For COVID-19 vaccine updates, please review our information guide. For patient eligibility and scheduling availability, please visit VaccineTogetherNY.org.

Viral Oncogenesis

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator

Seven human viruses have been shown to cause cancer and it has been estimated that up to 20% of all cancers are associated with viral infection. Individuals with immunodeficiency are at an increased risk of developing specific cancers and research in our laboratory focuses on two of these malignancies: Kaposi sarcoma and B cell lymphoma. Kaposi sarcoma is caused by the Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV, also called HHV-8), which also causes a type of lymphoma called primary effusion lymphoma. Kaposi sarcoma is the most common cancer in people living with HIV infection and is also one of the most common malignancies in subequatorial Africa, giving our work global health implications. Like KSHV, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a gamma herpesvirus, that also causes cancer, including Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin B cell lymphomas and nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Our lab is conducting work to investigate viral mechanisms of transformation and the virus-host cell interactions that are most relevant for carcinogenesis, which may provide opportunities for new treatment and diagnostic strategies. Our work is basic and translational, relying on a combination of in vitro and in vivo basic mechanistic studies and analysis of human tissue specimens and pathologic analyses. As an example of the latter, we are working with engineers, epidemiologists and physicians in the US and Africa to develop new point of care assays for the diagnosis of viral malignancies.

Recent funded work includes deep sequencing of rare neoplastic cell populations, such as the Reed-Sternberg cells of Hodgkin disease and Kaposi sarcoma. Our analysis of Kaposi sarcoma has identified potential new immunotherapeutic strategies. These efforts have expanded our areas of interest and collaborations to include the study of a novel inhibitor that is effective in plasma cell malignancies and some adenocarcinomas, analysis of the functional significance of epigenetic changes resulting from recurrent mutations in linker histones (HIST1H1), and assessment the combined role of EBV and HIV effects on the endogenous retrovirome.

Beyond research, our mission is mentoring the next generation of scientists. We are highly committed to increasing diversity in biomedical sciences. Our lab has a long track record of educating and furthering the careers of trainees from many diverse backgrounds, including high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, and junior faculty.

Active Projects

  • Analysis the viral proteins that provide survival signals to infected tumor cells.
  • Develop mouse models of virus-induced malignancy, using xenografts and genetic engineering.
  • Genomics of lymphomas and Kaposi sarcoma, and study of specific recurrent molecular alterations.
  • Therapeutic targeting of viral and cellular proteins in lymphomas and Kaposi sarcoma.
  • Study new immunotherapeutic approaches based on viral or virally-induced antigens.
  • Develop methodologies for improved point-of-care diagnosis viral malignancies in poor resource settings.

Active Grants

  • New Models of KSHV Oncogenesis and KS Immune Environment
    PI: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Cancer Institute
  • Role of novel onco-histone mutations in B-cell malignancies
    MPI: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Cancer Institute
  • Regulatory Crosstalk Between Human Endogenous Retroviruses, HIV, and EBV, in Lymphoma
    MPI: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Cancer Institute
  • AIDS Malignancy Clinical Trials Consortium (AMC)
    Leader of the Pathology Core and Co-Chair of Laboratory Resource Committee: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Cancer Institute
  • Early stage diagnosis of Kaposi’s sarcoma in limited resource settings using KS-Detect
    Co-Investigator: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Cancer Institute
  • Weill Cornell Initiative for Maximizing Student Development
    PI: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    National Institute of General Medical Sciences
  • Small molecule inhibitor targeting KSHV vFLIP/NEMO interaction for the treatment of primary effusion lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma and multicentric Castleman disease
    PI: Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD
    Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute

Selected Publications

Histone H1 loss drives lymphoma by disrupting 3D chromatin architecture

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Histone H1 loss drives lymphoma by disrupting 3D chromatin architecture

Nature. 2021 Jan;589(7841):299-305.

Yusufova N, Kloetgen A, Teater M, Osunsade A, Camarillo JM, Chin CR, Doane AS, Venters BJ, Portillo-Ledesma S, Conway J, Phillip JM, Elemento O, Scott DW, Béguelin W, Licht JD, Kelleher NL, Staudt LM, Skoultchi AI, Keogh MC, Apostolou E, Mason CE, Imielinski M, Schlick T, David Y, Tsirigos A, Allis CD, Soshnev AA, Cesarman E, Melnick AM.

PMID: 33299181; PMCID: PMC7855728

Read More

Modulation of virus-induced NF-κB signaling by NEMO coiled coil mimics

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Modulation of virus-induced NF-κB signaling by NEMO coiled coil mimics

Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 14;11(1):1786. 

Sadek J, Wuo MG, Rooklin D, Hauenstein A, Hong SH, Gautam A, Wu H, Zhang Y, Cesarman E, Arora PS.

PMID: 32286300; PMCID: PMC7156456

Read More

Kaposi sarcoma

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Kaposi sarcoma

Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2019 Jan 31;5(1):9.

Cesarman E, Damania B, Krown SE, Martin J, Bower M, Whitby D.

PMID: 30705286; PMCID: PMC6685213

Read More

A portable device for nucleic acid quantification powered by sunlight, a flame or electricity

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

A portable device for nucleic acid quantification powered by sunlight, a flame or electricity

Nat Biomed Eng. 2018 Sep;2(9):657-665.

Snodgrass R, Gardner A, Semeere A, Kopparthy VL, Duru J, Maurer T, Martin J, Cesarman E, Erickson D.

PMID: 30906647; PMCID: PMC6425734.

Read More

KSHV induces immunoglobulin rearrangements in mature B lymphocytes

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

KSHV induces immunoglobulin rearrangements in mature B lymphocytes

PLoS Pathog. 2018 Apr 16;14(4):e1006967.

Totonchy J, Osborn JM, Chadburn A, Nabiee R, Argueta L, Mikita G, Cesarman E.

PMID: 29659614; PMCID: PMC5919685

Read More

Inhibition of Hsp90 Suppresses PI3K/AKT/mTOR Signaling and Has Antitumor Activity in Burkitt Lymphoma

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Inhibition of Hsp90 Suppresses PI3K/AKT/mTOR Signaling and Has Antitumor Activity in Burkitt Lymphoma

Mol Cancer Ther. 2017 Sep;16(9):1779-1790.

Giulino-Roth L, van Besien HJ, Dalton T, Totonchy JE, Rodina A, Taldone T, Bolaender A, Erdjument-Bromage H, Sadek J, Chadburn A, Barth MJ, Dela Cruz FS, Rainey A, Kung AL, Chiosis G, Cesarman E.

PMID: 28619753; PMCID: PMC5587381.

Read More

Identification of a nucleoside analog active against adenosine kinase-expressing plasma cell malignancies

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Identification of a nucleoside analog active against adenosine kinase-expressing plasma cell malignancies

J Clin Invest. 2017 Jun 1;127(6):2066-2080. 

Nayar U, Sadek J, Reichel J, Hernandez-Hopkins D, Akar G, Barelli PJ, Sahai MA, Zhou H, Totonchy J, Jayabalan D, Niesvizky R, Guasparri I, Hassane D, Liu Y, Sei S, Shoemaker RH, Warren JD, Elemento O, Kaye KM, Cesarman E.

PMID: 28504647; PMCID: PMC5451239.

Read More

KS-Detect - Validation of Solar Thermal PCR for the Diagnosis of Kaposi's Sarcoma Using Pseudo-Biopsy Samples

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

KS-Detect - Validation of Solar Thermal PCR for the Diagnosis of Kaposi's Sarcoma Using Pseudo-Biopsy Samples

PLoS One. 2016 Jan 22;11(1):e0147636.

Snodgrass R, Gardner A, Jiang L, Fu C, Cesarman E, Erickson D.

PMID: 26799834; PMCID: PMC4723253

Read More

The tumor virus landscape of AIDS-related lymphomas

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD, Amy Chadburn, MD, Wayne Tam, MD, PhD

The tumor virus landscape of AIDS-related lymphomas

Blood. 2015 May 14;125(20):e14-22.

Arvey A, Ojesina AI, Pedamallu CS, Ballon G, Jung J, Duke F, Leoncini L, De Falco G, Bressman E, Tam W, Chadburn A, Meyerson M, Cesarman E.

PMID: 25827832; PMCID: PMC4432014

Read More

Flow sorting and exome sequencing reveal the oncogenome of primary Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cells

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Flow sorting and exome sequencing reveal the oncogenome of primary Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg cells

Blood. 2015 Feb 12;125(7):1061-72.

Reichel J, Chadburn A, Rubinstein PG, Giulino-Roth L, Tam W, Liu Y, Gaiolla R, Eng K, Brody J, Inghirami G, Carlo-Stella C, Santoro A, Rahal D, Totonchy J, Elemento O, Cesarman E, Roshal M.

PMID: 25488972

Read More

Systemic expression of Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) Vflip in endothelial cells leads to a profound proinflammatory phenotype and myeloid lineage remodeling in vivo

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Systemic expression of Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) Vflip in endothelial cells leads to a profound proinflammatory phenotype and myeloid lineage remodeling in vivo

PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jan 21;11(1):e1004581.

Ballon G, Akar G, Cesarman E.

PMID: 25607954; PMCID: PMC4301867

Read More

Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) vFLIP oncoprotein induces B cell transdifferentiation and tumorigenesis in mice

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV) vFLIP oncoprotein induces B cell transdifferentiation and tumorigenesis in mice

J Clin Invest. 2011 Mar;121(3):1141-53. 

Ballon G, Chen K, Perez R, Tam W, Cesarman E.

PMID: 21339646; PMCID: PMC3049379

Read More

Kaposi's sarcoma and its associated herpesvirus

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Kaposi's sarcoma and its associated herpesvirus

Nat Rev Cancer. 2010 Oct;10(10):707-19.

Mesri EA, Cesarman E, Boshoff C.

PMID: 20865011

Read More

Human herpesvirus KSHV encodes a constitutively active G-protein-coupled receptor linked to cell proliferation

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Human herpesvirus KSHV encodes a constitutively active G-protein-coupled receptor linked to cell proliferation

Nature. 1997 Jan 23;385(6614):347-50.

Arvanitakis L, Geras-Raaka E, Varma A, Gershengorn MC, Cesarman E.

PMID: 9002520

Read More

In vitro establishment and characterization of two acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related lymphoma cell lines (BC-1 and BC-2) containing Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-like (KSHV) DNA sequences

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

In vitro establishment and characterization of two acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related lymphoma cell lines (BC-1 and BC-2) containing Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-like (KSHV) DNA sequences

Blood. 1995 Oct 1;86(7):2708-14.

Cesarman E, Moore PS, Rao PH, Inghirami G, Knowles DM, Chang Y.

PMID: 7670109.

Read More

Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-related body-cavity-based lymphomas

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-related body-cavity-based lymphomas

N Engl J Med. 1995 May 4;332(18):1186-91.

Cesarman E, Chang Y, Moore PS, Said JW, Knowles DM.

PMID: 7700311

Read More

Identification of herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Identification of herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma

Science. 1994 Dec 16;266(5192):1865-9.

Chang Y, Cesarman E, Pessin MS, Lee F, Culpepper J, Knowles DM, Moore PS.

PMID: 7997879

Read More

Mutations in the first exon are associated with altered transcription of c-myc in Burkitt lymphoma

Ethel Cesarman, MD, PhD

Mutations in the first exon are associated with altered transcription of c-myc in Burkitt lymphoma

Science. 1987 Nov 27;238(4831):1272-5.

Cesarman E, Dalla-Favera R, Bentley D, Groudine M.

PMID: 3685977

Read More

Weill Cornell Medicine Pathology & Laboratory Medicine 1300 York Avenue New York, NY 10065 Phone: (212) 746-6464 Fax: (212) 746-8192