Carson Lab

The Carson laboratory, led by William E. Carson III, at The Ohio State University is interested in the translation of basic science discoveries in the field of immunology into clinical treatments for cancer. Our research focuses on factors that influence the immune response to cancer cells, especially in the setting of breast cancer and malignant melanoma.  

The Carson laboratory focuses our research on three main areas.

The use of cytokines either alone or in combination with targeted agents to treat malignant melanoma tumors. The Carson lab is interested in the mechanism of interferon-alpha and ways to enhance its antitumor actions. Targeted agents of interest to our group include proteasome inhibitors, antiangiogenic agents such as bevacizumab, and several tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Notably, many of these agents display synergistic antitumor activity when combined with immune-based treatments.  

The use of cytokines to enhance the actions of antitumor monoclonal antibodies (mAb). We have observed that co-administration of IL-12 can potentiate the antitumor actions of an anti-HER2/neu mAb (trastuzumab or Herceptin) that is used to treat patients with HER2/neu-expressing breast cancers. This data has served as the basis for several NCI-sponsored phase I clinical trials that employ mAbs in combination with IL-12. Recent work from our lab indicates that other immune stimulatory agents may be able to augment the immune response to antitumor mAbs. Agents that are under investigation include toll-like receptor agonists and novel cytokines such as IL-21.   

The effects of stress on the immune system of patients diagnosed with cancer. We hypothesize that stress can significantly inhibit the host immune response in the setting of cancer and have discovered that natural killer (NK) cell function provides an important "window" into this process. We are collaborating with Barbara Andersen, PhD, in the Department of Psychology, who is investigating the effects of behavioral and psychological interventions on the immune function of women with stage II and III breast cancer. Our goal is to define the mechanisms that underlie the altered immune response of cancer patients and explore ways to reverse this inhibition to enhance the effects of immune-based therapies.

Our laboratory is well suited for the physician-scientist in training or postdoctoral researcher interested in discovery for the sake of clinical application. 


Training in Tumor Immunology

Study the immune system and how it fights cancer!

The Ohio State T32 Training Program in Tumor Immunology is dedicated to the education of post-doctoral researchers in this area.

  • Receive on-on-one instruction from an established investigator
  • Tailor your coursework
  • Learn about genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics
  • Learn grant-writing and project management
  • Travel to scientific meetings

Applicants must be a U.S. Citizen or green card holder and be willing to spend two years performing basic research in an immunology lab at The Ohio State University.

Apply Now

Women, minority and disabled applicants are especially encouraged to apply. Applications will be accepted through 6:00pm on Monday, June 2nd, 2015. Start date will be July 1st, 2015.

View a list of the T32 Mentors.

Contact Dr. Carson at

Postdoctoral Pelotonia Fellowship Program

The Pelotonia Fellowship Program provides two-year research fellowships for up to 12 of the brightest and most promising postdoctoral candidates who want to help cure cancer. Cancer is a complex disease and curing it will take a multidisciplinary effort. So, no matter what the field of study, from the traditional science fields to fields such as history, business and computer science, any postdoctoral candidate may apply.

Apply Now

Lab Updates

October – December 2015

  • Elizabeth McMichael attended the SITC conference and gave a poster presentation of her work with IL-21 and cetuximab in pancreatic cancer.
  • Megan Duggan attended the Society for Melanoma Research 2015 Melanoma Conference and gave a poster presentation of her work with NRAS isoforms in melanoma.

June – September 2015

  • Amanda Campbell (Harper) was awarded a Graduate Student Pelotonia Fellowship and Megan Duggan was awarded a SIB T32 Training Fellowship from the BSGP at Ohio State.
  • MD/PhD candidates Amanda Campbell and Andrew Stiff were selected to give oral presentations at the MSTP summer retreat.
  • Nick Courtney joined the Carson Lab as an undergraduate research associate.
  • BSGP first year graduate student Bailey Dye began rotating in the lab. Bailey is working on a project looking at the different isoforms of NRAS in sarcomas.
  • NIH T32 postdoctoral fellow Lorena Suarez-Kelly joined the Carson Lab following her residency at Memorial University.

April – June 2015

  • Undergraduate SUCCESS student Michelle Culbertson joined the Carson lab for the summer from her home institution of Arizona State University.
  • Graduate student Elizabeth McMichael gave her talk, entitled, “IL-21 enhances natural killer cell activity against cetuximab-coated pancreatic tumor cells” at the OSU Department of Surgery Research Day. Dr. Nicholas Latchana also presented his talk, entitled, “Classification of Indeterminate Melanocytic Lesions by MicroRNA Profiling.”
  • Dr. Nicholas Latchana won 1st place in Oncology at the Annual American College of Surgeons Ohio Chapter Meeting for his oral presentation on Global MicroRNA Profiling of Indeterminate Melanocytic Lesions.

January – March 2015

  • Carson Lab undergraduates Gonzalo Nico Olaverria Salavaggione and Tiffany Noel were awarded Summer Undergraduate Research Institute scholarships to work in the lab full time over the summer of 2015.

CCC Members

William Carson, III, MD

Dr. Carson is a surgical oncologist with clinical interests in breast cancer, melanoma and general cancer surgery. His primary research focus is the immunotherapy of tumors, which can be thought of as using drugs and other treatments to boost the human immune system's innate ability to fight tumor.

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Robert Wesolowski, MD

Dr. Wesolowski's research interests include breast cancer immunology, in particular myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) and early phase trials of experimental therapeutics. MDSC are important inhibitors of anti-tumor immune response.

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Researchers and Lab Staff

Zhiwei Hu

Zhiwei Hu, MD/PhD

Research Associate Professor, Surgical Oncology
I am one of first few scientists who proposed to target both the tumor cells and tumor neovasculature. As co-inventor, I hold 4 US patents of Icon and its uses. Icon has been tested for immunotherapy of cancer, aged-related macular degeneration (AMD) and endometriosis in preclinical studies. Icon immunotherapy is currently being tested in Phase I clinical trials for AMD patients. Recently my laboratory developed another targeted therapeutics, namely factor VII (fVII)-targeted photodynamic therapy (fVII-tPDT) using fVII peptides-conjugated photosensitizers for cancer (including chemoresistant cancer) and AMD.

Prashant Trikha

Prashant Trikha, PhD

Senior Research Scientist
The focus of my research has been to investigate the role of signaling pathways that contribute to the expansion of immune cells in tumor microenvironment. I have become particularly interested in studying a class of immune suppressor cells known as myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), with a focus on their significance in human cancers as prognostic markers, suppressors of host immunity and potential therapeutic targets. Currently, I am investigating the role of signaling pathways that contribute to the expansion of immunosuppressive myeloid cells (MDSC) in the tumor stroma and understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to suppression of natural killer cell (NK) functions in cancer patients. Furthermore, I am conducting pre-clinical studies using immunotherapeutic agents (antibodies and cytokines) that can attenuate tumor growth by augmenting NK cell activity. I have used transgenic and gene knockout mice to elucidate the role of immune cells, including myeloid cells in pathogenesis of solid tumors and in hematological malignancies. My goal is to develop a better understanding regarding how aberrant signaling between cancer cells and the surrounding stroma leads contribute to tumor progression.


David Abood

David Abood

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: Mouse models of breast cancer with Prashant Trikha

Kristen Bede

Kristen Bede

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: MDSC interaction with NK cells with Andrew Stiff

Amanda Harper

Amanda Campbell, BS

Medical Scientist Training Program, MD/PhD Candidate
As a trainee in Dr. William Carson’s research laboratory, I am studying the role of natural killer cells in the immune response to cancer. In particular, I am interested in developing therapeutic strategies to promote NK cell activity in the setting of melanoma and triple negative breast cancer. As an MD/PhD trainee, I joined the Carson lab because I am interested in conducting translational cancer research. With a number of innovative immunology research projects underway in lab, coupled with Dr. Carson’s experience with designing and conducting clinical trials, I knew that this lab would be an ideal training environment to prepare me for my future career as a physician scientist.

Nick Courtney

Nick Courtney

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: ALT-803 in head and neck cancer with Liz McMichael

Megan Duggan

Megan Duggan, BS

Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, PhD candidate
As a student in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at OSU, I have chosen to continue my doctoral research in the Carson lab, as the lab’s focus on cancer immunology and it’s translation into clinical therapeutics perfectly fits my interests. My current research is involves the GTPase NRAS, its signaling pathways and its potential role in BRAF inhibitor-resistant melanoma.

Liz McMichael

Elizabeth McMichael, BS

Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program, PhD candidate
I am currently investigating the role of combination immunotherapy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer, the upregulation of the IL-21 receptor on NK cells following FcR stimulation, the role of MDSCs in melanoma, the creation of novel conjugate antibodies for the treatment of folate receptor positive cancers, looking at correlative studies for several clinical trials ongoing at Ohio State, and, the role of “super” cytokines in combination with mAb therapy. My dissertation project will focus on combination immunotherapy options with cytokines and both FDA approved an novel mAb constructs for the treatment of various cancer types in hopes of improving patient outcomes and prolonging progression-free survival.

Tiffany Noel

Tiffany Noel

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: CD25 expression on the surface of NK with Amanda Campbell

Nico Salavaggione

Nico Salavaggione

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: NRAS expression in melanoma with Megan Duggan

Andrew Stiff

Andrew Stiff, BS

Medical Scientist Training Program, MD/PhD candidate
I am currently investigating cancer immunology with an emphasis on understanding mechanisms of tumor induced immune suppression. Through understanding these mechanisms we hope to be able to design more optimal immune based therapies for patients.

Lorena Suarez-Kelly, MD

Post Doctoral Fellow
I joined the team as a postdoctoral research fellow under the T32 Surgical Oncology Training Program at The Ohio State University in 2015 following the completion of my residency at Memorial University in Savannah, Georgia. My research interests include the development of a fluorescent nanodiamond system to promote innate immune cell activation and anti-tumor activity and the evaluation of the diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic potentials of microRNAs in melanoma patients.

Sarvani Uppati

Sarvani Uppati

Undergraduate Research Assistant
Research Focus/Mentor: MDSCs in Melanoma and Breast Cancer with Prashant Trikha


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