Early Phase Clinical Trials Program


Daruka Mahadevan, MD, PhD, is a Professor of Medicine and Director of the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program and Co-Director of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Arizona – Arizona Cancer Center. He is a recognized expert and highly experienced Physician-Scientist in Hematology and Oncology. He received his medical degree from the University of London, England, UK. Dr. Mahadevan completed a post-doctoral Fogarty International fellowship at the National Cancer Institute/NIH and was a senior research scientist at Celltech Therapeutics, London, England. He completed an internal medicine residency at University of Connecticut and fellowship training in Hematology/Oncology at the UACC. He is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, subspecialty of Medical Oncology.

Dr. Mahadevan’s major area of clinical interest is in the treatment and management of patients with Pancreatic cancer, Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) including Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). Dr. Mahadevan's laboratory expertise is to discover novel therapeutic targets by a rigorous validation process and then design drugs to these targets using a structure-based drug discovery algorithm. To this end he has been successful in taking a small molecular inhibitor to c-Kit/PDGFR all the way from the bench to the clinic. MP470 (Amuvatinib), a c-Kit/PDGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor, is now in Phase I clinical trials. He has a demonstrated track record of delivering first-in-human investigational agents for all oncology therapeutics.

In addition, he has successfully directed a structure-based translational drug discovery laboratory program with the award of 6 US patents for new drugs targeting novel driver oncogenes. As PI or Co-PI on several NIH and Foundation grants, he established proof-of-concept and delivered on drug discovery - R01 (AKT PH domain inhibitors) and on drug development - NSF (Prostate cancer translational drug development), SPORE in Lymphoma (Aurora kinase inhibitor therapy for aggressive lymphoma) and SWOG Hope Foundation (targeted therapeutics for aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin Lymphomas). The CCSG leadership opportunity provided transformational change, utilizing his expertise to create tangible and measurable improvements to enhance research value, build a sustainable New Therapeutics program to optimally deliver patient care and a translational drug discovery platform to dismantle resistance to targeted therapies.


Hani M. Babiker, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and the Associate Director of the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program at the University of Arizona Cancer Center and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Clinical Translational Research Division at TGen. He is board-certified in Medical Oncology, Internal Medicine, Hematology, and Geriatrics and Gerontology. His research interests are in new drug development and in the treatment of gastrointestinal cancers. He completed a drug development scholarship at the Virginia G Piper Cancer Center Clinical Trials/HonorHealth Research Institute in Scottsdale where he served as the principal investigator and sub-investigator in many early clinical trials in solid tumors. He also has an interest both in developing new biomarkers and targeted therapies in pancreatic cancer.

He earned his M.D. with High Honors from Univerzita Komenskeho (Slovak Republic), and completed a residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York Presbyterian Hospital (Queens and New York). He also completed a Hematology and Medical Oncology fellowship at the University of Arizona where he also served as Chief Fellow. Dr Babiker is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He has authored several abstracts and peer review manuscripts and has a passion for teaching and mentoring students and trainees.


Ruth Cañamar, BA, is the UACC Phase I Program Manager.  Ruth has been employed in the health field for over 25 years, primarily assisting in the conduct of human research studies.  The last 14 years she has been employed at the University of Arizona Cancer Center.  Her primary job has been managing the Clinical Trials Office IRB/Regulatory Team as well as the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program.  Initiation of NCI Cooperative Group (e.g. SWOG, NRG) and pharmaceutical trials at the UACC begin with the IRB/Regulatory team.   The team works closely with the principal investigator (PI), the disease oriented teams, sponsors, clinical research organizations (CROs), and oversite committees, such as the University of Arizona Cancer Center Scientific Review Committee, the UofA Institutional Review Board, and central committees like the WIRB, CIRB, and Data Safety and Monitoring Committees.  Her focus is to initiate and maintain the regulatory side of clinical trials to ensure that the trials are administered per protocol.  Ruth is a graduate of the University of Texas - Pan American.


JACQUELINE CURTIS, RN - early Phase clinical trials program Research Nurse

Jacqueline Curtis graduated with honors from the University of Texas, El Paso receiving a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing.  She is a certified oncology nurse with twenty years of experience, the majority of which has been in oncology.  She is a member of the American Nurses Association and the Oncology Nursing Society.  She is committed to patient care and was drawn to the Early Phase Trials Clinic because of a sincere desire to improve the care and clinical outcomes for cancer patients.  Currently she is pursuing her Masters of Science Degree in Nursing from the University of San Francisco with a focus on Clinical Nurse Leadership.  Jacqueline is an avid runner.  She particularly likes the ultramarathon distance and feels its mantra of “relentless forward progress” is just as applicable to her work in oncology clinical trials.




Kelly Myrdal, PharmD, is a Clinical Pharmacist at Banner University Medical Center and is the lead pharmacist for the Investigational Drug Service (IDS) at The University of Arizona Cancer Center. The IDS is responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures for the management of investigational agents. Kelly is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and has been with the Investigational Drug Service since its formation.






Lisa Davis, PharmD, BCPS, BCOP, is a Professor of Clinical Pharmacy and an Investigational Pharmacist in the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. Her responsibilities include review and evaluate patients’ medications and make recommendations as necessary to avoid potential interactions and adverse effects, provide drug counseling on chemotherapy and investigational drugs. In addition, she participates in assessing and managing treatment-related symptoms and general supportive care problems associated with cancer.





DIANE RENSVOLD, RN - early phase clinical trials program RESEARCH NURSE

Diane Rensvold, RN, is the UACC Early Phase Clinical Trials Program Research Nurse.  Diane has 20 years of clinical research experience, specializing in Phase 1 clinical trials, both liquid and solid tumors. Diane was an adult critical care nurse prior to embarking on a career in clinical research. She started her research career in the Department of Neurology at the University of Arizona, specializing in acute stroke clinical trials. She has been at the University of Arizona Cancer Center since 2003. Her primary role is to provide dedicated nursing support, including toxicity assessment and collaborative clinical management to all Early Phase patients. Her primary goal is to successfully navigate patients through Early Phase clinical trials by providing experienced quality care, education, assessment and clinical support.

LORA MACIAS - SENIOR COORDINATOR, early phase clinical trials PROGRAM

Lora Macias is our Early Phase Clinical Trials Program Coordinator, Senior.  Lora has been in the healthcare field for your 27 years.  She has over 14 years of experience as a coordinator at the Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Arizona.  She has previously worked with the GI, Lung, BMT and Lymphoma Programs, the clinic staff and patients, as well as the University of Arizona and Banner Systems.






Crystal Placencia, BS, CCRC, is the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program, Senior Clinical Research Coordinator. “When human beings are faced with the traumatic news of a cancer diagnosis, it is not uncommon to feel anxious, afraid, and/or overwhelmed. Being asked to participate in a clinical trial may only intensify these emotions. It is my great passion to be an advocate to the patients throughout the process. As a clinical research coordinator I work closely with the patients to help them understand their role in the trial and guide them through each clinical visit. One of the things I love about my position is the diversity behind it. Not only do I work closely with the patients, I work closely with the Principal Investigator, members of the department, study sponsors and monitors, to support and provide guidance on the administration of the compliance, financial, personnel and other related aspects of all ongoing clinical studies.”  

Crystal’s education background includes a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management and certification as a Clinical Research Coordinator(CCRC). She has worked at the University of Arizona Cancer Center as Clinical Research Coordinator since January of 2015. Prior to working in oncology, she was a Clinical Research Coordinator in orthopedics for approximately 7 years. “I look forward to the future that our Phase 1 Program will bring to cancer treatment.”



Melissa Lim, BS serves the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) as a Senior Regulatory Coordinator for the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program. After graduating from the University of Arizona in Biomedical Engineering, she became a Research Aide at the Arizona Simulation Technology and Education Center (ASTEC), training medical students and other healthcare professionals. She is a native Tucsonan and has been with the UACC Clinical Trials Office for over 6 years, starting as a student employee and Regulatory Coordinator for the Hematological Malignancies and Lymphoma teams. In her free time she enjoys volunteering at Tu Nidito, taking dance and yoga classes, and spending time with friends and family.




Kristian Larson, BS serves the University of Arizona Cancer Center as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program. He is originally from Mesa, Arizona and has worked in communities such as Tucson and San Francisco. After graduating from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Program in Physiology and Psychology, he gained experience surgically performing organ and tissue procurement. His predominant interests include the pursuit to medical school, an aspiration to find a cure for pancreatic cancer, and dedication to ameliorate the health of all patients. When not partaking in clinical trials, he enjoys traveling, powerlifting, and writing.