Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D.

Isaac  Brownell, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Brownell studies factors that regulate cutaneous stem cells and those that drive skin cancer formation. A current research focus is the biology of neuroendocrine Merkel cells and the oncogenesis of Merkel cell carcinoma. Using mouse genetics, Dr. Brownell investigates the signals that regulate skin stem cell development and maintenance. Mouse models are also used to study targets identified by high-throughput oncogenomic analysis of human skin tumors.

In addition, Dr. Brownell is a physician with the NIH Clinical Center’s Dermatology consult service, and is involved in clinical trials research.

Areas of Expertise
Skin stem cells, Merkel cells, Merkel cell carcinoma, Skin biology, Skin cancer, Merkel cell polyomavirus

Contact Info

Isaac Brownell, M.D., Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 10, Room 12N246
Bethesda, MD 20892-1908
Ph: 301-480-7191

Our group is interested in studying the signaling pathways such as Hedgehog signaling that regulate the development and maintenance of normal skin, and the changes in these signals that occur during the formation of skin cancer. Our investigations include studying the specification and maintenance of cell lineages in the skin, as well as studying the regulation of stem cells in the skin, and using mouse genetics to model carcinogenesis in the skin.

A current focus in the lab is investigating the the neuro-cutaneous interface and the regulation of neuroendocrine cells (Merkel cells) in the skin. We are also analyzing Merkel cell carcinomas, and are developing pre-clinical mouse models for this uncommon but aggressive skin cancer.

Scientific Focus Areas:
Cancer Biology, Developmental Biology, Genetics and Genomics, Stem Cell Biology
View Dr. Brownell's PubMed Summary.

Selected Recent Publications

  1. Brownell I, Guevara E, Bai CB, Loomis CA, Joyner AL.
    Cell Stem Cell. 8: 552-65, 2011. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Xiao Y, Woo W, Nagao K, Li W, Terunuma A, Mukouyama Y, Oro AE, Vogel JC, Brownell I.
    J. Invest. Dermatol. 133: 2324-31, 2013. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Lok B, Khan S, Mutter R, Liu J, Fields R, Pulitzer M, Shi W, Zhang Z, Kraus D, Pfister D, Busam KJ, Brownell I, Lee N.
    Cancer. 118: 3937-44, 2012. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Xiao Y, Williams JS, Brownell I.
    Exp. Dermatol. 23: 692-5, 2014. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Stamell EF, Wolchok JD, Gnjatic S, Lee NY, Brownell I.
    Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 85: 293-5, 2012. [ Journal Article ]

Dr Brownell obtained degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics from the University of Maryland at College Park prior to undergoing MD/PhD training at Baylor College of Medicine. His thesis work in the lab of Dr Milan Jamirch investigated the role of a novel forkhead gene, Foxe3, in the development of the mammalian lens. He then completed an internship at Christus St. Joseph Hospital in Houston, TX and a dermatology residency at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr Brownell completed a postdoctoral research fellowship on Hedgehog signaling and cutaneous stem cells in the lab of Dr Alexandra Joyner at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where he was also a member of the clinical faculty on the Dermatology Service. His clinical practice focused on patients with high-risk skin cancers and managing cutaneous side effects of cancer therapies. In 2011 Dr Brownell joined the Dermatology Branch in the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute where he is currently a tenure-track investigator and Acting Head of the Cutaneous Development and Carcinogenesis Section.

Name Position
Savannah Barkdull Postbaccalaureate Fellow
Amy Coxon Ph.D. Biologist
Kenneth Daily Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (CRTA)
Tara Gelb Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (CRTA)
Natasha Hill Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (CRTA)
Lingling Miao Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Jannett Nguyen MRSP Fellow
Ying Xiao Ph.D. Special Volunteer