Melissa Halpern, PhD

Clinical and Translational Oncology Program

Biography

Melissa D. Halpern earned her B.Sc. and Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Arizona. After post-doctoral training in autoimmune disease at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, she returned to Tucson to study necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)—the most common GI emergency of premature infants—in the laboratory of Bohuslav Dvorak, Ph.D. In 2004, Dr. Halpern became a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2008.

Cancer Focus

Accumulation of hydrophobic bile acids in the gastrointestinal tract can have profound effects in the development of certain GI cancers. Dr. Halpern was the first to show that accumulation of ileal bile acids is critical in the pathophysiology of NEC. Using animal models, enteroids, and cell lines, her laboratory continues to study the mechanisms by which bile acids affect the neonatal intestine. In addition, ongoing clinical studies have shown that variability in fecal bile acids levels could be utilized as the first predictive test to determine which premature infants are most likely to develop NEC.