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Azzam, Diana Jehad

Title: Assistant Professor

Office: AHC4-319

Phone: 305-348-9043


Department(s): Human and Molecular Genetics


PhD, 2007-2012, University of Miami, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

MS, 2003-2006, American University of Beirut, Lebanon. (Biochemistry)

BS, 2000-2003, Lebanese University, Lebanon. (Chemistry)


Dr. Diana Azzam earned her PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from the University of Miami in 2012. Her research has focused on the identification, isolation and functional characterization of chemo-resistant and metastatic cancer stem cell subsets in the most lethal forms of breast and ovarian cancers. Based on her work and publications, she was a recipient of the 2014 Women in Cancer Research scholar award from the American Association for Cancer Research.  Dr. Azzam completed her postdoctoral training in drug discovery and epigenetics, where she optimized a high-throughput screening approach to identify novel drugs that target therapy-resistant cancer stem cells subsets in a tumor. Her research efforts led to the identification of new cancer stem cell-specific functions of histone methyltransferases (HMT) and histone deacetylases (HDAC) in breast and ovarian cancers.

Dr. Azzam also established a patient-specific ex vivo drug screening platform for personalized cancer therapy. Her approach tests clinically approved drugs on chemo-resistant patient cells and identifies the most effective drugs to be readily re-purposed in the clinic for immediate use. This novel, iterative functional/genomics approach to personalized therapeutics was a multidisciplinary collaborative project with oncologists and validation of this assay was done on leukemias, breast, ovarian, esophageal and sarcoma tumors.

Dr. Azzam joined the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at the Florida International University in August of 2016. She is currently working on the genetics and therapeutic targeting of cancer stem cells in breast and ovarian cancers. She is committed to identifying novel therapeutic approaches for the advancement of treatment and improving survival rates of cancer patients.

Selected List of Publications:

  1. Ariazi E., Taylor J., Black M., Nicolas E., Slifker M., Azzam D. and Boyd J. A New Role for ERα: Silencing via DNA methylation of Basal, Stem Cell, and EMT Genes. Mol Cancer Res, 15(2):152-164 (2017). 
  2. Witt A., Lee C., Lee T., Azzam DJ., Grosso J., Cohick E., Wang B., Gropper A., Merritt M., Petrocca F., Richardson A., Young R., Wahlestedt C. and Ince TA., Identification of a Cancer Stem Cell-Specific Function for the Histone Deacetylases in Breast and Ovarian Cancer. Oncogene, Mar 23;36(12):1707-1720 (2017).
  3. Picon-Ruiz M., Pan C., Drews-Elger K., Jang K., Besser AH., Zhao D., Morata-Tarifa C., Kim M., Ince TA., Azzam DJ., Wander SA., Wang B., Ergonul B., Datar RH., Cote RJ., Howard GA., El-Ashry D., Torné-Poyatos P., Marchal JA., Slingerland JM., Interactions between Adipocytes and Breast Cancer Cells Stimulate Cytokine Production and Drive Src/Sox2/miR-302b-Mediated Malignant Progression. Cancer Res, 76 (2):491-504 (2016).
  4. Boelens M, Wu T, Nabet B, Xu B, Qui Y, Yoon T, Azzam DJ, Twyman-Saint Victor C, Wiemann B, Ishwaran H, Brugge P, Jonkers J, Slingerland J and Minn A. Exosome Transfer from Stromal to Breast Cancer Cells Regulates Therapy Resistance Pathways. Cell, 159 (3), 499-513 (2014).
  5. Zhao D, Pan C, Sun J, Gilbert C, Drews-Elger K, Azzam DJ, Picon-Ruiz M, Kim M,W Ullmer W, El-Ashry D, Creighton CJ and Slingerland JM. VEGF drives cancer-initiating stem cells through VEGFR-2/Stat3 signaling to upregulate Myc and Sox2. Oncogene, 11;34(24):3107-19 (2015).
  6. Azzam DJ., Volmar CH., Al-Ali H., Perez A., Watts J., Vargas F., Elias R., Rodriguez A., Zelent A., Cogle C., Swords R. and Wahlestedt C. A Patient-Specific Ex Vivo Screening Platform for Personalized Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) Therapy. Blood, 126 (23): 1352 (2015).
  7. Elger KD, Brinkman J, Miiler P, Shah S, Harrell J, Da Silva T, Ao Z, Schlater A, Azzam D, Diehl K, Thomas D, Slingerland JM, Perou C, Lippmann M, El-Ashry D. Primary breast tumor-derived cellular models: characterization of tumorigenic, metastatic, and cancer-associated fibroblasts in dissociated tumor (DT) cultures. Breast Cancer Res Treat, 144 (3):503-17 (2014).
  8. Azzam, D. J., Zhao, D., Sun, J., Minn, A. J., Ranganathan, P., Drews-Elger, K., Han, X., Picon-Ruiz, M., Gilbert, C. A., Wander, S. A., Capobianco, A. J., El-Ashry, D. and Slingerland, J. Triple negative breast cancer initiating cell subsets differ in functional and molecular characteristics and in γ-secretase inhibitor drug responses. EMBO Mol Med, 5: 1502–1522 (2013).
  9. Simpkins F, Paez P, Sun J, Ullmer W, Gilbert C, Da Silva T, Pedram A, Levin E, Reis I, Rabinovich B, Azzam D, Xu X, Ince TA, Yang J, Verhak R, Lu Y, Mills G, Slingerland JM. Src inhibition with Saracatinib reverses fulvestrant resistance in ER-positive ovarian cancer models in vitro and in vivo, Clin Cancer Res, 1;18(21):5911-23 (2012).
  10. Chen Y, Alvarez EA, Azzam D, Wander, SA, Guggisberg N, Jorda M, Ju Z, Hennessy BT, Slingerland JM. Combined Src and ER blockade impairs human breast cancer proliferation in vitro and in vivo without increasing tumor-initiating cells. Breast Cancer Res Treat, 128(1):69-78 (2011).
  11. Azzam DJ, Usta JA, Mouneinme Y, El Hokayem JA, Mikati MA. High-performance liquid chromatographic method for quantifying sphingomyelin in rat brain. J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci, 1; 859(1):131-6 (2007).