Monika Schmelz, PhD

Associate Professor of Pathology
The University of Arizona College of Medicine
Molecular Biologist
Phone Number: 
(520) 626-8864
FAX: 
(520) 626-8893

UACC Information

UACC Organizational Unit(s): 
Professional Bio: 

Dr.Schmelz is an Associate Professor, Research Track, in the Department of Pathology, at the University of Arizona, and a member of The University of Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson.

Dr. Schmelz earned her PhD degree in cell & tumor biology from the German Cancer Research Center, Karl Ruprecht University in Heidelberg, Germany, which was followed by a post-doctoral training in molecular biology at The European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany.

Dr. Schmelz is also a faculty member in the Applied Biosciences Graduate Interdisciplinary Program at The University of Arizona, and a faculty member in the BIO5 Institute, The University of Arizona in Tucson.

Dr.Schmelz has an extensive broad background in cell and molecular tumor biology with specific training and expertise in key research areas such as biochemical, ultrastructural (including immuno-electron microscopy), and immunohistochemical methods. She served several years as Director of a Cancer Research Program Core (“Molecular Analysis and Localization”) at the University of Arizona and of a Confocal Microscopy Core at the Tucson VA providing her expertise to research collaborators, which lead to various publications. In addition, she has a strong clinical background with involvement in patient care.

From 1998 to 2002, Dr.Schmelz served as Coordinator for Electron Microscopic Diagnosis at the Pathology Department of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. During 2003-2005, she served as Director of the Clinical Immunohistochemistry Section of the Tucson Veteran Affair Hospital’s Pathology Department. At the Tucson VA, she played a major role in establishing and validating the diagnostic breast cancer panel (Her2/neu, PR, ER, Ki67 expression by immunohistochemistry and Her2neu by FISH).

More recently, Dr.Schmelz served as scientific expert in the Cancer Molecular Diagnostic Program at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (Pathology Department). In collaboration with the board certified molecular pathologist of the program, they established and validated the FDA approved automated dual Her2/neu-Chromosome 17 SISH-test (bright field in situ hybridization) for breast cancer diagnosis and the Lynch Syndrome test for diagnosis of an inherited form of colon cancer.

As a member of the Lymphoma Research Consortium, Dr.Schmelz' primary research interest is to study how tumor cells escape immunosurveillance, which is a hallmark of cancer, in aggressive lymphomas. The major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII) molecules play a major role in tumor immunosurveillance. MHCII proteins are involved in antigen processing and presentation, and are important for the adaptive immune response. The expression of MHCII is essential for patient outcome. The loss of MHCII expression leads to a worse outcome for patients diagnosed with DLBCL. She is studying the underlying mechanisms of MHCII deregulation and altered membrane protein trafficking. The members of the Lymphoma Research Consortium meet on a weekly basis besides ad hoc one-on-one meetings with single members. She is collaborating with Drs Persky and Puvvada on the clinical aspects of MHCII downregulation, and with Dr. Smith on identifying drugs that have the potential to upregulate MHCII to improve patient outcome.

Clinical Information

Laboratory/Office: 

Research Information

Research Program: 
Cancer Biology
Member Status: 
Associate Research Member
Year of Membership Acceptance: 
2002
Institution: 
University of Arizona
College: 
Medicine
Research Focus: 

Dr. Schmelz’ primary research interest is to study how tumor cells escape immunosurveillance, which is a hallmark of cancer, in aggressive diffuse large B cell lymphomas. The major histocompatibility complex class II (MHCII) molecules are cell surface glycoproteins, which play a major role in tumor immunosurveillance. MHCII proteins are involved in antigen processing and presentation, and are important for the adaptive immune response. The expression of MHCII is essential for patient outcome. The loss of MHCII expression leads to a worse outcome for patients diagnosed with lymphomas. The lab is studying the underlying mechanisms of MHCII deregulation and the membrane trafficking machinery.

Dr. Schmelz’ lab also hosts the Biorepository (ANCHOR-Arizona Biorepository) for a “Anal Cancer/HSIL Outcomes Research" (ANCHOR) study, which is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy (OHAM). It is a Phase III multi-site clinical trial. During the course of the 8-year clinical trial, the Biorepository will receive and process an estimated 320,000 specimens for future NCI-approved correlative studies open to all researchers through grant mechanisms.

Selected Publications: 
  1. Schmelz M, Montes-Moreno S, Piris MA, Wilkinson ST, Rimsza LM.  Lack and/or aberrant localization of major histocompatibility Class II (MHCII) protein in plasmablastic lymphoma.  Haematologica  97(10):1614-6; 2012
  2. Jensen V, Prasad A, Smith A, Raju M, Wendel CS, Schmelz M, Leyva W, Warneke J, Krouse RS.  Prognostic Criteria for squamous cell cancer of the skin.  Journal of Surgical Research  159 (91):509-16; 2010
  3. Thai HM, Juneman E, Castellano L, Do R, Hagerty T, Lancaster J, Kellar R, Williams S, Sethi G, Schmelz M, Gaballa M, Goldman S.  Implantation of a 3-dimensional fibroblast matrix improves left ventricular function and blood flow after acute myocardial infarction.  Cell Transplantation  18 (3):283-95; 2009
  4. LI L, Schmelz M, Kellner EM, Galgiani JN, Orbach MJ.  Nuclear Labeling of Coccidioides posadasii with Green Fluorescent Protein.  Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences  1111 (1),198–207; 2007
  5. Kremer CL, Schmelz M, Cress AE.  Integrin-dependent amplification of the G2 Arrest induced by ionizing radiation. The Prostate  66:88-96; 2006
  6. Schmelz M, Moll R, Hesse U, Prasad AR, Gandolfi JA, Hasan SR, Bartholdi M, Cress AE.   Identification of a stem cell candidate in the normal human prostate gland.  European Journal of Cell Biology  84 (2-3):541-354; 2005
  7. Schmelz M,  A Prasad: Cytokeratin 6 expression in prostate stem cells. Bookchapter in  “Cancer Metastasis- Biology and Treatment: Adhesion and Cytoskeletal Molecules in Metastasis”, Anne E. Cress & Raymond B Nagle (editors), Springer Science & Business Media, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, Vol 9: 103-122, 2006.

Professional Information

Positions and Honors: 
Presidential Prize, International Society of Lymphology, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1995
Honored together with Prof. B. Geiger (Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel) by the Israelian/German Scientific Program Committee for the joint study.  “Structure-Function relationships in Adhering Cell Junctions of Normal and Transformed Cells” as a Highlight Project out of 61 joint projects of the German/Israelian Cooperation Program, Heidelberg/Jerusalem, 1997

Academic Information

Doctorate: 
Cell & Molecular Biology, Karl Ruprecht University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany
Master's Degree: 
MS, Biology Karl Ruprecht University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany