Pediatric Divisions

Pediatric Hematology & Oncology

Pediatric Faculty

Dr. Girish Dhall
Director | Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Alva
Assistant Professor

Dr. Jamie Aye
Assistant Professor

Dr. Christy Bemrich-Stolz
Assistant Professor

Dr. Smita Bhatia

Dr. Joseph Chewning

Dr. Gregory Friedman

Dr. Frederick Goldman

Dr. Hilary Haines
Associate Professor

Dr. Lee M. Hilliard

Dr. Anna Hoppmann

Dr. Tom Howard
Professor Emeritus

Dr. Chibuzo Ilonze
Assistant Professor

Dr. Emily Johnston
Assistant Professor

Dr. Malgorzata Kasztan
Assistant Professor

Dr. Matthew Kutny
Associate Professor

Dr. Wendy Landier

Dr. Jeffrey Lebensburger

Dr. Avi Madan-Swain

Dr. Katie Metrock
Assistant Professor

Dr. Donna Murdaugh
Assistant Professor

Dr. Brandi Pernell
Assistant Professor

Dr. Sheetal Phadnis

Dr. Purnima Singh
Assistant Professor

Dr. Lauren Smith

Dr. Aman Wadhwa
Assistant Professor

Dr. Emily Warren
Assistant Professor

Dr. Kim Whelan

Dr. Hope Wilson
Assistant Professor

Dr. Julie Wolfson
Associate Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Worthey
Associate Professor

Dr. Ana Xavier
Associate Professor

Featured Research

The UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology is committed to advancing research and taking findings from the bench to the bedside and then to the community. The division’s research efforts are coordinated by the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, a collaboration between the UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama. Additionally, the division works in close collaboration with members of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, the UAB Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship (ICOS), the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science, the UAB Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education, the Children’s Center for Supportive and Palliative Care, and the UAB School of Public Health. These multidisciplinary collaborations serve as a rich resource to accelerate the pace of discovery across the entire trajectory of disease from diagnosis to survivorship and end of life. We are one of only 21 sites nationwide to participate in the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) Pediatric Early Phase Clinical Trials Network (PEP-CTN), one of 23 sites nationally to be a member of the Neurofibromatosis Consortium, one of 23 members of National Pediatric Cancer Foundation Sunshine Project, and one of 26 centers of Pacific Pediatric Neuro-oncology Consortium (PNOC) in the US, which allows us to have access to latest cutting-edge clinical trials for our patients with poor prognosis malignant tumors.

Oncology Research: Neuro-oncology Program

An example of discoveries taken from bench to bedside includes the research led by Gregory Friedman, M.D., in the field of neuro-oncology. Dr. Friedman is the director of our Developmental Therapeutics Program at Children’s of Alabama and the site PI for COG/National Cancer Institute (NCI) Pediatric Early Phase Clinical Trials Network (PEP-CTN). Dr. Friedman conducts bench-to-bedside translational immunovirotherapy research to treat pediatric brain tumors. He holds the IND for oncolytic HSV-1 G207 and is currently conducting two R01-funded, investigator-initiated Phase I trials of intratumoral G207: a first-in-children multi-institutional trial in supratentorial brain tumors (NCT02457845), which has demonstrated safety and very promising efficacy results (N Engl J Med. 2021 Apr 29;384(17):1613-1622); and first-in-human clinical trial in malignant cerebellar brain tumors (NCT03911388), which is now open for enrollment at UAB. This translation of engineered herpes simplex virotherapy is FDA-approved and supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His Phase II clinical trial of G207 in recurrent/refractory malignant gliomas has been approved by the NCI-funded Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC) steering committee to be conducted through the consortium. Dr. Friedman also serves as one of only 21 members on the NCI PEP-CTN and COG Developmental Therapeutics Committee. As site PI, he has been personally responsible for conducting/supervising 15–20 active Phase I/II studies, including multiple industry trials. He contributes to the scientific mission of the committee by reviewing scientific concepts and protocols to help advance innovative therapies.

Girish Dhall, M.D., is a national leader in the field of pediatric neuro-oncology. He chairs the Head Start 4 clinical trial, which is an investigator-initiated, multi-institutional, international, clinical trial using intensive induction chemotherapy and consolidation with high-dose chemotherapy with autologous hematopoietic stem cell rescue in order to avoid cranial irradiation for infants with malignant central nervous system (CNS) embryonal tumors. Emily Waite, PharmD, is the lead pharmacist for this clinical trial. He will be co-chairing an international trial to treat low-risk medulloblastoma patients with irradiation-avoiding strategies along with Stefan Rutkowski, a senior neuro-oncology researcher in Hamburg, Germany. Drs. Rutkowski and Dhall have been successful in obtaining funding for $2.5 million from the German Ministry of Education for this trial, which is anticipated to open in early 2023 at multiple sites across North America, Australia and Europe (17 European countries). Dr. Dhall is the site PI for Pacific Pediatric Neuro-oncology Consortium (PNOC), which is an international consortium focused on understanding how brain tumors develop in children and identifying personalized therapy strategies with sites in the US, Europe, Asia and Australia. He co-chairs the CNS Germ Cell Tumor Working Group within PNOC and is a member of the Steering Committee as well as their AT/RT and International Outreach Working Groups. He is also a member of the Steering and Protocol Review Committees of the Sunshine Project of National Pediatric Cancer Foundation as well as their CNS Tumor Working Group. Dr. Dhall is also serves on the Steering Committees of the CNS Disease Group, Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Discipline Group, and Young Investigators (YI) Committee within Children’s Oncology Group (COG).

Katie Metrock, M.D., is the director of the UAB Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program as well as the director of our Pediatric Neurofibromatosis Tumor Clinic. She is heavily involved in the Neurofibromatosis Clinical Trials Consortium (NFCTC), which is a Department of Defense (DoD)-funded clinical trials consortium. She will be the PI for a Phase II clinical trial for the Prevention of Plexiform Neurofibroma Growth and Morbidity in Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), which will be conducted as a partnership between the NFCTC and the NIH. She will be chairing a Phase II study of digoxin in relapsed/refractory non-SHH, non-WNT medulloblastoma patients that will be conducted through Sunshine Project/NPCF consortium. This concept proposal has been approved by the Scientific/Protocol Review Committee, and the clinical trial is currently under development. In addition, Dr. Metrock is on the International Recommendations for Response Assessment in Pediatric Neuro-Oncology (RAPNO) committee to determine imaging recommendations for pediatric ependymoma. She also helped create and is now the co-chair for the Neurofibromatosis Virtual Case Conference series, which is a national, monthly case conference series through the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Histiocytosis Program

Matthew Kutny, M.D., conducts clinical research focused on improving treatments for high-risk and relapsed leukemia. He serves as the institutional PI for COG, the institutional PI for NACHO (Histiocytosis consortium) and LCH-IV trial, and he is site PI for several trials of targeted and immunotherapies in leukemia. He is the oncology lead for cellular therapy program, including Kymriah for relapse/refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL). He was study chair for the international COG trial AAML1331 testing ATO/ATRA in treatment of newly diagnosed pediatric acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). He has published on results from APL trials (AAML0631 and C9710) to define APL risk factors and optimize supportive care. He is co-chair for a comprehensive coagulation testing for bleeding/thrombosis and early death. Dr. Kutny is leading an effort to decrease burden of care by developing a trial to evaluate oral (instead of IV) form of arsenic trioxide (ATO). He is study chair for COG APAL2020B, a trial in final stages of development to test immunotherapy in relapsed acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He is also part of the COG AAML1831 study committee and is leading efforts to optimize CNS treatment in AML and develop best strategies for risk stratification to tailor therapy based on genetic and disease response (developed the AML risk matrix). Dr. Kutny also serves on the COG steering committees for Cancer Control (CCL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Locally, he has collaborated with several investigators at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, including Dr. Xinyang Zhou (study role of PRMT1 inhibition in AMKL) and Dr. Chris Klug (Relapsed AML Drug Screening).

Ana Xavier, M.D., conducts research focused on clinical trials and outcomes in pediatric lymphoma. She is study chair for a multi-institutional clinical trial through the New York Medical College consortium, NYMC575, a pilot study using induction chemo-immunotherapy followed by consolidation with reduced toxicity conditioning and allogeneic stem cell transplant in advanced stage mature non-anaplastic t- or nk-cell lymphoma/leukemia in children, adolescents and young adults. She serves as PI for a research consortium to study children, adolescents and young adults with NK/T-cell lymphoma (CANTLC). She is study chair for a trial in development with the Pediatric Ohio-New York Center (Peds-ONC) Immunotherapy Center, Reducing the Burden of Oncologic Chemo-radiotherapy and Radiation Exposure from Diagnostic Imaging Utilizing Targeted Immunotherapy in Children, Adolescents and Young Adults with Lymphoma (RADICAL) Consortium. She is the PI for the ECLIPSE study, evaluation of classical Hodgkin lymphoma patients with primary treatment failure and analysis of outcomes. She is the site PI for multiple COG lymphoma trials utilizing novel therapies and immunotherapy as well as site PI for an industry sponsored clinical trial for relapsed T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL). She has also published multiple manuscripts analyzing outcomes in pediatric for patients with lymphoma/leukemia utilizing national and consortium databases. Building upon translational research work in Down syndrome leukemia that she began as a fellow, she is a member of the study committee for COG AAML1531 clinical trial for patients with Down syndrome and newly diagnosed AML.

Julie Wolfson, M.D., MSHS, conducts research focused on outcome disparities among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with cancer, and she is a member of the UAB Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship. She was recently awarded an NIH R01 grant to evaluate factors associated with exposure to 6MP in AYAs with ALL through a multi-site consortium. She is PI of a Rally Foundation-funded AYA Consortium to investigate a broad range of factors on AYA disparities in ALL. She is national study chair of COG ACCL16N1CD, Documentation of Guideline-Consistent Treatment in Adolescent and Young Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She has published on the impact of treatment site on differences in outcome according to age in more than 16,000 AYAs with various types of cancer. Dr. Wolfson has studied barriers to accessing care. She has collaborated with investigators across pediatric and adult cancer trials consortium to help meet the unique needs of the AYA cancer population. She is co-chair (and COG champion) of a health outcomes study embedded in the NCTN AYA ALL study (A041501-HO). Her collaborations have also led to successful development of a local AYA program. She serves as director of the UAB AYA Oncology and Oncofertility Program.

Solid Tumor Program

The Pediatric Solid Tumor Program at Children’s of Alabama is a multidisciplinary team that is committed to excellence in clinical care and research in pediatric solid tumors. The team, led by Dr. Elizabeth Alva, consists of four pediatric oncologists, one surgical oncologist, one orthopedic oncologist and one radiation oncologist that work collaboratively to provide ongoing improvements to care for our patient population.

Elizabeth Alva, M.D., is an active member of the NCI-COG pediatric MATCH committee. She is currently the study chair on a recently approved sub-protocol of the Pediatric MATCH trial that she developed titled, “AG-120 (Ivosidenib) in Patients with Tumors Harboring IDH1 Mutations.” Dr. Alva is also active on the Target Agent Prioritization committee for the Pediatric MATCH through the COG. She is the site PI of the Beat Childhood Cancer Consortium, which offers clinical trials for patients with medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma. In addition, she is the site PI for the Sunshine Project/NPCF consortium, which also provides early phase trials for patients with solid tumor and brain tumors. Dr. Alva runs our pediatric cancer predisposition clinic at Children’s of Alabama, which is a clinic providing evidence-based screening for patients with genetic cancer predispositions.

Jamie Aye, M.D., is active within the Children’s Oncology Group and serves as a member of the Children’s Oncology Group Intermediate Risk Rhabdomyosarcoma Working Group. Through this involvement, she has been able to present both nationally and internationally on the role of radiation therapy in completely resected alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma and will be a committee member for the upcoming intermediate risk rhabdomyosarcoma study, ARST2132. In addition to her COG involvement, Dr. Aye participates as a member of the study protocol committee for the Sunshine Project. She is also currently working on a pooled analysis of outcomes and description of clinical features in children with biliary rhabdomyosarcoma through the International Soft Tissue Sarcoma Consortium (INSTRuCT). Dr. Aye is the PI of the UAB Pediatric Tumor Bank and Tumorgraft Development trial, which actively enrolls patients to allow for the collection of tumor tissue for ongoing research at Children’s of Alabama.

Emily Johnston, M.D., is an active member of the solid tumor program. For her research program, see Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship below.

Kimberly Whelan, M.D., is an active member of the Children’s Oncology Group, where she previously served as the chair of the Task Force for Ocular Late Effects from 2009–2013. She subsequently served as a member of this task force from 2013–2019. She currently is a member of the
Pediatric Normal Tissues in the Clinic (PENTEC) Ocular complications task force, through which she is working on an analysis of the organs and tissues that are at risk from radiation injury in children. She played an integral role in the establishment of Children’s of Alabama as a member of the Sunshine Project/NPCF Consortium and served as the initial site PI for this group. She is also the PI of the Taking on Life after Cancer Database. In addition, she is currently a co-investigator in an NIH-funded trial looking at adaptive immunity and persistent SARS-CoV-2 replication in pediatric patients with cancer and blood disorders.

Blood & Marrow Transplantation Program

We are a FACT-accredited bone marrow transplant (BMT) and immune effector cell (IEC) program. We are a part of the Radiation Injury Treatment Network (RITN), a national network of medical centers with expertise in the management of bone marrow failure. The BMT team consists of four physician faculty members: Drs. Fred Goldman, Joseph Chewning, Hilary Haines, and Sheetal Phadnis. Melissa Wallace is the administrative director of Operations for BMT. She has been with the program for 22 years. The total number of transplants, as well as number of patients transplanted, has steadily increased since 2015 with a record number of transplants (n=38) by the end of 2021. Clinical translational research, as well as basic science research, has been carried out by members of the BMT program for several years.

Frederick Goldman, M.D., is a member of the Graduate Biomedical Sciences program and is an active member of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is attempting to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of bone marrow failure syndromes and congenital immune deficiencies, and is translating this information to the promotion of novel agents and stem therapies for these disorders. His translational research laboratory is addressing unmet needs in hematopoietic disorders using innovative gene correction technology, coupled with BMT, to develop safer cures. From a clinical perspective, Dr. Goldman is recognized as an expert in the areas of bone marrow failure conditions and primary immune deficiencies. He participates in several national and international consortia relating to bone marrow failure (DBA Foundation, Clinical Care Consortium for Telomere Associated Ailments) and immune deficiencies (Pediatric Immune Deficiency Transplant Consortium), helping to understand the natural history of these conditions and develop novel treatment strategies.

Joseph Chewning, M.D., is the clinical director for both the inpatient and outpatient Blood and Marrow Transplant Programs and is a national leader in BMT for pediatric AML and the local expert on BMT for acute and chronic leukemia and graft versus host disease (GVHD). He is on the COG Myeloid Diseases Steering Committee and Cellular Therapy Committee, and co-chairs the AML-BMT Task Force of the Myeloid Diseases Committee. Lastly, Dr. Chewning is program principal investigator for the Pediatric Transplantation and Cellular Therapy Consortium and is a member of multiple steering committees, including the Oncology Committee.

Sickle Cell Disease Program

The UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology has a strong team dedicated to cutting-edge research in the field of sickle cell disease. The program currently cares for approximately 850 patients from birth to high school and around 50 patients that are older and in the process of transitioning.

Jeffrey Lebensburger, D.O., MSPH, section head of Hematology, continues to focus his research efforts on understanding the progression to chronic kidney disease that affects about one-fourth of adults with sickle cell anemia. He received a grant from the NIH to conduct a multicenter study that will develop a novel approach to defining kidney function in children and adults with sickle cell anemia. In addition to his own research studies, he served on the Executive Committees of the Baby HUG Follow-Up II study, Neuroheme Consortium, and Hydroxyurea Prevent Study. He is site investigator for several novel therapeutic studies and observational studies, including a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute–funded transition grant and HRSA-funded sickle cell surveillance grant. Dr. Lebensburger is recognized for excellence in clinical trial design and mentorship. He was selected to serve as one of 18 faculty members at the ASH Clinical Research Training Institute (CRTI) in 2016. After his third year as a faculty member at CRTI, he was elected by his peers to become the co-director of the program (2019–2022). Furthermore, the executive committee voted him to serve as the head of the curriculum for the program.

Thomas Howard, M.D., is the longest serving member of the sickle cell team and was the founder of the UAB Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center. Dr. Howard is currently lead site investigator for novel therapeutic studies, including for voxelotor and crizanlizumab. He was the site PI for the SIT Trial and Baby HUG study, as well as several other therapeutic studies. Working with Dr. Lee Hilliard, he developed the Children and Youth Sickle Cell Network, as well as the BABY STEPS infant education program for both local and national use by providers caring for children with sickle cell.

Lee Hilliard, M.D., is also a long-standing member of the sickle cell team with years of clinical and research experience. She was the site investigator for several landmark sickle cell studies, including SWiTCH, TWiTCH and DISPLACE, as well as several other therapeutic studies and CNS studies. Most recently, she served as the site PI for the DISPLACE study.

Brandi Pernell, DNP, MSN, has a research focus on pulmonary outcomes of sickle cell disease, as well as psychosocial/socioeconomic predictors of outcomes. Dr. Pernell received a CCTS Deep South Career Development award to study the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) in sickle cell disease (O-ACES). She is currently working to develop a resilience program for patients with high exposure to ACE.

Malgorzata Kasztan, Ph.D., leads our basic science program for pediatric sickle cell disease. She currently is funded by NIH/NHLBI (K99/R00) grant to study the role of endothelin-1 in tubular injury in sickle cell disease. She also is focused on studying the role of endothelin-1 signaling in renal iron metabolism in sickle cell disease. Dr. Kasztan is also the lead in our translational sickle cell program, working with clinical samples from Dr. Lebensburger to evaluate novel biomarkers of kidney injury in sickle cell patients.

Dr. Goldman and Hilary Haines, M.D., are participating in curative clinical trials for patients with sickle cell and developing patient centered approaches to educate patients about curative therapies. The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders has opened a collaborative haploidentical BMT protocol, CTN1507 for patients with sickle cell disease. Additionally, the center, in collaboration with the adult hematology colleagues, will be participating in an autologous gene therapy protocol for sickle cell disease.

Thrombosis and Bleeding Programs

Hope Wilson, M.D., is conducting research to define clinical care for children with a history of thrombosis and persistent thrombotic risk factors. She received a prestigious trainee award to the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Clinical Research Training Institute to refine this research. Recently, she was awarded four years of funding ($440,000) from the NIH to study the association between thrombotic events and renal disease. This pediatric and adult study is being conducted at UAB (Adult and Pediatric), St. Jude Research Hospital/University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and University of Illinois Chicago (adult-only site).

Christy Bemrich-Stolz, M.D., MSPH, is the research lead for bleeding disorder research programs.
She oversees the ATHN (American Thrombosis and Hemostasis Network) database, Community Counts and other therapeutic/observational bleeding studies. Drs. Bemrich-Stolz and Wilson, in collaboration with the UAB Division of Adolescent Medicine, have developed women’s and children bleeding disorders clinic.

Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship (ICOS)

In order to meet the needs of cancer survivors, UAB founded the Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship in 2015, with a mission to improve the understanding of the long-term effects of cancer treatment on the overall health and well-being of survivors, and to mitigate the burden of morbidity through research, health promotion and education. Currently, the Institute has 16 faculty members with a primary research focus on cancer outcomes, with the total funding of more than $40 million since its inception in 2015.

Smita Bhatia, M.D., MPH, is the founding director of the Heersink School of Medicine Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship (ICOS). Dr. Bhatia was awarded the National Cancer Institute Outstanding Investigator Award in 2018, providing her with funding for the next seven years to identify childhood cancer survivors at highest risk for late-occurring cardiomyopathy and second cancers. As part of this initiative, she has a multi-institutional study at more than 100 institutions to understand the molecular pathogenesis of treatment-related complications. Using this resource of more than 4,000 DNA samples, she has identified genomic variants that modify radiation-related subsequent neoplasm and anthracycline-related cardiac dysfunction. This has led to improved models to identify survivors most at risk for these complications. She also received funding from the National Cancer Institute to understand the pathogenesis of therapy-related leukemia in patients with lymphoma receiving autologous stem cell transplantation. In addition, Dr. Bhatia has been funded by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the NIH (through a U01 mechanism) to construct a cohort of 10,000 BMT survivors to understand the burden of morbidity borne by the survivors. This cohort has demonstrated that BMT survivors carry a substantial burden of morbidity, but the life expectancy is improving, especially among those transplanted at a younger age. (JAMA Oncology, 2021). These findings have informed the need for lifelong follow-up of BMT survivors. She is developing FDA-approved and NIH-funded strategies to reduce the risk of radiation-related breast cancer in survivors of Hodgkin lymphoma; findings were published in the Clinical Cancer Research in 2021. She has demonstrated that non-adherence to oral mercaptopurine used to sustain durable remissions in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is prevalent and is associated with high risk of relapse. She and Dr. Wendy Landier conducted a randomized clinical trial to improve adherence using personalized text messaging and directly supervised therapy (funded by the National Cancer Institute). Findings from this study published in JAMA Netw Open have informed a large multi-institutional study embedded in a COG therapeutic trial to enhance adherence. She has developed an infrastructure and leads the effort in maintaining continuous follow-up of all patients treated on COG therapeutic trial across the US (funded by the NCI CCDI initiative). She is chairing four national cooperative group studies. Within COG, she serves on the Executive Committee and as Vice Chair of the Survivorship and Outcomes Committee.

Wendy Landier, Ph.D., deputy director of ICOS, received funding from the NIH to understand the facilitators and barriers to HPV vaccination in childhood cancer survivors, and test the immunogenicity and safety of using this vaccine in childhood cancer survivors. Findings from this study were published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health in 2021 and informed the next large initiative funded by the NCI through a U01 mechanism to improve HPV vaccination rates in childhood cancer survivors by educating the healthcare providers at six participating institutions. She has also received funding from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to develop a patient-family education intervention for children with newly diagnosed cancer and from Kaul Pediatric Research Institute (KPRI) to develop an educational smartphone app for parents of children with a new diagnosis of cancer. She, along with Dr. Bhatia, have led the efforts in developing the COG Long-term Follow-up Guidelines in survivors of childhood cancer. Current efforts are centered on updating the guidelines. Within COG, she is the past chair of the Nursing Discipline and serves on the Scientific Council.

Julie Wolfson, M.D., MSHS, is an active member of ICOS. For her research program, see above in the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Histiocytosis Program section.

Emily Johnston, M.D., MPH, has received funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Kaul Pediatric Research Institute (KPRI) and the Conquer Cancer Foundation to improve the quality of end-of-life care of children dying of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. She has published extensively on the prevalence and patterns of high-intensity care received at end-of-life in children dying of cancer and is currently developing strategies to ensure that children receive goal-concurrent care at end-of-life. Drs. Johnston and Wolfson have led a large multi-site effort to develop a registry of children with cancer who developed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2021.

Donna Murdaugh, Ph.D., is a board-certified neuropsychologist, funded by the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science KL2 career development award, as well as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to develop cognitive remediation programs for patients with sickle cell disease. She is also conducting a cognitive remediation intervention trial in survivors of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia to facilitate transition of healthcare from a pediatric to an adult facility.

Aman Wadhwa, M.D., is funded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to determine the association between body composition and subsequent toxicities in children with cancer. He is presenting his findings related to extreme obesity during maintenance and relapse risk in children with ALL at the annual meeting for the American Society of Hematology.

Purnima Singh, Ph.D., MPH, works closely with Dr. Bhatia in understanding the molecular pathogenesis of treatment-related complications in cancer survivors.

Anna Hoppmann, M.D., MPH, is interested in the social determinants of health and their impact on childhood cancer outcomes. She has demonstrated that persistent child poverty in combination with longer distance from the treating hospital are associated with worse outcomes.

2021 Publications

High-Impact Publications

Am J Hematol. 2021 Feb 1. Hyperuricemia and Abnormal Nocturnal Dipping Impact Glomerular Filtration Rate in Patients with Sickle Cell Anemia. Jeffrey D Lebensburger, Inmaculada Aban, Lee M Hilliard, Daniel I Feig.

Bone Marrow Transplant. 2021 Jan 8. Impact of access to care on 1-year mortality following allogeneic blood or marrow transplantation. Omer Jamy, Alice Chen, Kevin Battles, Liton Francisco, Donna Salzman, Susan Bal, Antonio Di Stasi, Luciano Costa, Ravi Bhatia, Smita Bhatia.

Br J Haematol. 2021 Sep 1;10.1111/bjh.17552. Which adults with sickle cell disease need an evaluation for pulmonary embolism? Nadirah El-Amin, Steven D Lauzon, Paul J Nietert, Julie Kanter.

Cancer. 2021 Apr 23. Impact of insurance status on the survival of younger patients diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in the United States. Omer H Jamy, Richard Godby, Aditi Dhir, Luciano J Costa, Ana C Xavier.

Cancer. 2021 Jun 23. Individual prediction of nonadherence to oral mercaptopurine in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia: Results from COG AALL03N1. Anna L Hoppmann, Yanjun Chen, Wendy Landier, Lindsey Hageman, William E Evans, F Lennie Wong, Mary V Relling, Smita Bhatia.

Cancer. 2021 Nov 12; How can we create resilient research systems in a pandemic? Julie A Wolfson, Candice C Dye, Jennifer M Levine.

Cancer. 2021 Oct 6;10.1002/cncr.33935. Early palliative care is associated with less intense care in children dying with cancer in Alabama: A retrospective, single-site study. Elizabeth S Davis, Isaac Martinez, Garrett Hurst, Smita Bhatia, Emily E Johnston.

Cancer. 2021 Sep 8; 10.1002/cncr.33914. Impact of sociodemographic factors on early mortality in acute promyelocytic leukemia in the United States: A time-trend analysis. Omer H Jamy, Aditi Dhir, Luciano J Costa, Ana C Xavier.

J Cancer Surviv. 2021 Feb 6. Sexual behaviors and human papillomavirus vaccine non-initiation among young adult cancer survivors. Brooke Cherven, James L Klosky, Yanjun Chen, Jocelyn M York, Karen Heaton, Gwendolyn Childs, Jessica S Flynn, James A Connelly, Karen Wasilewski-Masker, Leslie L Robison, Melissa M Hudson, F Lennie Wong, Smita Bhatia, Wendy Landier.

J Clin Oncol. 2021 Oct 25;JCO2100702. SARS-CoV-2 in Childhood Cancer in 2020: A Disease of Disparities. Emily E Johnston, Isaac Martinez, Elizabeth S Davis, Caroline Caudill, Joshua Richman, Julienne Brackett, David S Dickens, Alissa Kahn, Carla Schwalm, Archana Sharma, Pratik A Patel, Smita Bhatia, Jennifer M Levine, Julie A Wolfson, POCC Consortium.

J Pediatr Surg. 2021 Jun;56(6):1157-1164. PIM447 inhibits oncogenesis and potentiates cisplatin effects in hepatoblastoma. Nikita Wadhwani, Hooper R Markert, Raoud Marayati, Laura V Bownes, Colin H Quinn, Jamie M Aye, Jerry E Stewart, Karina J Yoon, Elizabeth A Beierle.

JAMA Oncol. Published online May 6, 2021. Risk, Racial Disparity, and Outcomes Among Patients With Cancer and COVID-19 Infection. Julie A. Wolfson, MD, MSHS; Emily E. Johnston, MD, MS; Kelly M. Kenzik, PhD.

N Engl J Med. 2021 Apr 10. Oncolytic HSV-1 G207 Immunovirotherapy for Pediatric High-Grade Gliomas. Gregory K Friedman, James M Johnston, Asim K Bag, Joshua D Bernstock, Rong Li, Inmaculada Aban, Kara Kachurak, Li Nan, Kyung-Don Kang, Stacie Totsch, Charles Schlappi, Allison M Martin, Devang Pastakia, Rene McNall-Knapp, Sameer Farouk Sait, Yasmin Khakoo, Matthias A Karajannis, Karina Woodling, Joshua D Palmer, Diana S Osorio, Jeffrey Leonard, Mohamed S Abdelbaki, Avi Madan-Swain, T Prescott Atkinson, Richard J Whitley, John B Fiveash, James M Markert, G Yancey Gillespie.

Neuro Oncol. 2020 Dec 18;22(12):1862-1872. Excellent outcome of young children with nodular desmoplastic medulloblastoma treated on "Head Start" III: a multi-institutional, prospective clinical trial. Girish Dhall, Sharon H O'Neil, Lingyun Ji, Kelley Haley, Ashley M Whitaker, Marvin D Nelson, Floyd Gilles, Sharon L Gardner, Jeffrey C Allen, Albert S Cornelius, Kamnesh Pradhan, James H Garvin, Randal S Olshefski, Juliette Hukin, Melanie Comito, Stewart Goldman, Mark P Atlas, Andrew W Walter, Stephen Sands, Richard Sposto, Jonathan L Finlay.

Pediatrics. 2021 Sep;148(3):e2021053127. Long-term Follow-up Care for Childhood, Adolescent, and Young Adult Cancer Survivors. Melissa M Hudson, Smita Bhatia, Jacqueline Casillas, Wendy Landier, SECTION ON HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY, CHILDREN’S ONCOLOGY GROUP, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF PEDIATRIC HEMATOLOGY/ONCOLOGY.

PLoS One. 2021 Mar 9;16(3):e0246244. EZH2 inhibition decreases neuroblastoma proliferation and in vivo tumor growth. Laura V Bownes, Adele P Williams, Raoud Marayati, Laura L Stafman, Hooper Markert, Colin H Quinn, Nikita Wadhwani, Jamie M Aye, Jerry E Stewart, Karina J Yoon, Elizabeth Mroczek-Musulman, Elizabeth A Beierle.

Transplant Cell Ther. 2021 Jun 18;S2666-6367(21)00998-2. Reduction in late mortality among patients with Multiple Myeloma treated with Autologous Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplantation—a BMTSS Report. Smith Giri, Yanjun Chen, Jessica Wu, Lindsey Hageman, Joshua Richman, Liton Francisco, Wendy Landier, Luciano Costa, Andrew McDonald, Donna Murdaugh, F Lennie Wong, Daniel J Weisdorf, Stephen J Forman, Mukta Arora, Saro H Armenian, Smita Bhatia.

Extramural Awards, Recognition & Leadership Roles

Smita Bhatia, M.D.

  • Dr. Bhatia is a member of the National Cancer Policy Forum of the National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine.
  • She is on the Scientific Advisory Board for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Minnesota Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Diego Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCSF Pediatric Oncology T32 program, University of Minnesota Hematology T32 Program.
  • She is the chair of the CCSS Genetics Working Group.
  • She is the chair of the NCCN AYA Panel.
  • She serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
  • She is the section editor for Cancer.
  • She is the senior editor for Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.
  • She is a member of the NCI Clinical Trials and Translational Research Advisory Committee.
  • She is a member of the AACR Science Policy and Government Affairs Committee.

Girish Dhall, M.D.

  • Dr. Dhall was appointed the deputy director of the Neurofibromatosis Clinical Trials Consortium.
  • He was selected to join the International Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) Scientific Programme Advisory Committee (SPAC). The SIOP SPAC was founded in 2008 and consists of experts in specific fields of pediatric oncology.
  • He is a member of the O’Neal Cancer Clinical Trials Task Force.

Wendy Landier, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Landier was elected to the American Pediatric Society.
  • She is the past chair of the COG Nursing Committee.
  • She is a member of the COG Scientific Council.

Jeffery Lebensburger, D.O.

  • Dr. Lebensburger was selected to serve on the Scientific Review Subcommittee for the American Society of Hematology Sickle Cell Disease Clinical Trials Network. 

Hope Wilson, M.D.

  • Dr. Wilson was selected to serve on American Society of Hematology Committee.

Ana Xavier, M.D.

  • Dr. Xavier named NCCN Pediatric Aggressive Mature B-Cell Lymphomas Panel Vice-Chair.

Aman Wadhwa, M.D.

  • Dr. Wadhwa accepted into Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Fellowship.
  • Dr. Wadhwa selected for CRTI Fellowship.
  • Dr. Wadhwa received CCRF Emerging Scientist Award.

New Faculty 2021

Anna Hoppmann, M.D.

Chibuzo Ilonze, M.D.
Asistant Professor

Malgorzata Kasztan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Emily Warren, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program

The core mission of the UAB Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program is to graduate excellent, independent pediatric hematologists-oncologists for careers in academic medicine who will be local and national leaders in the field. As the state’s only comprehensive center for pediatric blood and malignant disorders, treating 90% of all pediatric cancer and other blood disorders patients diagnosed in Alabama, our program provides fellows with sufficient clinical experience with both inpatients and outpatients who have hematologic and oncologic disorders to develop their skills in diagnosing and managing both common and unusual problems. During their training, our fellows undertake an in-depth study of a specific area of pediatric hematology and oncology. This project may involve laboratory-based research or a joining a clinical research project that is ongoing within the division. In some circumstances our fellows may obtain a Master of Science in Public Health or a Ph.D. as a component of their training.

2021–2022 Fellows

Alexandria Broadnax, M.D.
First-Year Fellow
Residency: University of Tennessee, Memphis

Blake Foxworthy, M.D.
First-Year Fellow
Residency: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Elizabeth Gunn, M.D.
Second-Year Fellow
Residency: Carolinas Medical Center

Abbey Rocco, M.D.
Second-Year Fellow
Residency: Saint Louis University

Sara Claire Hutchins, M.D.
Second-Year Fellow
Residency: University of Mississippi Medical Center

Kathryn Six, M.D.
Third-Year Fellow
Residency: Carolinas Medical Center

Program Directors

Kimberly Whelan, M.D.
Program Director

Hilary Haines, M.D.
Assistant Program Director

Program Coordinator

Heather Kirk

Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program

The UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology offers a one-year advanced fellowship in pediatric neuro-oncology. This fellowship is offered to physicians who have completed a pediatric hematology-oncology fellowship or a pediatric neurology residency. Because the field of neuro-oncology is incredibly sub-specialized with multiple other disciplines woven into the care of every patient, there exists a need for additional, focused training. The Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellowship Program has been designed to enhance the fellow’s knowledge of pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors including biology, diagnosis, clinical course, treatment options, outcomes and areas of research.

Program Director

Katie Metrock, M.D.

Program Coordinator

April Rice

Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Fellowship Program

The Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Fellowship is a non-ACGME accredited one-year fellowship for qualified physicians who have completed a three-year pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship and wish to pursue further training in pediatric blood and marrow transplantation and cellular therapies. This fellowship meets all the criteria for clinical training in BMT as defined by the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy and the Foundation for the Accreditation for Cellular Therapy.

Program Director

Hilary Haines, M.D.

Program Coordinator

Denise Bristow