Theisen Lab

The Theisen Lab aims to increase the clinical impact of epigenetic targeted therapies for children with cancer.

Like cancer in general, childhood cancers are characterized by altered patterns of gene expression that promote tumor formation. However, unlike many adult cancers, childhood cancers frequently have a quiet mutational landscape. Instead, the expression of genes that drive these cancers is the result of dysregulation in the epigenome. Unlike genetic mutations, this epigenetic dysregulation is therapeutically targetable. While epigenetic targeted therapies hold great promise for treating kids with cancer, this potential is not yet realized. Several advances must be made for epigenetic therapies to make a difference for pediatric cancer patients, addressing both our understanding of the role epigenetic regulation plays in pediatric cancer and finding the right strategies to translate this knowledge from bench to bedside.

The Theisen Lab currently focuses on LSD1-containing complexes in pediatric solid tumors. We are interested in the contextual determinants of LSD1 function and developing novel therapeutic strategies targeting LSD1. Our group uses an integrative approach with biochemical, structural, pharmacological, genomic, proteomic, and molecular biology techniques, in both in vitro and in vivo models of disease.

Positions are currently available for graduate students and post doctoral scientists. Please contact Dr. Theisen with inquiries.

Lab Staff

Nationwide Children's Researcher

Emily R. Theisen, PhD
Principal Investigator

Emily R Theisen, PhD, is a principal investigator in the Center for Childhood Cancer at the Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Dr. Theisen earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and her PhD in pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy. She trained with Dr. Stephen Lessnick in the Center for Childhood Cancer at Nationwide Children’s as a postdoctoral fellow before joining the faculty. Dr. Theisen has spent her career studying pharmacological modulation of chromatin regulators in pediatric cancer, with a specific focus on Ewing sarcoma. Her laboratory focuses on how context defines different roles for chromatin complexes, with an emphasis on LSD1-containing complexes. The laboratory aims to understand how specific functions of chromatin complexes interact with disease-specific chromatin context in order to uncover novel therapeutic strategies.

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Galen Rask
Research Associate

Galen earned his bachelor's degree in Biology from Swarthmore College and his Master's degree in Molecular Genetics from the Ohio State University. He is the lab manager for the Theisen Lab and his current research focuses on defining the role of epigenetic regulation in Ewing Sarcoma.

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Jack Tokarsky
Postdoctoral Researcher

Jack is an alumni of Ohio State University (B.S. Biology 2013, PhD Biophysics 2018) with a background in enzymology and protein biochemistry. He came to the Abigail Wexner Research Institute in 2018 as a post-doc to learn about childhood cancer biology, specifically Ewing sarcoma. Jack has since become interested in learning about drug resistance in cancer, as well as how mitochondria and epigenetics play a role in influencing cancer biology.