22650-Zimmers, Teresa
Faculty

Teresa A. Zimmers, PhD

H.H. Gregg Professor of Cancer Research

Bio

RESEARCH INTERESTS

Cachexia, recognized by progressive loss of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, contributes directly to morbidity and mortality in diseases as diverse as organ failure, AIDS, burn, trauma and cancer. Indeed, cachexia itself and not other effects of the tumor is thought to be the cause of up to 1/3 of all cancer deaths. Relatively little is understood regarding the molecular and cellular pathways leading to weight loss and dysmetabolism in cachexia and currently there are no approved, effective therapies. 

My group, working with a large and diverse group of collaborators, seeks to fill that knowledge gap by using novel animal models and correlative phenotypic and molecular data from patients to identify molecular, cellular and organ system mechanisms leading to cachexia. In this fashion we have:

1. Identified a key role for IL-6/GP80/GP130/STAT3 in muscle and fat wasting in cancer and burns.

2. Identified a causal role for Activins in burn-induced muscle wasting and shown efficacy in targeting Activin, myostatin and GDF11 in burn cachexia.

3. Identified key roles of sonic hedgehog/GLI proteins and Smoothened in muscle wasting of cancer cachexia.

4. Developed or characterized dozens of new models of pancreatic cancer cachexia, including congenic orthotopic, patient-derived xenografts ("cachexia avatars"), and genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs).

5. Collected thousands of biological specimens from 160 patients under study for pancreatic cancer cachexia to enable the largest profiling study in this disease to date. 

6. Discovered novel targetable molecular pathways and organ cross-talk contributing to cachexia in cancer and burns.

Our current work focuses upon studying these novel molecular and organ cross-talk pathways in cell cultures and animal models. At the same time we are undertaking clinical studies in cancer cachexia. At this time we are searching for funding for a proposed clinical trial to treat cachexia in patients with pancreatic cancer as well as to examine the systemic response and rates of muscle and fat wasting in an open trial in pancreatic cancer. 

ORGANIZATIONAL ROLES

I am the founding director of the IU Simon Cancer Center Cachexia Working Group and the IUPUI Center for Cachexia Research Innovation and Therapy. Through multi-disciplinary collaboration, these groups seek to improve diagnosis, treatment and educational outreach for patients with cachexia. 

IUPUI Center for Cachexia Research, Innovation and Therapy and IUSCC Cachexia Working Group

 

PRIOR WORK ON LETHAL INJECTION FOR EXECUTION

American support for the death penalty rests upon the perception that lethal injection provides a humane, painless death. Using execution records and autopsy data, my colleage Leonidas Koniaris and I worked with a team of attorneys, anesthesiologists and pharmacologists and showed that evidence of blood thiopental levels, heart rate, respiratory rate and time to death did not support the presumed sequence of events leading to death—a surgical plane of anesthesia rendered by thiopental, followed by paralysis with pancuronium bromide and cardiac arrest by potassium chloride. Rather, we showed the evidence was more consistent with conscious asphyxiation. Our work was cited in Baez v. Rees by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and has since been cited around substantial changes in execution practice, although whether for better or worse is unclear.

 

 

 

 

Titles & Appointments

  • H.H. Gregg Professor of Cancer Research
  • Professor of Surgery
  • Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Adjunct Professor of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery
  • Adjunct Professor of Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology
  • Education
    2001 PhD Johns Hopkins University
    1991 BS Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Research

    Muscle wasting, fat wasting, cachexia, cancer, inflammation, chronic disease, burn, trauma, ICU myopathy, muscle growth, rehabilitation, organ injury, liver regeneration, acute and chronic kidney injury, cardiac cachexia, basic research, translational research, clinical research, clinical trials, molecular profiling, omics, RNAseq, pathway analysis, cytokines, growth factors, IL-6, IL-11, LIF, GP180, STAT3, Activin, Myostatin, GDF-11, Activin receptor, Follistatin, satellite cells, regeneration, hedgehog, SHH, GLI1, GLI2, Smoothened, muscle, bone, fat, liver, metabolomics, lipidomics, clinical trials, Tocilizumab, patient-derived orthotopic xenografts, KPC GEMM, body composition from CT imaging, Sliceomatic, EchoMRI, Digigait, grip strength, treadmill.

    Educational outcomes, research outcomes, publications, citations, fellowships, residency, faculty, barriers, professional societies, gender.

  • Professional Organizations
    American Association for Cancer Research
    American Association for the Advancement of Science
    American Physiological Society
    Shock Society
    Society on Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Wasting Disorders

Looking for patient care?

To schedule an appointment with a faculty member physician of IU School of Medicine, contact Indiana University Health at 888-484-3258 or use the physician finder by clicking the button below.

Find a doctor