Wong Lab


My research program has a dual focus, first, on understanding regulatory mechanisms for proliferation of stem cells, and second on investigating novel mechanisms for how tumor cells gain diversity.

Our stem cell group focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying regulation of active cycling and quiescent stem cells in the context of intestinal development, tissue regeneration and disease. While stem cell biology is at the forefront of regenerative medicine, there lacks a clear understanding of the general mechanisms that coordinately regulate the various stem cell populations to proliferative and ultimately lineage differentiate in tissue. This lack in knowledge hampers potential to harness stem cell biology for therapeutic purposes in regeneration and disease contexts. The individual research projects in my laboratory encompass investigation of establishment of the regulatory stem cell niche during intestinal development and the dynamic remodeling of the intestinal stem cell niche during injury and disease.

Our cancer group focuses on understanding the exciting discovery that macrophages fusing with tumor cells results in generating cell fusion hybrids that retain properties of both parent cells. Our underlying hypothesis is that cell fusion can mediate acquisition of behaviors associated with MФs that contribute to metastatic cancer cell behaviors (migration, intravasation, extravasation, tissue colonization). We have evidence that these MФ-tumor cell fusion hybrids more aggressively seed the liver and grow at an increased rate relative to unfused tumor cells. Further, we have shown that cell fusion underlies genetic and phenotypic diversity of the resulting progeny, suggesting that this mechanism is one way that tumors gain heterogeneity that ultimately hampers therapeutic treatment and underlies recurrent disease.



Melissa Wong

Melissa Wong, Ph.D. 
CDCB Department Vice Chair/Associate Professor
Education: BA Department of Molecule, Cellular, Developmental Biology, University of Colorado. PhD Department of Molecular and Cellular Pathobiology, Bowman Gray School of Medicine/Wake Forest. Postdoctoral Fellowship Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine

Eric Anderson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Education: B.A. – Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO – 1994. M.D. – State University of New York – Downstate College of Medicine, Brooklyn, NY – 2006. Ph.D. – State University of New York – Downstate College of Medicine, Brooklyn, NY – 2006. Residency – OHSU – Internal Medicine – 2006 – 2008. Fellowship – Medical Oncology Research Pathway – 2008 – 2012.
Scientific Interests: I am interested in improving survival and response to chemotherapy in metastatic GI malignancies including colorectal and pancreatic cancer.

Sophia Bornstein, Ph.D., M.D. 

Education: MD PhD Oregon Health & Science University
Scientific Interests: Molecular Mechanisms of Recurrent Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Paige Davies, Ph.D.

Research Instructor
Education: B.S. Biochemistry, Clemson University. Ph.D. Dept. of Cell Biology, Oregon Health & Science University. Postdoctoral Fellowship Dept. of Dermatology, Oregon Health & Science University
Scientific Interests: My work focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms of tissue regeneration and repair in response to injury (irradiation, inflammation, disease). The intestine provides a unique model to study stem cell dynamics and the surrounding microenvironment in the context of both tissue homeostasis and repair processes.

Charlie Gast

Education: BA in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology at Lewis and Clark College 2002-2006 Research Assistant (Dr. Brian Wong's laboratory, Infectious Disease) 2006-2011 OHSU MD/PhD program 2011-present
Scientific Interests: My research interests focus on the role macrophages play in promoting the progression of cancer.  Specifically, I am investigating phenotypic alterations in cancer that are a result of hybrid cells forming via fusion between cancer cells and macrophages.  Additionally, I am testing specific immunotherapies that target macrophage function to treat metastatic disease.

Laura Riegler, Ph.D., M.D.

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: Undergrad (B.Sc.) at 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 for a summer too.
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, Ph.D.

Education: (2003)  B.S. in Chemistry from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), Syracuse, NY. (2010)  Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Oregon, Institute of Molecular Biology (Dr. Ken Prehoda’s lab), Eugene, OR. (2011-current)  Postdoctoral Fellow here at OHSU in the 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, M.D.

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.