Lab News 

Merajver Lab Celebration 2022

$7.6 Million Gift Launches New Lung Cancer Research Initiative at UM

Judith Tam

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD 

ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Increased understanding of the genetic mutations that drive non-small cell lung cancer has led to new, effective treatments in recent years. Yet when a patient is diagnosed with an alteration in the ALK gene, a major concern is that their cancer may become resistant to standard therapy over time. If that happens, which drug or combination of drugs will they turn to?

A $7.6 million gift from Judith L. Tam and the Richard Tam Foundation has launched an accelerated research initiative at the University of Michigan Health Rogel Cancer Center to answer those questions — and to identify biological pathways that can be targeted with new approaches to treatment. About 100,000 people globally are diagnosed each year with ALK-positive lung cancer, which has a high risk of spreading to other parts of the body.

“We are very impressed with the talented, multidisciplinary team that the Rogel Cancer Center has brought together to take on this problem,” says Judith L. Tam, president of the Richard Tam Foundation. “We are grateful that they are partnering with us and with experts from across the country to pursue the best possible paths forward.”

U-M researchers have launched a three-pronged initiative:

“We are leveraging techniques we have used to advance precision health for breast and other cancers to help patients with ALK-positive lung cancer,” says Sofia D. Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., the GreaterGood Breast Cancer Research Professor and director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at Michigan Medicine.

As the lead investigator for the initiative, Merajver has brought together clinical and scientific experts in cancer metastases, thoracic oncology, thoracic surgery, genetics, molecular pharmacology, cell biology, pathology, organoid development, data science, and more. She also has assembled an advisory board that includes representation from a patient advocacy organization and world-renowned lung cancer experts.

“I believe this team can lead the charge toward transformative new therapies for ALK-positive lung cancer, and I am honored to be a member of the advisory board for this effort,” says Alice Shaw, M.D., Ph.D., global head of translational clinical oncology at Novartis and former director of thoracic oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. A pioneer in the field, she has been working on therapies for ALK-positive lung cancer since 2007. 

Shirish Gadgeel, M.D., a former U-M faculty member who now leads the Division of Hematology and Oncology at Henry Ford Health System, will also serve on the advisory board and partner with the U-M team.

“Working together will give us a larger pool of patients to engage with this research,” he says. “We have talked about the potential for such an initiative many times, and this remarkable gift is enabling us to bring it to reality.”

“These research projects, as well as the collaborative infrastructure that this gift has enabled us to create, uniquely positions the University of Michigan and the Rogel Cancer Center for new discoveries and translational and clinical innovations that have potential to improve outcomes and quality of life for ALK-positive lung cancer patients — and perhaps as well patients affected by other cancer types,” says Eric Fearon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Rogel Cancer Center.

“The best hope for patients to stay alive and to feel well is successful research,” says Colin Barton, an ALK-positive cancer patient who serves on the board of directors and is a member of the support group community at ALK Positive Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the life expectancy and quality of life for ALK-positive cancer patients worldwide. He will advise the U-M team. “This visionary gift and the depth of knowledge that has been assembled will bring genuine hope to me and everyone diagnosed with ALK-positive cancer, now and in the future.”

The Tam Foundation also supports Precision Health-related work and is a lead funding partner of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program at U-M.

For ALK patients or inquiries please email us at

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

Dr. Sofia Merajver named AAAS Fellow for 2021

The University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center is home to seven members selected as 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

These Rogel Cancer Center researchers are among 564 scientists, engineers and innovators spanning 24 scientific disciplines, recognized for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements, AAAS announced Jan. 26.

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals. Selection as an AAAS fellow is among the most distinct honors within the scientific community.

The Rogel Cancer Center seeks to reduce cancer burden and improve cancer outcomes through research, innovation and transdisciplinary collaboration.

Sofia Merajver, M.D., Ph.D., GreaterGood Breast Cancer Research Professor and professor of internal medicine, Medical School; professor of epidemiology, School of Public Health, for landmark studies of mechanisms, novel therapies and biomarkers, and management of patients with inflammatory breast cancers and women at increased risk for cancers in the United States and Africa.

We deeply mourn the passing of our dear friend, Mrs. Paula Donn, and express our heartfelt condolences to her husband, Dr. Steven Donn, and her family.  She lives on in our hearts and in our resolve to work every day to stop breast cancer.

Paula Donn

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

Dr.  Sofia Merajver was chosen to be in the inaugural class of Rogel Scholars awarded by the Rogel Cancer Center! This award will allow for the study of molecular targets in cancer that leads to particularly aggressive behavior. We are honored to be included amongst the inaugural class! ​

U-M Rogel Cancer Center@UMRogelCancer

Congrats to the inaugural group of #RogelScholars, the first initiative funded by Rich and Susan Rogel’s generous gift to our cancer center! The support gives researchers new freedom to take risks & develop innovative approaches to take on #cancer. 

Richard Rogel

​American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 

April 2022 - New Orleans, Louisiana

Mark Slayton, PhD and Nathan Merrill, PhD

Ryan Oliver, PhD

Mark Slayton, PhD

Merajver Lab AACR Team Dinner


 Dr. Ryan Oliver led a massive effort to develop a platform for artificial intelligence-based identification of the extravasation potential of cancer cells into the brain metastatic niche This work has been published in Lab on a Chip. Congratulations to all!

Ryan Oliver, PhD

MTRAC Biomedical Innovation Cup Winner 2018

Sofia Merajver MD, PhD

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD 

Merajver Lab with Terry Arnold (The IBC Network Foundation) 2019

The Rose Run 

Jessica Cribbs

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

The Rose Run is a 5k run/walk and kids' fun run in memory of Rose Marie Hunt. Rose was 54 years young when she lost her battle with breast cancer. She was 42 when she was first diagnosed. She had a bilateral mastectomy and endured a stem cell transplant in Toledo, Ohio where her treatments were, at that time, administered. She went in to remission and enjoyed re-marrying, watching her kids graduate high school, being there for the birth of 5 of her now 7 grandchildren and working hard, which was something she always did.

In March of 2008, the cancer had been discovered again. This time,  it had metastasized. This cancer was aggressive and although she fought as long as she could, ten months later, Rose lost her battle with breast cancer surrounded by her family.

Her daughter, Jessica Cribbs, knew something had to be done for others and to keep the memory of this amazing woman alive. With the help of her family, The Rose Run was born.

The first summer in Michigan, The Rose Run attracted over 300 runners and walkers raising $10,000 for this cause. Because Jessica is a Burbank, California resident, she enlisted the gracious help of her friends at Moms In Motion to simultaneously host a Rose Run in Los Angeles. For the past 6 years, The Rose Run has had participants in all parts of the United States and Afghanistan.

The Rose Run is headed into its 9th year and over $102,000 has been raised for National charities and local charities alike. Together, family, friends and strangers are working hard with the integrity and selflessness that Rose had. A cure will be found.

Jessica is now the president and founder of The Strength Of A Rose Foundation. The SOAR Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization dedicated to doing great things in the advancement of cancer research with a great focus on patient services and needs.

Rose has started something big. Because of her, good things will happen.

​American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 

April 2023 - Orlando, Florida

Habib Serhan, BS (Pre-Med) and Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

Merajver Lab AACR Team Dinner

Merajver Lab Researchers

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD & Ehsanul Hoque Apu, PhD

Merajver Lab with Greg and Hayden Hollenbeck 2023

ASCO Breakthrough 

August 2023 - Yokohama, Japan 

The 3 precision oncology UM musketeers: Drs. Sofia Merajver, Aki Morikawa and Nathan Merrill 

Great Lakes Breast Cancer Research Symposium 

West Virginia University 

September 2023 - Morgantown, West Virginia 

Drs. Sofia Merajver, Nathan Merrill and Aki Morikawa

We are very proud of our researcher Zackariah Farah who is a committed activist in our region for a fundamental and profound disparity of the experience of climate change in underserved communities at our doorstep.  This opinion piece is an excellent account of some of the things he has seen while helping the neediest.  

Sept.-2023-WJN-final-WEB.pdf - Google Drive 

Zackariah will start medical school at Wayne State next summer 2024!

Molecular Analysis for Precision Oncology Congress 

October 2023 - Paris, France

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

Nathan Merrill, PhD

Bryce Ewing and Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD

Delta Air Lines Breast Cancer One Survivor Flight

October 2023 - Salt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Merajver,

I just wanted to thank you again for your advice and time at this event! This is my second year on this flight and I will come every year as long as they let me! I always throughly enjoy listening to you speak about the current research on BC it’s the highlight of the evening. It truly provides hope for the future for all of the survivors and the current fighters. I appreciate all you do and I can’t wait to see you next year!

-Bryce Ewing

Delta Air Lines Town Hall

October 2023 - Atlanta Georgia

Delta’s annual Town Hall highlights Delta’s longstanding partnership with BCRF, honors those in the Delta family who’ve been impacted by breast cancer and shares how Delta resources have helped employees through their breast cancer journeys.  

Sofia Merajver, MD, PhD and CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian

24th Annual Innovative Molecular Analysis Technologies (IMAT) Principal Investigators Meeting

University of Illinois Cancer Center 

December 2023 - Chicago, Illinois

Drs. Ehsanul Hoque Apu, Mark Slayton and Sofia Merajver

​American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 

April 2024 - San Diego, California

Merajver Lab Researchers