Honors & Awards

  • Lymphoma Clinical Research Mentoring Program Scholar, Lymphoma Research Foundation (2014)

Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, BIOE-PHD (2018)
  • Doctor of Medicine, Mayo Graduate School (2009)
  • Bachelor of Science, California Institute of Technology, Chemistry (2005)

All Publications

  • Organocatalytic removal of formaldehyde adducts from RNA and DNA bases. Nature chemistry Karmakar, S., Harcourt, E. M., Hewings, D. S., Scherer, F., Lovejoy, A. F., Kurtz, D. M., Ehrenschwender, T., Barandun, L. J., Roost, C., Alizadeh, A. A., Kool, E. T. 2015; 7 (9): 752-758


    Formaldehyde is universally used to fix tissue specimens, where it forms hemiaminal and aminal adducts with biomolecules, hindering the ability to retrieve molecular information. Common methods for removing these adducts involve extended heating, which can cause extensive degradation of nucleic acids, particularly RNA. Here, we show that water-soluble bifunctional catalysts (anthranilates and phosphanilates) speed the reversal of formaldehyde adducts of mononucleotides over standard buffers. Studies with formaldehyde-treated RNA oligonucleotides show that the catalysts enhance adduct removal, restoring unmodified RNA at 37 °C even when extensively modified, while avoiding the high temperatures that promote RNA degradation. Experiments with formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded cell samples show that the catalysis is compatible with common RNA extraction protocols, with detectable RNA yields increased by 1.5-2.4-fold using a catalyst under optimized conditions and by 7-25-fold compared with a commercial kit. Such catalytic strategies show promise for general use in reversing formaldehyde adducts in clinical specimens.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nchem.2307

    View details for PubMedID 26291948

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4545578

  • Organocatalytic removal of formaldehyde adducts from RNA and DNA bases NATURE CHEMISTRY Karmakar, S., Harcourt, E. M., Hewings, D. S., Lovejoy, A. F., Kurtz, D. M., Ehrenschwender, T., Barandun, L. J., Roost, C., Alizadeh, A. A., Kool, E. T. 2015; 7 (9): 752-758

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NCHEM.2307

    View details for Web of Science ID 000360191800014

  • Next-generation surveillance strategies for patients with lymphoma. Future oncology Cohen, J. B., Kurtz, D. M., Staton, A. D., Flowers, C. R. 2015; 11 (13): 1977-1991


    While remission and cure rates for Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma continue to improve, surveillance approaches remain controversial, especially in light of recent reports suggesting limited benefit for routine radiologic assessment. Routine cross-sectional imaging results in considerable patient expense and anxiety, and this approach does not clearly improve patient outcomes. Next-generation approaches including minimal residual disease detection may provide an opportunity to identify relapse early and intervene prior to progression of clinical disease. This review discusses the role of surveillance imaging in Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and provides an introduction to serologic assessment of minimal residual disease. Future studies will need to focus on the clinical application of minimal residual disease surveillance and its ability to predict relapse, treatment response and survival.

    View details for DOI 10.2217/fon.15.92

    View details for PubMedID 26161931

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4519355

  • Noninvasive monitoring of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma by immunoglobulin high-throughput sequencing. Blood Kurtz, D. M., Green, M. R., Bratman, S. V., Scherer, F., Liu, C. L., Kunder, C. A., Takahashi, K., Glover, C., Keane, C., Kihira, S., Visser, B., Callahan, J., Kong, K. A., Faham, M., Corbelli, K. S., Miklos, D., Advani, R. H., Levy, R., Hicks, R. J., Hertzberg, M., Ohgami, R. S., Gandhi, M. K., Diehn, M., Alizadeh, A. A. 2015; 125 (24): 3679-3687


    Recent studies have shown limited utility of routine surveillance imaging for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) patients achieving remission. Detection of molecular disease by immunoglobulin high-throughput sequencing (Ig-HTS) from peripheral blood provides an alternate strategy for surveillance. We prospectively evaluated the utility of Ig-HTS within 311 blood and 105 tumor samples from 75 patients with DLBCL, comparing Ig-HTS from the cellular (circulating leukocytes) and acellular (plasma cell-free DNA) compartments of peripheral blood to clinical outcomes and (18)fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography combined with computed tomography (PET/CT; n = 173). Clonotypic immunoglobulin rearrangements were detected in 83% of patients with adequate tumor samples to enable subsequent monitoring in peripheral blood. Molecular disease measured from plasma, compared with circulating leukocytes, was more abundant and better correlated with radiographic disease burden. Before treatment, molecular disease was detected in the plasma of 82% of patients compared with 71% in circulating cells (P = .68). However, molecular disease was detected significantly more frequently in the plasma at time of relapse (100% vs 30%; P = .001). Detection of molecular disease in the plasma often preceded PET/CT detection of relapse in patients initially achieving remission. During surveillance time points before relapse, plasma Ig-HTS demonstrated improved specificity (100% vs 56%, P < .0001) and similar sensitivity (31% vs 55%, P = .4) compared with PET/CT. Given its high specificity, Ig-HTS from plasma has potential clinical utility for surveillance after complete remission.

    View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2015-03-635169

    View details for PubMedID 25887775

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4463733

  • Tracking Cellular and Immune Therapies in Cancer EMERGING APPLICATIONS OF MOLECULAR IMAGING TO ONCOLOGY Kurtz, D. M., Gambhir, S. S. 2014; 124: 257-296
  • Tracking cellular and immune therapies in cancer. Advances in cancer research Kurtz, D. M., Gambhir, S. S. 2014; 124: 257-296


    The field of tumor immunology has seen an explosion of renewed interest over the last decade. With the FDA approval of new immunotherapies for prostate cancer and melanoma, as well as several exciting new drugs in clinical trials, tumor immunology is becoming an increasingly important topic in preclinical studies and patient care. However, the current methods for assessing the immune status of a patient and tumor are limited, which has led to the development of novel molecular imaging methods for assessing tumor immunology. From cell tracking for cellular therapeutics to assessing the tumor immune microenvironment, these imaging methods have the potential to further preclinical understanding of immunotherapies and potentially translate into clinically useful tests to predict and assess therapeutic response of these exciting new agents. In this review, we first discuss the recent advances in cancer immunotherapy, followed by a detailed review of the current state of molecular imaging for tumor immunology. Finally, we discuss opportunities for further development and innovation in this rapidly growing field.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-411638-2.00008-2

    View details for PubMedID 25287692