Donna Hansel, M.D., Ph.D.

Donna Hansel, MD, PhD

  • Professor
  • Director, Anatomic Pathology
  • M.D. - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Ph.D. - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Residency Training: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Board Certifications: Anatomic Pathology
  • Clinical specialty: Urologic Pathology

Research Interests

My lab is interested in identifying high-yield, targetable pathways in advanced bladder cancer, with a strong emphasis on mTOR signaling and novel downstream targets that are involved in cell motility and invasion. Our emphasis is on advanced bladder cancer, which currently has limited therapeutic options when conventional therapy fails. We utilize both in vitro and xenograft model systems to test migration and invasion in bladder cancer. A unique aspect of our laboratory is the use of human bladder cancer specimens – both as primary cultures and ex vivo bladder wall cultures – to understand invasion in a “translationally relevant” context. We have expanded on our mTOR signaling work to identify novel downstream targets of mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes that influence migration and invasion of bladder cancer cells. We have also evaluated the novel microenvironment of bladder cancer to identify putative mediators of mTOR complex signaling in this model system.

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Representative Publications

  1. The investigational Aurora kinase A inhibitor MLN8237 induces defects in cell viability and cell-cycle progression in malignant bladder cancer cells in vitro and in vivo. Zhou N, Singh K, Mir MC, Parker Y, Lindner D, Dreicer R, Ecsedy JA, Zhang Z, Teh BT, Almasan A, Hansel DE. Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Apr 1;19(7):1717-28.
  2. Validation of new AJCC exclusion criteria for subepithelial prostatic stromal invasion from pT4a bladder urothelial carcinoma.Patel AR, Cohn JA, Abd El Latif A, Miocinovic R, Steinberg GD, Paner GP, Hansel DE. J Urol. 2013 Jan;189(1):53-8.
  3. A contemporary update on pathology standards for bladder cancer: transurethral resection and radical cystectomy specimens. Hansel DE, Amin MB, Comperat E, Cote RJ, Knüchel R, Montironi R, Reuter VE, Soloway MS, Umar SA, Van der Kwast TH. Eur Urol. 2013 Feb;63(2):321-32.
  4. The sensitivity of initial transurethral resection or biopsy of bladder tumor(s) for detecting bladder cancer variants on radical cystectomy. Abd El-Latif A, Watts KE, Elson P, Fergany A, Hansel DE. J Urol. 2013 Apr;189(4):1263-7.
  5. Selective immunohistochemical markers to distinguish between metastatic high-grade urothelial carcinoma and primary poorly differentiated invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. Gruver AM, Amin MB, Luthringer DJ, Westfall D, Arora K, Farver CF, Osunkoya AO, McKenney JK, Hansel DE. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2012
  6. HER2 gene amplification occurs frequently in the micropapillary variant of urothelial carcinoma: analysis by dual-color in situ hybridization. Ching CB, Amin MB, Tubbs RR, Elson P, Platt E, Dreicer R, Fergany A, Hansel DE. Mod Pathol. 2011 Aug;24(8):1111-9.
  7. Comparative gene expression profiling analysis of urothelial carcinoma of the renal pelvis and bladder. Zhang Z, Furge KA, Yang XJ, Teh BT, Hansel DE. BMC Med Genomics. 2010 Dec 15;3:58.
  8. Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) regulates cellular proliferation and tumor growth in urothelial carcinoma. Hansel DE, Platt E, Orloff M, Harwalker J, Sethu S, Hicks JL, De Marzo A, Steinle RE, Hsi ED, Theodorescu D, Ching CB, Eng C. Am J Pathol. 2010 Jun;176(6):3062-72.
  9. Click here to search for Dr. Hansel's publications


Donna Hansel received her MD PHD from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2001. Her thesis in the Neurosciences Department focused on pro-motility factors in olfactory neuron regeneration, which resulted in first author publications in Nature and the Journal of Neuroscience. She was subsequently awarded a National Multiple Sclerosis Society fellowship and studied the role of Oct transcription factors in the development of dorsal root ganglia in the lab of Dr. Dies Meijer at Erasmus University, Netherlands. She returned to the US to complete her residency and fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Hospital; during this time she extended her research to cancer cell motility in the lab of Dr. Anirban Maitra, with publications in Cancer Research and Clinical Cancer Research. Following completion of her training, Dr. Hansel moved to the Cleveland Clinic where she developed a strong research program in bladder cancer cell invasion, with support from a KL2 mentored clinician-scientist award. She is board-certified in Anatomic Pathology and is a nationally recognized as a leader in urologic pathology. She serves on a number of bladder cancer advisory boards and participates in the Cancer Genome Atlas Program for bladder cancer. Her research interest is to identify novel therapeutic strategies for patients with advanced bladder cancer, including strategies to target cell migration and metastatic spread in this disease. Dr. Hansel joined the UCSD faculty as Chief of Anatomic Pathology in April of 2013.

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