Daniel Marks Lab at Oregon Health & Science University

Although cachexia in cancer patients was described more than two thousand years ago, the central mechanisms underlying this disorder are poorly understood. Furthermore, there is currently no effective pharmaceutical treatment. The Daniel Marks Lab is dedicated to unraveling the basic neuroscience of cachexia. The focus is on understanding the scope and mechanism by which signals of peripheral illness (especially cancers) are received, amplified, and maintained by the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates appetite and metabolic rate.

The significance of the Daniel Marks Lab research resides in its unique combination of historical focus on neuroendocrinology and behavior, with new collaborations and efforts directed at understanding the role of neuroinflammation in this process. The long-term goal of this research is to gain understanding of the acute illness response and how it is transitioned into chronic inflammation-associated cachexia in order to develop more effective therapeutic interventions.

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Xinxia Zhu, MD, Staff Scientist

Xinxia comes to the Marks Lab by way of Zhenjiang Medical College and Hunan Medical University. Her primary research focuses on cachexia modeling, mechanistic exploration, and therapeutic development in the context of chronic and acute diseases, including cancer, renal failure, heart failure, bacterial and viral infection, and malnutrition. She’s into gardening, gourmet cooking, table tennis, and traveling.

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Abby Buenafe, PhD, Staff Scientist

With her PhD from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at OHSU, Abby joined the Marks Lab in 2018. Her primary project involves investigating the effects of pancreatic cancer and tumor-derived extracellular vesicles on brain cells. When she’s not sciencing, Abby spends time gardening, cooking and hiking.

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Stephanie Krasnow, PhD, Staff Scientist

Stephanie’s research focuses on evaluating whether body composition measurements are predictors of morbidity and mortality in pancreatic cancer patients. She’s got a PhD in Physiology and Biophysics, and is certified in Human Investigations. A true West-coaster, Stephanie enjoys cycling, running, camping, volunteering at her sons’ school, and spending time with her family.


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Peter Levasseur, MS, Lab Manager

Peter has earned degrees in Environmental Science and Biology and heads up the Marks Lab as Lab Manager. He has co-authored several publications on research performed in the Lab. He enjoys running, hiking, gardening, playing with his daughter and restoring his 1910 bungalow.

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Kevin Burfeind

Kevin joined the Marks Lab in 2015. His work focuses on interactions between circulating immune cells and the brain during pancreatic cancer. Kevin demonstrated that during pancreatic cancer a distinct population of neutrophils invades the brain at a unique interface, where they drive cachexia. Kevin gets chill with running, skiing, golfing, hiking and tennis.

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Brennan Olson

Brennan comes to the Marks Lab by way of Luck, Wisconsin, where he grew up on a farm. He’s pursuing the MD/PhD path at OHSU, having joined the Lab to investigate novel mediators of cachexia. His primary project focuses on how soluble tumor factors interface with the brain to cause maladaptive sickness behaviors. Brennan enjoys playing basketball and golf, and spending time with family.


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Katherine Michaelis

Katherine’s projects in the Marks Lab revolve around three core ideas: Improved preclinical cachexia models, murine “phase I” trails to assess sickness and safety profiles of investigational cancer therapies, and immune enhancing therapies for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma and cancer-associated cachexia. She is training to become a physician scientist specializing in medical oncology. When she’s not wrapped in science, Katherine likes to read, hike, cook and travel.

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Mason Norgard

In 2017 Mason joined the Marks Lab to focus on using in vivo modeling of cachexia to test the efficacy of promising therapeutics. Outside of the lab, he enjoys playing soccer, cooking, and reading science-fiction.

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John Butler

John is an ASCP certified Clinical Laboratory Scientist, with experience working in both Transfusion Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics at Rhode Island Hospital. In 2015, John joined the MD/PhD program at OHSU. In the Marks Lab, John studies how Acute Myelogenous Leukemia evades the immune system by suppressing the activation of T-cells. His hobbies include knowing things, learning things, and taking tests on things.