The Team

In the Lab

David Krag, M.D., SD Ireland Professor of Surgical Oncology
Girja Shukla, M.D., Research Associate Professor of Surgery

Stephanie Pero, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor of Surgery

Yujing Sun, M.D., Research Assistant Professor

Ed Manna, Senior Researcher/Analyst

Elena Peletskaya, M.D., Research Assistant Professor

Chelsea Carman, Lab Research Technician

In the Clinic

Patti Lutton, Research Project Assistant
Sarah Howe, Research Project Assistant

Eileen Caffry, Research Specialist

Shelley Bissonnette, Office and Program Support


In the Lab

David Krag, M.D., SD Ireland Professor of Surgical Oncology

Dr. David Krag has been developing new methods for treating cancer for more than 20 years.  Dr. Krag moved to Vermont in 1991 and was the first fellowship-trained Surgical Oncologist in the state.  Upon his arrival, Dr. Krag promptly founded the University of Vermont Breast Center, a model of multidisciplinary care for breast cancer patients.  The Breast Center has the two-fold mission of providing outstanding cancer care and serving as a center for developing entirely new methods of treating cancer patients.

Girja Shukla, M.D., Research Associate Professor of Surgery

Almost 10 years ago Dr. Krag was fortunate to have a long distance telephone conversation with Dr. Girja Shukla.  These two researchers, speaking for the first time from opposite sides of the planet were drawn together by a common vision.  To improve the outcome for cancer patients.  Dr. Shukla is an outstanding senior scientist with a long history of making major contributions to his focused area of research.  His connection with Dr. Krag changed his research trajectory toward cancer research.  The Krag Lab is proud to have Dr. Shukla’s deep wisdom, commitment, and experience dedicated to improving the care of cancer patients.

Stephanie Pero, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor of Surgery

Dr. Stephanie Pero is many years out from Dr. Krag’s description of “the brightest student I had ever met”.  After receiving her training in cancer research with Dr. Krag, she has become a powerful research force and is a key member of the team.  She is here to make a difference.  She has developed a special molecule that binds to the most deadly type of breast cancer cells, the so called triple negative cancers, for which the fewest treatment options are available.

Yujing Sun, M.D., Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Yujing Sun (Sunny) has traveled the long distance from China to contribute her special skills as a physician researcher.  Sunny has worked tirelessly to develop new ways to identify antibodies that bind to breast cancer cells.  She has devised an entirely new method to accomplish this feat with an extremely small sample of breast cancer.  Few researchers in the world have been able to accomplish this and she has done it in a way that is applicable not only to breast cancer but also to many other types of cancers.

Ed Manna, Senior Researcher/Analyst

Ed Manna has a highly specialized set of skills. He is an experimental cytotechnologist, meaning that he can take the amount of cancer cells present in only a hypodermic needle and study them productively.  Ed has developed a method that can detect one cancer cell among 1,000,000 normal blood cells.  He can use this procedure to detect tiny amounts of residual cancer cells in breast cancer patients who have completed their initial treatment.  Ed is currently the lead researcher in a study involving over 1,600 breast cancer patients to evaluate whether this method of detecting the rare cancer cells can help identify patients who will likely need more treatment.  This is a very important study that will take many years to complete, and has become possible because Dr. Krag’s lab made a multi-year effort to develop the important assays used for this trial.

Elena Peletskaya, M.D., Research Assistant Professor

Dr. Elena Peletskaya has an extensive background in molecular biology research.  Her special expertise in the biology of viruses has particular importance to our research, especially with the development of using viruses to develop antibodies for cancer treatment.  She currently is finishing an important series of experiments in which large “libraries” of antibodies are administered intravenously to patients hours before cancer surgery to mark their tumor locations.  When the cancer is removed, its accompanying antibodies are recovered in the lab, produced in large quantities, and tested.  This is a very rapid and innovative method of identifying customized antibodies that bind specifically to a cancer.  Dr. Krag’s the team has been the first in the world to do this in cancer patients.

Chelsea Carman, Lab Research Technician

Chelsea Carman is taking time between college and her advanced studies to work in the Krag lab as a research technologist.  Her main task is to help Dr. Pero identify antibodies that bind specifically to cancer cells.  She is working with a very special antibody library that has been pooled from the B cells of many people.  Using a very large library with several million different antibodies increases the chance that excellent cancer binding antibodies will be identified.


In the Clinic

Bringing research from the lab to the clinic involves a special group of individuals that have the skills to “translate” laboratory research to the cancer patient.

Patti Lutton, Research Project Assistant

Patti Lutton has a long history of working directly with cancer patients that participate in clinical trials.  This involves the challenging work of identifying patients whom are eligible for different studies as well as acting as their research case manager.  Many, many patients have good things to say about Patti.

Sarah Howe, Research Project Assistant

Sarah Howe’s diverse set of important skills include working with patients, helping to track thousands of research cancer specimens, and editing medical manuscripts and grant applications – all essential to the work being done in the lab.

Eileen Caffry, Research Specialist

Eileen Caffry joined the Krag lab in the fall of 2009 with a very long history of project management.  She works to help connect all the pieces involving regulatory agencies such as the FDA and the National Cancer Institute.  She helps organize complex sections of grant applications quickly.  Her calmness and attention to detail are valuable traits.

Shelley Bissonnette, Office and Program Support

Shelley Bissonnette is the glue that holds everything together.  She is the overall administrative assistant to …..everyone!  She handles all the budgets, makes sure that all the lab supplies are ordered and arrive on time, schedules everything for everyone and does this without even the least sign of stress.  Such an important task!