Lab Members

Elena Piskounova, PhD, Principal Investigator

Elena is originally from snowy Russia. She did her undergraduate degree at the University of Oxford in the UK, before crossing the Atlantic to do her PhD with Dr. Richard Gregory at Harvard Medical School, where she focused on the post-transcriptional regulation of let-7 microRNA processing by RNA binding proteins Lin28A and B. She then moved to UT Southwestern Medical Center to do her postdoctoral work with Dr Sean Morrison. There she developed her main interest in understanding the metabolic adaptations that regulate metastasis. Her work uncovered that metastasizing cancer cells experience high levels of oxidative stress and therefore rely on specific metabolic pathways such as one-carbon metabolism to survive. She is now an Assistant Professor at Weill Cornell Medical College at the Meyer Cancer Center working on further understanding the biochemistry of metastasis. 

Graciela Cascio Cañas, PhD, Post-Doctoral Fellow 

Graciela is originally from Spain. She studied Pharmacy at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where she also completed her Master’s Degree in Immunology. She stayed in Madrid to pursue her PhD at the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) under the supervision of Dr. Mario Mellado. During these years, she proved the importance of chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand CXCL12, and their implication with Janus kinases pathway in naïve T cells homing and synapse formation. Now, as a postdoc, Graciela is interested in researching different signaling pathways implicated in metastasis. In her free time, she likes reading and walking around the city trying to discover the most beautiful corners.

Leona Nease, PhD Candidate

Leona is a first year PhD student in the pharmacology program at Weill Cornell Medicine. She is from Kentucky and received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Kentucky. Leona is interested in studying cancer metabolism and its role in metastasis. When she is not in lab, Leona enjoys traveling, eating and all things aquatic (including, but not limited to, swimming, scuba diving, aquascaping and raising fish).

Kelsey Aguirre, Research Assistant

Kelsey is from Austin, Texas and received her B.S. in Biology from Texas Tech University. Kelsey is interested in studying metabolic adaptations that occur during metastasis and plans to pursue her PhD within the next few years. When not in the lab, Kelsey enjoys wandering the city streets, finding the best desserts, and staying connected with her family and friends.

Lab Alumni

Elsbeth Kane, Research Assistant


Elsbeth recently received her B.A. in Environmental Biology from Columbia University. She is pursueing a dual-degree program to earn a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and a Master of Science in Public Health at Cornell University. With this training, she hopes to engage in comparative and translational biomedical research or to contribute to zoonotic disease research and surveillance. 

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