Our division’s research is conducted throughout the Vanderbilt campus, as the Department of Pediatrics has 104,115 square feet of lab space across multiple locations around campus. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) controls more than 124,000 square feet of research and administration space and influences more than 186,000 square feet of research space. Research is facilitated by eight well-developed research programs within VICC and its shared resources, as well as a federally-qualified Comprehensive Hemophilia Treatment Center and the Meharry-Vanderbilt Sickle Cell Center of Excellence.
Please see below to learn more about our investigators and their research efforts.
Jennifer Andrews, MD
Dr. Andrews is an internationally recognized expert in Pediatric Transfusion Medicine and participates in international and multi-institutional clinical trials investigating safe blood transfusions and practices and laboratory testing, especially in children. She also leads a multidisciplinary team in Patient Blood Management and is board-certified in Clinical Informatics. Her research interests include medical education, Pediatric Transfusion Medicine, blood utilization and use of technology to optimize practice.
Daniel Benedetti, MD, MA
Dr. Benedetti is a solid tumor oncologist focused on care of children with renal tumors, liver tumors, neuroblastoma, and genetic predisposition to cancer. He is on the steering committee of the Children's Oncology Group (COG) Renal Tumor Committee, where he works to develop and conduct clinical trials for children with cancers of the kidney. Dr. Benedetti is also a bioethicist with expertise in ethical issues in pediatrics and pediatric cancer care. His research explores ethical dilemmas that occur in the care of children with cancer, with a current emphasis is on understanding cases where families refuse recommended treatment.
Scott Borinstein, MD, PhD
Dr. Borinstein is a nationally-recognized expert in bone and soft tissue sarcomas. He conducts translational research in pediatric sarcomas and is involved in the development and implementation of clinical trials to improve cancer treatment, advance supportive care, and minimize late effects.
Michael R. DeBaun, MD, MPH
Research in Dr. DeBaun’s laboratory is focused preventing and treating complications in children and adults with sickle cell disease both in the U.S. and Africa.
Adam Esbenshade, MD, MSCI
Dr. Esbenshade is a Pediatric Neuro-oncologist and Professor of Pediatrics. His research focuses on Cancer Control, Supportive Care, Central Nervous System Malignancy, and Cancer Survivorship. Areas of active investigation include risk prediction modeling and establishing evidence-based data for the treatment of infectious disease complications during pediatric cancer for which he has a current multi-institution prospective validation study. He is also working on studies to improve the treatment of obesity and the metabolic syndrome in cancer survivors, validating a comprehensive risk score that summarizes a cancer survivors' co-morbidities, as well as, clinical trials that focus on targeted therapy for CNS tumors.
Debra Friedman, MD
Dr. Friedman is an internationally recognized physician-scientist, with continuous grant funding for over 25 years. Her research focuses on cancer care delivery and health outcomes across the lifespan for diverse populations of pediatric and adult cancer patients. Her research has contributed to an understanding of psychosocial, functional, and physiologic long-term outcomes for childhood and adult cancer survivors, with contributions to surveillance guidelines and interventions to ameliorate adverse outcomes.
Richard Ho, MD
Dr. Ho is a clinician scientist with research interests and expertise focused in the areas of pediatric clinical pharmacology and cancer pharmacology. He is a nationally recognized physician investigator who has led translational research projects concentrated on drug transporters and chemotherapy disposition, and pharmacogenetics of cancer therapy in pediatric oncology.
Carrie Kitko, MD
Dr. Kitko is the Medical Director of the Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program. Her research focus is on improving outcomes from post-transplant complications, particularly graft-versus-host disease. She is able to offer her patients the opportunity to participate in several clinical trials designed to help prevent and treat these complications.
Heather McDaniel, MD, MSCI
Dr. McDaniel is a pediatric hematologist who focuses on the care of patients with non-malignant hematologic disorders. She serves as the director of the pediatric thrombosis and inpatient hematology consult services. Her research focus is on treatment for hematologic disorders as well as prevention of venous thromboembolism in pediatric patients.
Christine M. Smith, MD
Dr. Smith’s focus is hematologic malignancies, with a special interest in lymphoma including Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphomas, and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. She is actively involved in quality improvement (QI) and patient safety with multiple ongoing efforts at the divisional and institutional level. In addition to her work locally, Dr. Smith was part of the founding leadership of the ASPHO Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Special Interest Group, a member of the Children's Oncology Group, and a panel member for the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Pediatric Hodgkin's Guidelines Committee.
Devang Pastakia, MD
Dr. Pastakia’s research focuses on optimizing treatment for pediatric patients with brain and spinal cord tumors. He is involved in national consortiums that collaborate together to find novel treatments for CNS tumors. Additionally, as co-leader of the medical education academic community in the pediatric residency program, he works with pediatric residents to academically evaluate changes to the residency curriculum.
Brianna N. Smith, MD, MS
Dr. Smith is a physician-scientist with a clinical interest in the care of children and adolescents with myeloid malignancies, myelodysplastic syndromes, and bone marrow failure disorders. Her laboratory focus is the study of experimental therapeutics and cell death pathways in myeloid disease within the Savona Laboratory.
Jason R. Schwartz, MD, PhD
Dr. Schwartz’s research studies seek to understand the molecular mechanisms and pathogenesis underlying pediatric myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), specifically those syndromes caused by germline mutations in SAMD9 and SAMD9L.
Emmanuel Volanakis, MD
Dr. Emmanuel Volanakis is interested in the clinical care of children and young adults with sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies. He has served as the site investigator for industry sponsored and investigator initiated multicenter clinical trials.
Allison Wheeler, MD, MSCI
Dr. Wheeler's research is primarily focused on hemostatic disorders in pediatric patients. She is the research director of the Vanderbilt Hemophilia Treatment Center, and as such, participates in both observational and therapeutic trials. She has a particular interest in women's bleeding disorders.
Sara Zarnegar-Lumley, MD, MS, BA
Dr. Zarnegar-Lumley specializes in the care of children and adolescents with leukemia, lymphoma, and histiocytic disorders. She has a particular interest in the molecular background of these diseases. She is actively involved in designing and conducting clinical trials of targeted therapies for pediatric leukemia.