Search Close Search
Search Close Search
Page Menu

Ankur Sheel, MD, PhD

Physician Scientist, The Ohio State University

Former RTI Lab: MD/PhD Candidate, Xue Lab
Training Period: 2016 - 2019
Prior Academic Degree Institution: UMass Amherst

  • NIH/NCI Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service F30 Award, 2018-2021  
  • UMass Chan Medical School, NIH MSTP Fellowship Recipient, 2015-2017

I was born in the United Kingdom and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. My first research experience came as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the lab of Dr. Lawrence Schwartz studying Programmed Cell Death of the ptilinal muscles in the Tobacco Hawkmoth during pupal development. While using a moth as a model system was unique, I began to dabble in breast cancer research as I elucidated the role of the same process in promoting chemoresistance in Triple Negative Breast Cancers. My experience in the Schwartz lab showed me the personal importance of intellectual curiosity, translational research and how findings in simple model systems can be applied to complex diseases such as cancer. I ultimately completed a dual bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Neuropsychology at Umass Amherst. I also stayed at UMASS Amherst to complete a one-year thesis based Master’s in Molecular & Cellular Biology which ultimately allowed me to further dive into my research and publish my findings.

As an undergraduate student I had the opportunity to work at the world-famous Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. This experience gave me a glimpse of the potential life of a physician-scientist. I spent half my time on the oncology wards and clinics seeing patients with various malignancies and the other half of my time working on research projects. During my time at Guy’s, I worked on multiple projects involving surgical outcomes in patients with relapsed thymomas, resources available for patients with thymic malignancies, developing High resolution melting assays to detect KRAS and EGFR mutations in patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and investigating the role of the KRAS gene in promoting chemoresistance in NSCLC. This experience allowed me to interact with patients with incurable cancer and see the integral role research plays in improving the treatment of these patients and their quality of life. This experience inspired me to ultimately purse a career as a Physician-Scientist.

I joined the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical school to pursue my MD/PhD. Given my prior work in KRAS and NSCLC I became curious about developing gene editing based therapeutics for NSCLC. Fortunately, my mentor Wen Xue had just joined UMASS as faculty. Having trained with Scott Lowe and Tyler Jacks, the Xue lab focused on developing CRISPR/Cas9 based tools for cancer research and creating CRISPR/Cas9 based therapeutics for NSCLC and HCC. My dissertation involved conducting a CRISPR based screen to identify therapeutic targets in Hepatocellular Carcinoma and then mechanistically validating those targets. I identified TRRAP, a 480kd pseudokinase, as a potential therapeutic target in HCC. CRISPR based knockdown of TRRAP resulted in G2-M senescence and inhibited tumor growth in both in-vivo and in-vitro models. Ultimately, TRRAP knockdown resulted in macrophage mediated clearance of tumor cells in vivo and thus promoting tumor regression in-vivo. I also worked on various other projects in which I developed CRISPR based tools to rapidly generate tumor models in vivo and in which I utilized CRISPR based techniques to study single protein dynamics during oncogenic transformation in-vitro. Participating in these projects exposed me to the world of experimental therapeutics in cancer research for the first time. Being at UMass Chan Medical School I was fortunate enough to be in an environment where RNA research was robust. I had the privilege of working with Victor Ambros, the Lasker award winner for the discovery of microRNAs. Under both Dr. Xue and Dr. Ambros’s guidance I successfully applied for an NIH F30 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) to investigate the role of miR-34a in relapse of NSCLC after EGFR and KRAS inhibition.

When I returned to medical school for my clinical years I quickly gravitated to Internal Medicine and Oncology as my career choice. While applying for residency programs I was looking for a program that could help me develop into a well-rounded internist comfortable with medical management of acute and chronic conditions, as well as allow me to see rare, exotic case presentations while also promoting research. During my interview at OSU I quickly realized that OSU not only embodied this ideology in their training but the mentors at OSU and at the James were extremely approachable and willing to train mentees. This, combined with the commitment to mentorship and innovative approaches to career development, the excellent clinical training, and the amazing resources available through The James and the Comprehensive Cancer Center made Ohio State’s PSTP a clear choice for me.