Lab People

        Lab people: The people working in the Pienta lab are dedicating to understanding the ecology of cancer, how cancer metastasizes and developing new therapies for patients suffering from cancer.



Sarah Amend:  Sarah is a post-doctoral fellow in the lab and received her undergraduate degree from N.C. State University in Biological Sciences and did her Ph.D. thesis work on contributions of the microenvironment to bone resident cancer at Washington University in St. Louis. She is studying the role of the malignant cancer niche in inducing cancer cell biodiversity.


Haley Axelrod:  Haley is a graduate student in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine program at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  She is a native of California and graduated from UC-Irvine with a degree in Biological Sciences. She is working on understanding mechanisms of cancer cell dormancy in the bone microenvironment.

James Hernandez aka J1

James Hernandez:  James graduated in 2011 and has been working at the Dr. Pienta’s lab as a laboratory technician. He is studying the process and factors that are associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) in prostate cancer. James also investigates differences between M1 and M2 macrophages.

Princy Parsana: Princy graduated from Johns Hopkins with a Masters degree in Bioinformatics in 2013.   Princy is a graduate student in Computational Science and is being joint mentored by Dr. Pienta and Dr. Alexis Battle to apply machine learning to studying epithelial to mesenchymal transitions and cancer cell dormancy.


 Diane Reyes:  Diane is a Nurse Practitioner who has joined the group to help drive our translational research efforts.  She will also team with Dr. Pienta to deliver the best possible care of our patients.



Sounak Roy 8-28-15Sounak Roy: Sounak is an undergraduate student at Johns Hopkins University and is majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology. He was born in India and grew up in Columbus, Ohio and previously worked in a basic cancer research lab at the Ohio State University. He is currently investigating the mechanisms involved in prostate cancer dissemination to bone and studying disseminated tumor cells.


Gonzalo Torga: Gonzalo is an MD from Spain who is interested in pursuing a career in Medical Oncology.  He joined the Pienta lab in spring of 2014 to study translational research while developing new therapies for prostate cancer.


Emma 3Emma van der Toom – Emma is a Medical student from The Netherlands. She is interested in pursuing a career in Urology. Right now she is in her final year in becoming an M.D. She already finished her clinical rotations back home, and she will be joining the Pienta Lab for one year to study circulating and disseminated tumor cells.

IMG_9192Ken Valkenburg: Ken is a post-doctoral fellow in the lab who received his undergraduate degree from Ferris State and did his Ph.D. thesis at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, MI on Prostate cancer mouse models of APC and smad4.  He is currently studying the mobilization of PCa cells from the hematopoietic stem cell niche.

James Verdone:  James was born and raised in New Jersey. He from Johns Hopkins University in Biomedical Engineering program in 2013 and came to work in the laboratory as a technician. He is studying cell morphology and applying his BME skills to the EMT / MET projects.

Don Vindivich:  Don Vindivich was neither born nor raised in Maryland however he is proud to say “Ich bin ein Baltimoron”. He studied at Towson University, obtained his degree and immediately began work in the Urology Department here at Johns Hopkins. Don has been the key leader of the laboratory under 3 Urological Research directors. Don’s major interests in the lab include rare cell isolation and facilitating the cataloging of human urological specimens.

JZ3Jelani Zarif: Jelani received his Bachelor of Science and M.S. degrees in Biological Science from Jackson State University. He received his  PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology from Michigan State University in the lab of Dr. Cindy Miranti in 2014.  He joined the Pienta lab to study prostate cancer biology and to develop new treatments for metastatic prostate cancer.


Past members:

Ardeshir  Kianercy:  Ardeshir received his Ph.D. in 2013 from the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California (USC).  He has master’s degrees in Mechanical and Chemical Engineering.  He pursued his post-doctoral fellowship in the Pienta lab studying mathematical analysis of the tumor microenvironment with a special focus on critical transitions in cancer cell populations. He left the lab in August 2015 and he is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Vanderbilt.

Takumi  Shiraishi, MD:  Takumi joined the Dr. Pienta’s lab in the fall of 2013 as a post-doctoral fellow. He  researched the alteration of cancer metabolism using epithelial and mesenchymal prostate cancer cell models and their impacts on cytoskeletal remodeling. He left the lab in August 2014 to return to Japan to practice Urology.