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Kekoa Tappara

Class 2012
Education BS, Fairfield University

Dr. Phuoc Tran

Current Position Medical School

Mayo Medical School

Research Interests

Over 90% of cancer patients die from metastatic disease rather than from their primary localized tumor. Thus it is of general importance to study this biological phenomenon. My research involves elucidating mechanisms by which Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) transcription factors contribute to cancer. These factors have been thoroughly studied for many years in their relationship to normal development, cancer metastases, and disease progression. While traditionally these EMT factors have been investigated in their relationship to promoting cancer metastasis, many novel contributing functions still remain unidentified.

I am specifically interested in how the transcription factors TWIST1 and SNAIL1 can promote early tumorigenesis, circumvent oncogene-induced senescence, reprogram metabolism, and contribute to drug resistance. The novelty of our research in the Tran Lab is our utilization of autochthonous murine tumor models to more appropriately recapitulate cancer biology compared to in vitro culture or orthotopic transplantation of cell lines. Through the use of these models, I have been able to investigate novel mechanisms in vivo of EMT in their relationship to lung and liver cancer.


  • Gajula RP, Chettiar ST, Williams RD, Nugent K, Kato Y, Wang H, Malek R, Taparra K, Cades J, Annadanam A, Yoon AR, Fertig E, Firulli B, Mazzacurati L, Burns T, Firulli A, An S, Tran PT. Structure-function studies of the bHLH phosphorylation domain of Twist1 in prostate cancer cells. Neoplasia (2014 Neoplasia 17(1):16-31. Jan 2015. PMID 25622896
  • McDonald C, Muhlbauer J, Perlmutter G, Taparra K, Phelan SA. Peroxiredoxin proteins protect MCF-7 breast cancer cells from doxorubicin-induced toxicity. International Journal of Oncology 55(1): 219-226, April 2014. PMID 24789097
  • Wild AT, Gandhi N, Chettiar ST, Aziz K, Gajula RP, Williams RD, Kumar R, Taparra K, Zeng J, Cades JA, Velarde E, Menon S, Geschwind JF, Cosgrove D, Pawlik TM, Maitra A, Wong J, Hales RK, Torbenson MS, Herman JM, Tran PT. Concurrent versus sequential sorafenib therapy in combination with radiation for hepatocellular carcinoma. PLoS ONE 8(6). June 2014. PMID 23762417
  • Tehan L, Taparra K, Phelan S. Peroxiredoxin overexpression in MCF-7 breast cancer cells and regulation by cell proliferation and oxidative stress. Cancer Investigation 31(6):374-84, July 2013. PMID 23758190
  • Humphreys T, Sasaki A, Uenishi G, Taparra K, Arimoto A, Tagawa, K. Regeneration in the Hemichordate, Ptychodera flava. Zoological Science 27(2):91-95, Feb 2010. PMID 20141413