Meet New Investigator Melissa Teoh-Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

January 07, 2015

Image with caption: Melissa Teoh-Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

Melissa Teoh-Fitzgerald, Ph.D.

This profile is part of a series to highlight the researchers who will be honored Feb. 2 at a ceremony for UNMC's 2014 Scientist Laureate, Research Leadership, Distinguished Scientist and New Investigator Award recipients.

  • Name: Melissa Teoh-Fitzgerald, Ph.D.
  • Title: Assistant professor
  • Joined UNMC: December 2012
  • Hometown: Penang, Malaysia

Describe your research briefly in layman's terms. My lab is interested in studying the role of antioxidant enzymes and oxidative stress in cancer. We are working on understanding how the loss of an antioxidant enzyme contributes to an oxidative tumor microenvironment and how this oxidative stress affects the communication between cancer cells and their surrounding cells such as fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are now recognized to play an active role in supporting cancer cell growth, survival, therapeutic resistance and metastasis. Our long-term goal is therefore to identify molecular pathways that we can use to not only target cancer cells but also to cut off their supportive system.

How does your research contribute to science and/or health care?
Our work will help to further the knowledge on how the cells surrounding cancer cells support the progression of cancer and thereby learn how to better treat this deadly disease. By targeting the cells that support the cancer cells, in part by inhibiting oxidative stress in the microenvironment, we may provide new or complimentary therapies to the standard chemotherapy and radiation regiments being used to treat patients in the clinic today.

What is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you, professional or personal?
My late postdoctoral mentor, Dr. Larry Oberley, always told us to "follow the data." This was meant as encouragement both when your hypothesis worked and often when it does not. There is always something new to learn.

List three things few people know about you.

  • I love birding. My husband and I often vacation in birding hot spots such as Lake Erie in Ohio and Galveston Island, Texas. To date, my life list has more than 200 species.
  • I enjoy spicy food, the spicier the better.
  • Growing up in a multiracial and multilanguage country, I learned to speak in seven languages.

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