The team

Leah Novinger, MD PhD

Dr. Novinger recently joined the laboratory as a Research Assistant Professor and is responsible the development of clinical and translational research projects in ovarian cancer, head and neck cancer, colon cancer, and aging as related to cancer cachexia. She also performs basic science research in the laboratory on mouse models of cancer cachexia.  

A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Novinger’s first introduction to research was studying the impact of antioxidant therapy in bone metastatic breast cancer in the laboratory of Dr. Andrea Mastro while completing her honors thesis in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State University.  

Dr. Novinger subsequently continued her research career in the MD/PhD program at the University of Vermont. Her research with Dr. David Krag focused on the discovery of phage displayed tumor targeting antibodies derived from B cells located within tumor, sentinel lymph node, and blood of patients undergoing surgery for breast cancer. Her work, funded in part by the Department of Defense, focused on the development of cDNA and antibody expression libraries using phage display to develop targeted and personalized drug therapies. Due to her expertise, she was chosen to help teach the annual Antibody Engineering and Phage Display Course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories.  

Dr. Novinger then completed her residency training in otolaryngology- head and neck surgery at the Indiana University. During this time, she studied surgical mouse models of liver metastatic colon cancer in the laboratory. She and Dr. Bonetto performed clinical research characterizing the prevalence of cancer cachexia in patients undergoing surgery for head and neck cancer as well as risk factors for complications with Dr. Alexander J. Jones.  

While at Indiana University, Drs. Novinger and Bonetto also designed and implemented a translational research program to obtain muscle, bone, and connective tissue from patients with head and neck cancer undergoing reconstructive surgery and study it in the laboratory. Soon after, they developed a grant-funded program to study functional parameters of skeletal muscle (such as grip strength, get up and go test) in patients with head and neck cancer pre-operatively and combine these results with tissue analysis from the same patients in the laboratory. Both pioneering research programs were the first of their kind in cancer cachexia research. 

Dr. Novinger then completed her fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Cleveland Clinic performing research in facial reanimation and reconstructive techniques before moving to Colorado.  

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