Our Team

Madan Kwatra, DirectorMadan Kwatra

Dr. Kwatra is an associate professor of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology, and Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. He has a PhD in medicinal chemistry followed by several years of training in receptor biochemistry and pharmacology. This included training with 2012 Nobel laureate Dr. Robert Lefkowitz. Dr. Kwatra has been funded by the NIH to study the function of substance P/neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R) and effect of age on cardiac GPCRs. He also led an interdisciplinary team consisting of anesthesiologists, biostatisticians, psychiatrists, and surgeons in a 2.5 million dollar, NIH-funded study to understand the molecular basis of postoperative delirium in the elderly. In 2009, Dr. Kwatra discovered a constitutively active form of NK1R in glioblastoma (GBM). Since then he has been focusing on GBM biology. Recently, he found that patient-derived GBM xenografts retain the phosphoproteomic profile of parent tumors and plans to use a panel of such xenografts and stem cells for personalized glioblastoma drug discovery. Because of his expertise in medicinal chemistry, receptor pharmacology, cell signaling, and clinical trials, Dr. Kwatra is in a unique position to develop an effective therapy against GBM.

Callie Roberts 

Callie is a research assistant and 2015 Duke graduate. She graduated with a major in Biology with Distinction, concentrating in Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, as well as a minor in Environmental Science & Policy. She served as the undergraduate representative for the Campus Sustainability Committee for four years. Her experience includes: proteomic research on breast cancer stem cells in Dr. Lydia Sohn’s lab at UC Berkeley, as well as on breast cancer biomarkers and genetic signatures of metastasis with Dr. Bruce Ling and Dr. Harvey Cohen at Stanford University. In Dr. Kwatra’s laboratory, she has been focusing developing targeted therapies for GBMs with EGFRvIII since 2013. She plans to become a physician scientist with a focus on pharmacological cancer research.


Leora MazumdarP1000343

Leora Mazumdar is a junior at Duke University studying Biomedical Engineering. She is from El Dorado Hills, California. While in California, she gained some lab experience from taking genetic engineering classes at UC San Diego. However, this is her first time working in a research lab. In Dr. Kwatra’s lab, Leora works on data analysis and on a study on emergence delirium in awake craniotomy patients. 


Garrett Holmes

Garrett is a senior at Duke University studying Biology. He is from Dallas, Texas, and plans to attend medical school and pursue a career in medicine and clinical research after graduation. Garrett has been working in Dr. Kwatra’s lab for two years, and specializes in microscopy, proteomic data analysis, and patient derived glioblastoma xenograft models. 


Maddie Frazier

Maddie is a sophomore at Duke University studying Neuroscience with a particular interest in neurological diseases. She aspires to attend medical school and continue research after undergrad. This is her first experience working in a research lab. Her main project in Dr. Kwatra’s lab focuses on correlating biomarkers with patient outcomes from tumor treating fields (TTfields). She also tests drug compounds on subcutaneous and intracranial models of glioblastoma.  


Wesley Pritzlaff

Wesley Pritzlaff is a freshman from Rolesville, North Carolina planning to pursue a major in Neuroscience with a certificate in Science and Society. While in high school, he participated in two summer research experiences at East Carolina University, where he tested the accuracy of Niacin and Riboflavin concentrations in Multivitamins, and at Meredith College, where he examined the effects of negative feedback on test-takers. In Dr. Kwatra’s lab, Wesley has collaborated with six medical centers to ensure participation on a new project that will help to identify efficacy of TTFields treatment on various GBM subtypes. He also has shadowing experience with cell culture, western blot, and animal data collection.


Elise Fernandez

Elise is a senior at Duke University studying biomedical engineering and specializing in imaging and biomaterials/biomechanics. She is from Durham, North Carolina and began working at Dr. Kwatra’s lab at the beginning of 2018. She spent last summer testing and repairing medical equipment in Tanzanian hospitals and is now looking to gain experience in clinical research. She is currently studying the effects of various drug compounds on glioblastoma cell lines and tumor models. 



Our Advisors

Amanda Haddock

Amanda Haddock was introduced to the world of brain cancer when her 16 year old son, David Pearson, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). Though David only survived for 20 months after diagnosis, his determination to help others lives on in the work done by his family. After volunteering for a number of foundations, Amanda co-founded Dragon Master Foundation in 2013 to more fully focus on open access, big data research to impact cancer therapies. She was honored with the White House Champion of Change Award for Precision Medicine and participated in the White House Cancer Moonshot Summit. Her work as an advocate and funder has helped grow the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium from 4 participating hospitals in the United States to more than 15 hospitals around the world. Amanda’s vision for open access research is not disease specific, and she has plans to empower research in the rare disease community and beyond.  In addition to her work with research, Amanda developed and maintains a list of financial and other resources for brain cancer patients.


Steven KeatingSteven Keating

Steven Keating received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the MIT Media Lab in 2016 with a minor in Synthetic Biology, and has background dual degrees in Engineering and Film from Queen’s University. Dr. Keating fuels his research with curiosity, a force he believes saved his life. He accidentally discovered he had a baseball-sized cancerous brain tumor during a voluntary academic scan. His tumor was successfully removed through awake brain surgery in 2014, and now he is a strong advocate for open patient data. His past research projects have included building-scale 3D printing, microfluidics for synthetic biology, and novel fabrication methods to explore his own brain tumor data. Steve has been featured in a short film, “The Open Patient,” and published in an O’Reilly Media book chapter, “Beyond 3D Printing: The New Dimensions of Additive Fabrication,” which summarizes the directions of his research.


Al Musella

musella@virtualtrials.comAl Musella

Al Musella is the president and founder of the Musella Foundation For Brain Tumor Research & Information, Inc, a 501(C)3 nonprofit public charity dedicated to helping brain tumor patients through emotional and financial support, education, advocacy and raising money for brain tumor research.  In 1992 his sister-in-law was diagnosed with GBM, sparking his interest in brain tumors. He soon realized there was no centralized online resource for brain tumor clinical trials.  Thus, shortly after, he began the first online support group dedicated to brain tumors and collected and published a database on all relevant clinical trials.  This site served as a model for the current NIH clinical trials website.  Next, Dr. Musella created an online patient registry to monitor the treatments used and the respective outcomes.  To date, he has provided grant funding for over 60 brain tumor research projects and emphasizes the value of nontraditional, unique approaches.   He serves on numerous boards as a patient advocate, helping to shape the direction of brain tumor research.  Dr. Musella was involved in the FDA approval process for Avastin and the Novocure System, and in the Medicare funding process for Gliadel, Temodar, Avastin and the Novocure system.  In 1999, Al also lost his father to GBM, but he has continued to make a profound impact on brain tumor research, awareness, and support.


Recent Lab Alumni

Cory Nanni

Madison Krischak

Kristine Brown

Gustavo Chagoya

Timothy Yen

Sarah Corin

Caroline Schanche

Bradley Cahn