Welcome to the UAB Neuroendocrine Surgery Lab

The UAB Neuroendocrine Surgery Lab is jointly led by Principal Investigators in the Department of Surgery: Dr. Herbert Chen, Dr. Renata Jaskula-Sztul and Dr. J. Bart Rose. Their research focuses on the role of cellular signaling pathways in the differentiation and growth of neuroendocrine (NE) tumors of the thyroid, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and pancreas. NE tumors are the second most common cause of isolated hepatic metastases. These tumors often cause debilitating symptoms due to excessive hormonal secretion which characterizes these NE lesions. Besides surgery, there are limited curative and palliative treatments available to patients with NE tumors (NETs), emphasizing the need for the development of other forms of therapy. 

Finding ways to help patients and advance science in NETs

Dr. Chen is Chair of the Department of Surgery at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and the Surgeon-in-Chief of UAB Hospital and Health System.  He is a Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, and holds the Fay Fletcher Kerner Endowed Chair.   Dr. Chen’s lab has been continuously funded for over 20 years and studies the role of Notch signaling in thyroid and NE cancers.  He is the American Cancer Society MEN2 Thyroid Cancer Professor.  Dr. Chen is the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Surgery, serves on many other editorial boards.  He is also the President of the Society of Asian Academic Surgeons Foundation, President of Surgical Biology Club II, Past-President of Association for Academic Surgery, Past-President of the Society of Clinical Surgery, and Past-President of the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.  Dr. Chen has mentored over 100 faculty, post-doctoral fellows, residents, medical students, and undergraduates in his lab.  He has published over 540 original research and review articles and has edited 25 textbooks.  He has been recognized for his passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of surgical leaders. 

Dr. Jaskula Sztul has been working on multiple projects investigating the role of several small molecules in the suppression of neuroendocrine cancer growth. In addition, she is investigating the tumor suppressor role of the Notch pathway in vitro and in vivo in medullary thyroid cancer. Most recently, she has also partnered with bioengineers to develop and test targeted therapies for neuroendocrine tumors via immunotherapy and nanoparticles (nanopolimers and unimolecular micelles) conjugated with anticancer drugs specifically targeting neuroendocrine tumor cells and tissues. It is hoped that the multi-functional nanoparticle therapeutics which she is innovating will provide safe, effective treatments that can either augment or supplant surgical operations in the treatment of neuroendocrine cancer.

Dr. Rose‘s research has been focused on identifying biomarkers and mechanisms of cancer development in the liver, pancreas and bile ducts. His previous work demonstrated the novel uses of established biomarkers in pancreatic cancer, was the first to report on the clinical utility of a bile based biomarker in patients with bile duct cancer. Currently, he is investigating new ways to treat neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas and GI tract by exploring the BORIS and Notch pathways. In addition, Dr. Rose carries out clinical research on pancreatic cancer outcomes and surgical interventions.