Joshua Casaos

My work has been carried out in the Brem lab, also known as the Hunterian Neurosurgical Research Laboratory. Our work focuses on studying alternative and innovative therapeutics for adult and pediatric brain tumors. Specifically, our work has demonstrated that the antiviral drug ribavirin is effective as a potential therapeutic against the pediatric brain tumor atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT). We have used preclinical in vitro and in vivo models to show that ribavirin has antitumoral efficacy as monotherapy and potential sensitizes AT/RT to currently used radiotherapy and chemotherapy. These are exciting findings, as children with AT/RTs are typically under the age of 3 years old, radiation therapy is not an option due to the developing nervous system and there is no standard chemotherapy regimen for these children.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

I chose Johns Hopkins because of the people. My initial interactions at Johns Hopkins brought me across students, faculty members and potential mentors who were passionate not only about the work that they do, whether in the hospital or in the laboratory, but about working with and training students and mentees across all disciplines and training levels.

What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

Receiving this award is an honor for our team and can be attributed to the mentorship, teamwork and dedication of our group. Anyone who works in basic science can tell you how many ups and downs and late nights can be involved. This allows us to appreciate the days when things go well that much more. Paul Ehrlich studied chemotherapy and coined the concept of a magic bullet: therapy that selectively targets disease-causing organisms while sparing the bystander normal body. This is a concept that we utilize every day in our lab, studying compounds that target tumor cells while minimally affecting our bodies’ normal cells.

What contributed to your project’s success (special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)?

Our success is due to the guidance of phenomenal mentors including Dr. Henry Brem, Betty Tyler, and Nicolas Skuli. They provide sound scientific reasoning and mentorship, while also giving us with the tools and opportunity to grow as independent scientists. They are leaders in their field and are nonetheless fully invested in students and always available when needed.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles student and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

I believe that Young Investigators’ Day gives scientists in their earlier career the opportunity to be rewarded for their research and contributions to science while providing a platform to share their work. It is a chance to see some of the amazing work being done right here at Johns Hopkins.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

My best experiences as a medical student at Johns Hopkins entail the privilege of learning medicine by working with and caring for patients who entrust their care in our hands. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to learn from physician scientists who demonstrate dedication first and foremost to the delivery of exceptional patient centered care, while also working in the laboratory to tackle the diseases encountered in the clinic and OR to advance patient care.

What are your plans over the next year or so?

This summer I will be completing a HHMI Medical Student Fellowship research year and will be returning to my 4th year of medical school. I will be applying to neurological surgery residency this fall and hope to graduate medical school and begin residency next year.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

I was born and raised in Heyburn, Idaho, a small rural farming community in south central Idaho. My niche for the outdoors stems from this, and this is where I learned to ski and mountain bike! I enjoy visiting my family, including the growing number of nephews and nieces whenever I can. In my spare time I enjoy playing basketball, biking, and cooking.