The Ben Towne Center's leadership team, faculty and staff includes some of the world's top pediatric cancer researchers and scientists.
Michael Jensen, MD
Dr. Michael Jensen is director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Research Institute and professor of hematology-oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is a member of the clinical division in the program in immunology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Jensen holds the Janet and Jim Sinegal Endowed Chair in Pediatric Solid Tumor Research in honor of Korey Rose.
Jensen joined Seattle Children's in 2010 after spending 13 years at City of Hope, where he was director of the pediatric cancer program and co-leader of the cancer immunotherapeutics and tumor immunology department. At City of Hope, he conducted the first FDA-authorized trial of T-cell therapies for children with recurrent neuroblastoma.
Jensen was trained at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Read about the Jensen Lab.
Leslie Kean, MD, PhD
Dr. Leslie Kean is the Ben Towne Center's associate director. She joined the center in summer 2013 from Emory University.
Her research focuses on improving how animal models tolerate transplanted immune cells. This could ultimately improve the odds that immunotherapy, which uses transplanted T cells, is successful in pediatric patients.
Kean received her MD/PhD from Emory University and completed her postdoctoral research, residency and fellowship in pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology in at Emory University Hospitals and the Aflac Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Read about the Kean Lab.
Courtney Crane, PhD
Dr. Courtney Crane is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center and an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Her lab is unraveling how cancer cells disarm immune cells, with the goal of finding ways to reprogram those immune cells so they can elude cancer's defenses.
Crane received her PhD from the University of Virginia and completed a research fellowship in the department of neurosurgery at the University of California, San Francisco.
Read about the Crane Lab.
Rebecca A. Gardner, MD
Dr. Rebecca Gardner is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center, an attending physician at Seattle Children's Hospital and an acting assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington.
Her research focuses on developing immunotherapy trials for the treatment of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma. She is leading clinical trials of cancer immunotherapy treatment for children and young adults with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Gardner's goal is to revolutionize how childhood cancer is treated, and reduce or eliminate the need for chemotherapy and radiation treatments that have debilitating, lifelong effects on cancer survivors.
She was trained at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed a fellowship in pediatric hematology-oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle Children's Hospital and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Vandana Kalia, PhD
Dr. Vandana Kalia is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center and an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She is studying how genes regulate T cells, and is pursuing ways to commandeer that process and help T cells to destroy tumors.
Kalia received a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in the field of HIV pathogenesis. She then acquired expertise in T-cell differentiation and function through a post-doctoral fellowship at the Emory University Vaccine Center under Dr. Rafi Ahmed, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the pioneering leaders in the area of T-cell responses to diseases.
Surojit Sarkar, PhD
Dr.Surojit Sarkar is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center and an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He is pursuing ways to help the immune system remember cancer and attack it if it relapses – whether that’s months or decades after a child goes into remission.
Sarkar received a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in the field of vaccine immunology. He gained further expertise in T-cell immunology during a post-doctoral fellowship at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta under the expert guidance of Dr. Rafi Ahmed, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the pioneering leaders in the area of immunological memory.
Read about the Sarkar Lab.
Corinne Summers, MD
Dr. Corinne Summers is a principal investigator in the Ben Towne Center, an acting instructor at the University of Washington and a research associate at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Summers received an MD from Florida State University College of Medicine. She completed a general pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at Seattle Children’s.
Her research focuses on developing T-cell therapies that potentially prevent relapse of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in patients who received cord blood transplants. More specifically, she is engineering cord blood T cells to target leukemia cells. The goal is to create engineered T cells that can kill residual leukemia cells after a patient has received a cord blood transplant.