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Waltz Laboratory Members


Sasha Ruiz-Torres

Graduate Student

Sasha received her BS in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Puerto Rico in 2010. During her undergraduate degree, she focused her studies in Biochemical Engineering evaluating the use of different biomasses for the production of bioethanol. After graduation, Sasha followed a career in industry and then joined the Cancer and Cell Biology graduate program in 2012. Sasha joined the Waltz laboratory in February 2013 and she is currently studying the role of the HGFL-dependent Ron signaling in promoting breast cancer through regulation of the breast cancer stem cell population.


Jessica Mace

Undergraduate Student

Jessica is an undergraduate research aid who joined the laboratory in May 2014. She attends the University of Cincinnati and in May of 2015 she will graduate with a Bachelor's degree in health sciences and a minor in medical sciences. Jessica's summer 2014 undergraduate research focused on Vitamin D as a Growth Inhibitory Treatment to Mammary Cells Expressing Ron. In the laboratory Jessica primarily works with embedding tissues in paraffin and sectioning the samples for microscope slides.​


VidjayaLetchoumy VummidiPremkumar, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Viji joined Dr. Waltz’s lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2014. Her main focus is to explore the role of cell type specific HGFL dependent RON signaling in breast cancer development and metastasis. Epithelial specific Ron activation is involved in the recruitment and polarization of macrophages to the tumor environment. Ron signaling in these tumor-recruited macrophages activates secretion of chemokines that play key homeostatic functions in tumor development and metastasis. However the pathway through which RON activates macrophages to reach a tumor promoting state is poorly understood. She is currently working to define the mechanism by which RON signaling is involved in tumor cell, crosstalk with macrophages and how the communication between these two cell types promote tumorigenesis. To investigate the pathway, she uses an in vitro co-culture model and screens several molecular targets that are involved in the RON signaling pathway.


Nancy Benight, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Benight received her undergraduate degree in Zoology from Miami University in 2006. Her graduate training was completed in 2011 at Baylor College of Medicine in the Translational Biology Molecular Medicine program, where she studied the role of methionine metabolism in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Dr. Benight returned to Cincinnati to join the laboratory of Dr. Susan Waltz, where her postdoctoral work examines the role of the Ron receptor ligand, hepatocyte growth factor like protein (HGFL), in breast cancer biology. Specifically, Dr. Benight’sresearch is focused understanding how tumor cell produced HGFL influences important aspects of tumorigenesis, such as angiogenesis, immune cell activation and metastasis.


Nicholas Brown

Graduate Student

Nicholas received his undergraduate degree (BS) in Biochemistry from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2012. He conducted his undergraduate research under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin Linger studying the function ofTetrahymena telomere binding proteins. After graduation, he joined the Cancer and Cell Biology Graduate Program at the University of Cincinnati and began rotations in July 2012. The following year he joined the Waltz laboratory where he is studying resistance to androgen ablation therapy in prostate cancer. For his dissertation work, he is currently studying the role of Ron receptor signaling in modulating the tumor microenvironment to promote prostate tumor growth following androgen ablation therapy.

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Department of
Cancer Biology

Vontz Center for Molecular Studies
3125 Eden Avenue
PO Box 670521
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0521

Mail Location: 0521
Phone: 513-558-5323
Fax: 513-558-1190