Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research

Leadership and Faculty

The Ben Towne Center's leadership team, faculty and staff includes some of the world's top pediatric cancer researchers and scientists.

Leadership

Rimas Orentas, PhD

Rimas Orentas 105x150Dr. Rimas Orentas is the director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. He has extensive experience in CAR T-based immunotherapy approaches to cancer therapy.  

Read about the Orentas Lab.

Elizabeth Lawlor, MD, PhD

Dr. Elizabeth Lawlor is the associate director, cancer biology, and co-director, cancer basic and translational science at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. Dr. Lawlor is also a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington, adjunct professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, and an affiliate investigator in the Clinical Research Division of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her research focuses on Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive bone and soft tissue tumor for which new cures are needed.

Read about the Lawlor Lab.

Faculty

Heather H. Gustafson, PhD

Heather GustafsonDr. Heather Gustafson is an assistant professor at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research and directs the Engineering and Designing Immunotherapy Laboratory (EDIT Labs). Her lab focuses on how to train a child’s innate immune system to fight cancer. 

Vandana Kalia, PhD

Vandana Kalia BTCCCRDr. Vandana Kalia is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research 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.

Read about the Kalia Lab.

Dr. Shannon Oda, PhD

Dr. Shannon OdaDr. Shannon Oda is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research and an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Her lab develops engineering strategies that enable T cells to overcome obstacles in the tumor microenvironment and mount a more powerful, durable and sustained attack on cancer cells.

Surojit Sarkar, PhD

SarkarDr.Surojit Sarkar is a principal investigator at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research and an associate 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.

Read about the Sarkar Lab.