Who We Are

Medical Team


Dr. Heinz-Josef Lenz, M.D., FACP, a world-renowned oncologist, clinician, and researcher, is the Associate Director for Clinical Research and Co-Leader of the Gastrointestinal Cancers Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Lenz is Professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine, Section Head of GI Oncology in the Division of Medical Oncology and Co-Director of the Colorectal Center at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. Dr. Lenz received his medical degree from Johannes-Gutenberg Universität in Mainz, Germany, in 1985. He completed a residency in Hematology and Oncology at the University Hospital Tübingen in Germany, a clerkship in Oncology at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and a clerkship in Hematology at Beth Israel Hospital of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. He served subsequent fellowships in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. An active researcher, Dr. Lenz focuses on topics including the regulation of gene expression involved in drug resistance, patients at high risk of developing colorectal cancer, and determination of carcinogenesis, methods of early detection, and better surveillance of these cancers. Dr. Lenz oversees the programming activities of the Gastrointestinal Cancers, Genitourinary Cancers, Women’s Cancers, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Programs. Dr. Lenz serves the Board of Directors for The WunderGlo Foundation. He was Gloria’s oncologist since October of 2010.

“I am so excited about this Wunder Team because, with them, anything is possible. Together, we will change the way colon cancer is being treated in the future, and with the goal to make this cancer a disease of the past.”


Michael Kahn, Ph.D., is the first Provost’s Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Southern California with a joint appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Keck School of Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the School of Pharmacy. He is co-leader of the Developmental Therapeutics Program. Prior to joining USC, Dr. Kahn was the scientific director at the Institute for Chemical Genomics and a professor at the University of Washington. He was the scientific founder of Molecumetics, a drug discovery company that developed small molecule mimics of large proteins. Dr. Kahn’s lab has emerged as a leader in the study of chemical genomics, which uses small molecules to dissect complex signaling pathways. He obtained his B.A. at Columbia University in chemistry, his Ph.D. at Yale University in organic synthesis and was an National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University with Professor Gilbert Stork. Dr. Kahn’s lab has been working in the area of Wnt signaling for the past eight years. Recently, his lab’s efforts have focused on Wnt signaling in development, cancer and cancer stem cells. For the past three years, his lab has been particularly involved in the role of Wnt signaling in ES cells and the maintenance of pluripotency versus the initiation of differentiation. He has published over 75 papers and more than 20 U.S. patent applications.

“Not everything that counts can be counted; I hope to contribute something that really counts. The Wunder Project will enable us to develop novel therapeutic agents to prevent and treat cancer and eventually eliminate cancer.”


Dr. Laird earned his B.S. and M.S. from the University of Leiden and earned his Ph.D. in 1988 from the University of Amsterdam with Dr. Piet Borst. He completed postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Anton Berns at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and with Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. Dr. Laird was a faculty member at the University of Southern California (USC) from 1996 to 2014, where he served as professor of surgery, biochemistry and molecular biology; as Skirball-Kenis Professor of Cancer Research; as a program leader in epigenetics and regulation for the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center; and as director of the USC Epigenome Center. Dr. Laird joined VARI as a professor in September 2014.

“The WunderGlo Foundation is an inspiring organization built by an amazing person. I hope to contribute to this cause by figuring out how colon cancer cells turn genes on and off with molecular switches called epigenetics. We can conquer colon cancer if we can pinpoint its weaknesses and attack with precision.”


Dr. Curtis’ laboratory couples innovative experimental approaches and model systems, high-throughput ‘omic’ profiling, statistical inference and computational modeling to develop a systems level, multi-scale view of cancer that spans single cells to patient populations. She is particularly interested in quantifying the dynamics of tumor progression and therapeutic resistance. To this end, she and her team have developed innovative spatial computational models that enable the inference of clinically relevant patient-specific parameters from cancer genomic data. Using this approach, Dr. Curtis and her team recently described a novel Big Bang model tumor growth, which challenges the conventional paradigm of how tumors progress with significant implications for earlier diagnosis and intervention. In parallel, her research aims to develop a systematic interpretation of the genotype to phenotype map in cancer by developing machine learning techniques to mine and interpret diverse cancer genomic datasets from thousands of patients. For example, using integrative statistical approaches her research has redefined the molecular map of breast cancer, revealing novel subgroups with distinct clinical outcomes and subtype-specific drivers ripe for therapeutic intervention. Ongoing efforts are aimed at developing predictive models that guide improved stratification and patient-tailored treatment strategies. In her role as Co-Director of the Molecular Tumor Board at the Stanford Cancer Institute, Dr. Curtis seeks to translate these advances to enable precision cancer care. In particular, the application of state-of-the-art genomic and computational techniques to patient samples in real-time, coupled with interpretation by a panel of experts will enable genomically informed treatment-decision making. Dr. Curtis has published numerous articles in leading journals and is the recipient of several young investigator awards, including the 2012 V Foundation for Cancer V Scholar Award, the 2012 STOP Cancer Research Career Development Award, an American Cancer Society Seed Grant in 2013, and a Stanford Cancer Translational Research Award in 2015. She is also the principal investigator on grants from the NIH/NCI, Department of Defense, Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Susan G. Komen Foundation.

“It is a privilege to be part of the Wunder Project, and to partner with others who share a common vision to transform the diagnosis and treatment of colon cancer. By exploiting state of the art approaches to systematically characterize the molecular mechanisms that drive tumor development and progression, we will develop targeted therapeutics that cripple cancer cells at their core, rendering them futile.”


Graham Casey, Ph.D. is a professor of preventive medicine and was co-director of the Cancer Epidemiology Program. Formerly at the Cleveland Clinic in the Department of Cancer Biology, he joined the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2008. Dr. Casey studies breast, prostate and colorectal cancer to understand how altered gene function, whether by mutation or regulation, affects risk and progression of cancer, specifically as determinants of aggressive forms of cancer.

“Passion comes from within. Inspiration comes from others. The Wunder Project combines both and cancer doesn’t stand a chance.”


After training in Internal medicine and Gastroenterology and a Ph.D. in the program of Molecular Oncology at the Center for Human Genetics, KULeuven, Prof. Tejpar became in Sept. 2003 an Associate Professor in the Dept of Gastroenterology, Digestive Oncology Unit, UZ Leuven. She works as a part-time clinician & part-time researcher (Senior Clinical Investigator of the Fund for Scientific Research- Flanders (Belgium)), with a focus on basic and translational research in colorectal cancer. Her main research projects involve molecular sub classification of colorectal cancer, prognostic markers in adjuvant colorectal cancer and predictive markers for efficacy of EGFR inhibition. Prof. Tejpar is a Member of the EORTC, Vice-chair of the EORTC TRAC (translational research advisory committee), Board member of the Gastrointestinal Group. Member of the EORTC NOCI Steering Committee and member of the Executive Committee of NOCI. She is a member of the EORTC PAMM and Laboratory Research Division, co-Chair of the EORTC-NCI-ASCO tutorial and member of the ASCO and AACR-NCI-EORTC program committee. She has been a member of the ESMO Translational Research Working Group since 2009, a member of the BGDO (Belgian Group for Digestive Oncology) and member of the Ministerial advisory committee for colon cancer prevention in Flanders since 2006. Finally, she is a board member of the FAPA (Belgian Familial Adenomatous Polyposis Association).

“The Wunder Team cares about getting the results and finding out the answers, about making the progress necessary to get us to a cure for colon cancer. We want these results and answers as quickly as possible, and with The Wunder Project, we can get there.”


Dr. Alberto Bardelli currently serves as the Associate Professor, Department of Oncology at the University of Torino as well as the Director, Laboratory of Molecular Genetic at The Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment, IRCC (TO), Italy. Since 2004, Dr. Bardelli has coordinated a research group at the Department of Oncology. The research is focused on the identification of mutations in genes that may represent valid therapeutic targets in human cancers and the development of targeted therapies against this type of illness. A cum laude graduate of the Univerity of Torino with an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University College London. Dr. Bardelli served as a Postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University; School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1999 – 2004 and received the prestigious Alfred Blalock Research Award in 2004.

“I believe The Wunder Project has tremendous potential. The ability to integrate high profile genomic data with functional analysis of experimental models will indeed move the colorectal cancer field forward. I am thrilled to be involved in this endeavor.”