Winter 2023 Newsletter

Lloyd B. Minor, MD

Lloyd B. Minor, MD
Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professorship for the Dean of the School of Medicine, Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy, of Neurobiology and of Bioengineering, School of Medicine Dean

Dean Lloyd Minor, MD has been appointed to the newly created position of Vice President for Medical Affairs at Stanford University. 

 As such, he has joined the President’s Senior Staff and is attending the regular meetings of the Senior Staff, in addition to continuing in his role as Dean of the Medical School. Dean Minor’s dual role allows him to further support Stanford University’s vision and mission.

Lisa Orloff, MD, was awarded the prestigious American Thyroid Association (ATA) Woman-of-the-Year Award at the October 2023 ATA Centennial Meeting in Washington, DC.

Photo Description: Members of the Stanford Endocrinology and Head & Neck Surgery Teams at the ATA meeting (left to right: Dimpy Desai MD, Lisa Orloff MD, Christy Dosiou MD, Kaniksha Desai MD, Julie Chen MD (not pictured: Lizzy McAninch MD).

Recently, the Stanford Thyroid Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) Program, led by Dr. Orloff, surpassed the 200th procedure performed since the inception of the program 4 years ago. This was the first RFA program in California.

Matthew Fitzgerald, PhD, received the Ear and Hearing Editors’ Award.

Matthew Fitzgerald, PhD
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, Chief of Audiology

Dr. Fitzgerald and a team of co-authors received this award for their manuscript entitled, “Preliminary guidelines for replacing word recognition in quiet with speech in noise in the routine audiologic test battery.” Co-authors include Drs Steven Losorelli, Jason Qian, Steven Gianakas, and Austin Swanson. Each year the Editorial Board members select an Ear and Hearing article to be recognized for its outstanding contribution to the literature on hearing and balance.  Their overarching goal at Ear and Hearing is to publish articles that not only advance our basic understanding of hearing and balance but also seek to translate that knowledge into future clinical practice.  They believe this article is an outstanding example of the sort of work that does just that.

The Reticker-Flynn Lab, led by Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD, received a grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).

The Reticker-Flynn Lab received a grant from ARPA-H via Rice University for their project entitled “THOR: Targeted Hybrid Oncotherapeutic Regulation.”

This $1.8 million grant will help them determine the ideal combinations of immunomodulatory molecules in humanized mouse models of cancer metastasis. The proposal encompasses the development and clinical translation of a minimally invasive implantable device to treat a wide range of refractory solid-organ malignancies, including ovarian, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers. 

 Additionally, the Reticker-Flynn Lab received an NIAID DP2 New Innovators Award of $1.5 million from NIH. 

Dr. Reticker-Flynn's proposal, entitled "A modular cell therapy platform for controlling immunological tolerance", focuses upon the development of therapies for controlling immune responses within lymph nodes (LNs). In this proposal, Dr. Reticker-Flynn's lab is developing a new class of living therapies where a patient's own cells are re-engineered to home to LNs. Upon their arrival, they engage with various immune cells to reeducate the immune system to break or promote tolerance to either fight cancer or reverse autoimmunity.

Dr. Reticker-Flynn has also received a grant from the Department of Defense for his proposal, “Revealing and targeting lipidomic vulnerabilities to treat early-stage melanoma.” Most deaths from melanoma are a consequence of the tumors spreading to distant organs, yet the bloodstream represents a particularly harsh environment for tumor cells to survive in, in part due to high levels of free iron. In contrast, lymphatic vessels and lymph fluid have comparatively lower levels of iron and higher levels of tumor-protective fatty acids such as oleic acid. Our collaborator Jessalyn Ubellacker (Harvard School of Public Health) recently discovered that these fatty acids protect tumor cells as they metastasize to lymph nodes, whereupon they acquire additional metabolic changes that facilitate their metastasis through the blood to distant tissues. In this project, we leverage our mouse models of lymph node metastasis to discover the range of metabolic alterations that occur during lymph node metastasis in order to identify vulnerabilities to exploit therapeutically for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. 

Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD, has been awarded a Stanford Cancer Institute’s Innovation Award for his project titled “A platform for elucidating the tumor-reactive T cell repertoire of metastatic cancers.”.

Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery

T cells are essential regulators of anti-tumor immunity yet are frequently coopted by tumors to facilitate tumor progression and metastasis. The T cell receptor (TCR) is a surface molecule on T cells that endows them with the capacity to recognize specific antigens presented by other cells in our bodies. Each T cell clone harbors a unique TCR that aids in the recognition of pathogens without resulting in damage to healthy cells. The balance between recognition of foreign antigens and self-antigens is central to the generation of immunological tolerance. A specific subset of T cells known as regulatory T cells (Tregs) aids in the maintenance of this tolerance by suppressing immune responses to self-antigens. Nonetheless, this population is frequently expanded in cancers and we have identified it as a major contributor to cancer metastasis. Thus, the balance within the entire T cell repertoire spanning these Tregs and conventional T cells, and their associated TCRs, is of critical importance for maintaining immune homeostasis, yet our ability to interrogate the entirety of this repertoire is lacking. In this project with leverage our repertoire-scale TCR profiling technology to investigate T cell responses in our mouse models of metastasis and in doing so build an understanding of how T cell responses are altered during metastatic progression.

Anthony Ricci, PhD, has received an R01 grant from NIH.

Anthony J. Ricci, PhD
Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor in the School of Medicine and Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Vice Chair of Research

Dr. Ricci has received an R01 grant from NIH for his project entitled “Probing how hair bundle mechanical properties shape the mechanotransducer receptor current.”

Dr. Ricci's project tests the hypothesis that mammalian cochlea hair bundles are specialized to respond to sinusoidal stimulation at higher frequencies and that the differences in connectivity provide a mechanical filter to stimulation that contributes to frequency discrimination. The investigation uses newly developed technology to track individual stereocilia motion in the nanometer range while recording the electrical response of the hair cell and stimulating across a broad range of frequencies with three unique, stimulating modalities. Data from this work will contribute directly to his team’s understanding of how hearing achieves its sensitivity and frequency selectivity in normal hearing and how genetic disorders, noise, and aging impact hearing by altering hair bundle properties.

Andrey Finegersh, MD, PhD, received the "Early Career Development Award" intramural grant from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS).

Andrey Finegersh, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery

Dr. Finegersh has received the "Early Career Development Award" intramural grant from VAPAHCS for his project entitled "Targeting transcriptional activation pathways to improve treatment of Veterans with head and neck cancer."  

This project studies the role of the SWI/SNF pathway in tumor immune responses. This pathway is amplified in about 40% of head and neck cancers and has been associated with resistance to immunotherapy. As part of the grant, Dr. Finegersh will develop a molecular oncology program in head and neck tumor biology at VAPAHCS. The mentors for the award are John Sunwoo, MD (Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery) and Katrin Chua, MD, PhD (Medicine).

Lindsay Moore, MD received funding from the Women in Otolaryngology Endowment Committee with the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery.

Dr. Moore has received this award for her project, “Gender Disparities Amongst Surgeon Scientists in Otolaryngology.” 

The goals of the project are to describe the current gender disparities amongst surgeon scientists in Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, compare these gender disparities with those in other surgical subspecialties (including Neurosurgery and Ophthalmology), and to call on OHNS organizations to establish formal female surgeon scientist mentorship programs. The purpose of the WIO Endowment is to provide grants to projects that demonstrate a significant contribution to further explore and advance the success of women in otolaryngology by facilitating career and leadership development, undertaking actionable research that affects how women are integrated into mainstream otolaryngology, exploring unique approaches to work/life integration, and inspiring informative speakers relevant to women’s needs and interests for AAO-HNS WIO section meetings and functions. 

Vasu Divi, MD, received a clinical trial from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Vasu Divi, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology, Director of the Clinician-Scientist Training Program

Dr. Divi has received a clinical trial from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. entitled “R2810-ONC-1788: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Study Of Adjuvant Cemiplimab Versus Placebo After Surgery And Radiation Therapy In Patients With High Risk Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma.”

 In this trial, patients with high-risk cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma who have received surgery and radiation therapy for their tumors are randomized to adjuvant cemiplimab for 48 weeks verses placebo.  The primary endpoint of the trial is improvement in disease-free survival. 

Robson Capasso, MD, received a grant from Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. 

Robson Capasso, MD
Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy, of Psychiatry and Behaviorial Sciences, Associate Dean, Digital Health, Chief of Sleep Surgery

Dr. Capasso received a grant from Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment for his project entitled “Albert Einstein Hospital Upluxo Program: Disrupting Hospitals Fabric Reutilization.”

Dr. Capasso’s team is assisting the Albert Einstein Hospital in Brazil in developing a way to track and quantify the amount of hospital fabric reused through upcycling, in partnership with seamstress cooperatives and small companies in vulnerable areas in Sao Paulo. During the clean operations, all the materials are disinfected, pre-washed, washed, rinsed, dried, and ironed. After this process, they are refined to be sent to cooperatives and small companies. It was the first of its kind hospital in Brazil to solve the waste and create economic opportunities for vulnerable communities at the same time.

Nicolas Grillet, PhD has received funding from Stanford Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI).

Nicolas Grillet, PhD
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery

Dr. Grillet has received Bridge Support funding from Stanford MCHRI for his project entitled “Function of LOXHD1 in mechanosensory hair cells”. 

Genetic studies of deafness-related genes in mice provide the opportunity to identify novel mechanisms involved in the disease and obtain information about the physiology of the inner ear. Mutations in LOXHD1 cause deafness in humans but also in mice by affecting the function of the sound-detecting sensory cells. This project will aim at characterizing the molecular and physiological roles of LOXHD1 proteins in the sound-detecting process by the inner ear sensory cells. 

Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD, is Principal Investigator, and John Sunwoo, MD is Co-Investigator on a grant from Stanford’s Sarafan ChEM-H.

Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD
Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery
John B. Sunwoo, MD
Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy, of Dermatology,Chief of Head & Neck Surgery, Director of Head & Neck Cancer Research

Dr. Reticker-Flynn and Dr. Sunwoo received an internal grant from Sarafan ChEM-H for their project entitled “Massively parallel TCR screening of tumor-reactive T cells from human head and neck cancer lymph nodes.” 

This project is developing a new platform that enables the screening of millions of T cells from patients to identify tumor-specific T cell receptors (TCRs). The technology will be applied to tumor-involved lymph nodes of head and neck cancer patients, laying the groundwork for understanding immune responses to metastatic cancers and developing new classes of T-cell therapies.

Anthony Ricci, PhD, and Kristen Steenerson, MD, are Co-Principal Investigators on a grant from The Wu Tsai Neuroscience: Translate Oversight Committee.

Anthony J. Ricci, PhD
Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor in the School of Medicine and Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and, by courtesy of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Vice Chair of Research
Kristen K. Steenerson, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery

Dr. Ricci and Dr. Steenerson have received a 2024-25 Neuroscience: Translation Award from The Wu Tsai Neuroscience: Translate Oversight Committee for their project entitled, “Small molecule K+ channel modulator to treat acute episodes of peripheral vertigo”. Team members include Patrick Lo, Justin Moore, and Alex Derry. Approximately 13 million adults in the US have peripheral vertigo, constituting 80% of all vertigo cases. Current symptom management medications, notably pharmaceutical vestibular suppressants, are ineffective and come with negative side effects which heavily impact patient quality of life. This consequently leads to significant societal and economic burden including $48.1 billion in annual direct healthcare costs. Our innovation, a small molecule pharmaceutical, targets an ion channel within the inner ear to lower the sensitivity of vestibular hair cells and vestibular nerves to stimulus, thereby restoring vestibular function, improving activities of daily living, and addressing the unmet need for improved drug efficacy and reduced side effects.