Elizabeth White Ph.D.


Elizabeth is a virologist in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery and Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. She was a graduate student in Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School before moving to Penn in 2017. Her research interests are everything HPV. When she’s not in the lab, Elizabeth would like to be hiking.

Research Details
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection causes 5% of cancer cases worldwide, and HPV infection is the cause of all cervical cancer, some oropharyngeal cancer, and other cancers. Papillomaviruses are extraordinarily diverse, and fewer than fifteen of the >200 known HPVs are oncogenic. My research is focused on understanding the mechanisms by which HPVs manipulate the host cellular environment to evade immune responses and sometimes cause cancer.

HPV-mediated transformation: Our previous proteomic and transcriptional analyses identified many HPV targets in human cells. One of these, PTPN14, is a non-receptor tyrosine phosphatase that is specifically targeted for degradation by the oncogenic HPVs. We are working to understand the nature of PTPN14 and other targets in HPV-infected and uninfected cells and to determine the mechanistic basis by which PTPN14 degradation might contribute to carcinogenesis.

HPV modulation of innate immune responses: Although only a handful of the HPVs are oncogenic, all of them encode proteins that alter the regulation of host immune signaling. Our systematic studies also identified many new HPV targets that appear to be involved in changing immune responses in infected cells. We plan to validate these targets and extend these studies to include systematic analyses of the mechanisms by which oncogenic and non-oncogenic HPVs evade immune detection.

We are a collaborative, enthusiastic research group interested in using molecular biology, cell biology, and systems approaches to understanding HPV-host interactions and cancer.

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