomics. My current work pertains more to mechanisms of metastatic potential in cancer which is relatable to behavioral genomics fairly directly in that I’m teasing out genes or networks that may be actors in driving changes in behavior at a cellular level rather than an organismal level. Away from OHSU I try to make myself a better programmer so I can tackle the informatics side of biology better while spending a lot of time outside hiking, biking, running, climbing and clumsily catching frisbees. I still keep a large tank of cichlids from my undergrad thesis at home and only sometimes pretend to experiment on them (but don’t tell the IRB).

Nicholas Smith


Education: B.S. Chemistry, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), Syracuse, NY. Ph.D. Biochemistry, University of Oregon, Institute of Molecular Biology, Dr. Ken Prehoda’s lab, Eugene, OR. Postdoctoral Fellow, OHSU, Wong lab.

Scientific Interests: I am interested in understanding mechanisms of stem cell regulation during homeostasis and in diseases such as cancer.  My current research focuses on understanding the molecular function of a cancer stem cell marker and cell adhesion molecule, CD166, in regulating homeostatic signaling within the intestinal stem cell niche.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my wife and three kids, trips to the Oregon coast, fishing, snowboarding, playing golf and brewing beer.

John Swain

Senior Research Assistant

Education: Education: B.S. Biology, University of Southern California.

Interests: Cooking and going on road trips.

Nikki Wieghard

Surgical Resident

Education: MD from KUMC and currently in General Surgery Residency at OHSU (PGY4)

Scientific Interests: I am the research fellow with Dr. Tsikitis and Dr. Wong engaging in both clinical and basic science research involving mostly colorectal and anal cancers. Basic research projects involve molecular genetics of colon cancer and progression to metastases.